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Food stations: How to set up for a holiday party

Kelli Uhrich is a busy writer and active career woman from Phoenix, Arizona. When she's not writing, she enjoys diving into hands-on projects, reading, blogging, and hanging out with her two lazy greyhounds.

Appetizers, desserts and drinks, oh my!

We love entertaining, but feeding a crowd can be such a chore. This year, keep your guests full — and out of the kitchen — with a few food stations everyone will enjoy. We’ve got four must-have stations for your holiday party and tips for pulling it all together!

Appetizers, desserts and drinks, oh my!

Station one: Appetizers

Displaying a spread of tasty snacks will tide you guests over until the main course is served. However, appetizers can easily leave you tied to the kitchen if you’re not careful. The trick to keeping this food station fully stocked lies in the foods you choose to serve. As you plan your menu, select items that can be prepped the night before and stashed in the fridge — or even items that do not need to be refrigerated at all, like chips, pretzels and crackers. Prepare extra trays of each dish in advance so that empty dishes can easily be exchanged out.

When it comes to the display of your food station, find a surface within your home that can accommodate your spread, as well as a few decorations that fit within your theme. Cover an old table with a white tablecloth, create a backdrop and add a few accessory pieces to flank each end. Finally, display your food items in coordinating dishes to achieve a catered look.

Appetizers, desserts and drinks, oh my!

Station two: Drinks

One thing about entertaining is certain — your guests will be thirsty! To keep them from getting parched, create a few stations dedicated entirely to drinks. If space allows, set up a primary drink station that includes several beverage options, and then use serving trays to create mini-stations throughout the entertaining area. At each station, include glasses, stir-sticks and ice, so guests can easily mix their ideal drink. Drink stations don’t need to be large, which makes side tables, consoles and even shelves ideal spaces for quenching thirst.

Appetizers, desserts and drinks, oh my!

Station three: Desserts

If you want your guests to swoon at your next party, it’s as easy as dessert! A station dedicated entirely to sweets is bound to get a positive reaction, but there are a few tricks to pump up the volume. Coordinated colors and uniform finishes add that extra touch of perfection. Use decorative liners for cupcakes, and ice them with a piping bag for a catered look. Use skewers as a creative way to serve strawberry shortcake and even various types of fruit. Layer your desserts with decorative trays to add height and dimension to your display — and to make extra room for even more treats!

Appetizers, desserts and drinks, oh my!

Station four: Main course

For large groups, buffet-style dining is an effective way to serve the main course. When choosing the location for this food spread, select an area close to the kitchen, as well as the dining area. Consider traffic flow when arranging your table. Choose an area within your home that allows a clear entering and exiting flow pattern. Group food categories, such as side dishes, salads, drinks and entrees, so guests can easily select from the menu options. For a spill-free zone, keep dishes away from the edge and resist the urge to over crowd the table.

Pulling it together

Even potluck-style entertaining will pull together nicely when using this trick of the trade: Creating a theme brings it all home! To develop your theme, first determine the colors and decor items you would like to use, and then incorporate them within each food station. Use matching tablecloths, dishes and accessory items in each vignette to create a uniform look — then sit back and enjoy the amazement of your guests!

More entertaining ideas

Ideas for a Black Friday after-shopping party with your gal pals
Expert holiday entertaining tips: Stress less and cut costs
10 Tips for a memorable dinner party

Photo credits: Kelli Uhrich,
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