Hostess with the Mostest: 7 Tips for Pulling off a Picture-Perfect Christmas Gathering

 

Isn’t it amazing to think about all the work that your parents and grandparents put into making Christmas flawless year after year? With only the help of a few stained, hand-written recipes and some Bing Crosby on in the background, mothers and grandmothers everywhere made feasts for hungry crowds and wrapped last-minute gifts while barely breaking a sweat.

 

Sure, now we’ve got smart ovens and smart thermometers and refrigerators that can literally read us recipes and to-do lists, but we’ve also got the extra pressure of Facebook and Instagram. We’re not sure who has it worse, but we do know one thing: It’s not a Christmas gathering in the 21st century without a good, old-fashioned photo shoot. Here’s how you can make yours filter-worthy so all your guests feel hashtag festive.

 

The Main Attraction: Set the Table, Set the Tone

  1. If you want to get one of those amazing from-above shots of a perfectly set table overflowing with a bounty of festive dishes, then you’ve got to start with the table. After all, it’s where all the action happens during the holidays. Start by ordering or making a Christmas centerpiece that captures whatever vibe you’re going for and then design your tablescape around it. During your dining table photo shoot, don’t be afraid to move things around to get the right shot, and remember to focus on the star of the show—the food.

Getting Cozy: Present the Flannel Throws

 

 

—Christmas and wintertime evoke feelings of warmth to the core, and no one wants to gorge on ham and sugar cookies in a cold or stiff environment. Even if your space already ranks high on the cozy meter, there are a few things you can do to make it next-level­ cozy: Light a few (balsam and cinnamon) candles. Serve beverages that warm you up. Play some jazz. Make all of your throw blankets guest-accessible. Have a fire. Eat carbs. Dial back any harsh lighting. Remember, you’ve got to make your space conducive to not only eating, but also relaxing post-presents.

 

Looking Fresh: Dress Everyone to Impress

Dressing yourself, the kids and even the dog in some special outfits is one of the few things you can do to prepare for the big holiday beforehand. Get the little ones ready with some Pinterest-perfect traditional children’s clothes and shop second-hand to make your wardrobe budget go even further. We’re gaga over smocked dresses and holiday appliqué tops for little girls and longalls over collared shirts for boys. Cuteness overload! Don’t forget to pick out something festive for yourself, too. Obviously, make it something flattering and special occasion worthy but don’t torture yourself with anything too tight or restrictive at the waistline. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the red and green apron.

 

Raise Your Glass: Crafting Festive Cocktails

So you’ve dressed the table, the kids and the dog…now it’s time to dress the bar! In addition to the obvious—red wine and plenty of eggnog —consider offering a tasty, tasteful and holiday-appropriate signature cocktail. There are few dinner party components quite as photo-worthy as a well-crafted cocktail, so make it count! We love the idea of creating something relatively simple perhaps some mulled cider that has been stewing in the slow-cooker all day long or an apple-cranberry mule bursting with holiday flavors—and then adorning it to high heaven with sweet, seasonal garnishes. Sugared cranberries, star anise, cinnamon sticks, slivers of orange and rosemary sprigs make picture-worthy Christmas cocktail accents.

 

For the Books: Taking a Family Photo

Christmas is for family and the friends who have become family, and there are few times during the year that everyone’s together and smiling, so it would be foolish to miss this clutch photo op! The perfect time to take your family portrait—either in front of the fireplace, the front door or the dining room table—is after everyone has settled in but before you’ve sat down to dinner. No one will be in the mood to do much of anything, let alone organize a massive photo shoot, after their bellies are stuffed. For your frame-worthy holiday shoot, make sure to get the tripod out. You don’t want to ask someone who should be in the pic to be the photographer.

It Takes a Village: Accepting Help from Others

You may not have noticed when you were a kid, but your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles relied on one another to pull big holidays together. It should always be a group effort. Not only should you shamelessly dole out assignments to attendees—even if it’s minimal-effort ones like a loaf of crusty bread or a bottle of wine—but you should also allow yourself the convenience of some professional services before you welcome everyone into your home. In other words, if you’ve been looking for an excuse to get your house professionally cleaned, now’s your chance. Just make sure to book early, as the holidays are primetime for house cleaning services.

Festive Finishes: A Few Little Decorations

Never feel like you have to bust out endless boughs of holly and saturate your entire space with holiday cheer. Make no mistake about it: A well-appointed dining room table is more than enough decorative effort to capture the Christmas spirit. However, if you really want to knock it out of the park, a couple of small but thoughtful finishes will go a long way. Consider hanging a simple wreath or draping the mantle with some seasonal greens.

 

 

Looking Beyond the Picture

The most important holiday hosting tip? It’s about a lot more than how it looks. Making things look perfect is, for many of us, a fun and enjoyable aspect of the holiday. But the real pleasure comes from connecting with family and forging lasting memories. Don’t get us wrong: There’s no shame in framing, filtering and uploading a dozen pics throughout the day, just as long as it doesn’t distract you from what’s important—family, friends and (who are we kidding?) presents!