Since this is the first time you will be hosting your friends or family members for a big holiday bash, it can be very tempting to want to impress by making a menu full of complicated items. We strongly advise against this unless you have ample time to start practicing now so that by the time the big night rolls around you'll have every dish down pat. It's not that we don't think you're capable; it's just that hosting is about more than just cooking. You'll be flitting in and out of the kitchen, mingling, taking coats, greeting guests as they arrive – you won't have unlimited time at the stove to get everything perfect. Instead of trying to impress your mother-in-law with a fancy, multicourse meal, stick with what you know how to make well. You'll be a lot more comfortable, have more time to spend with guests and there won't be much risk of a menu meltdown.
The best thing you can do once you decide to host a holiday dinner is to agree to work as a team. This means that both of you share equal responsibility for everything that goes into making the night a success. Cleaning, menu planning, shopping, cooking , decorating and making sure guests are having a good time are a lot of work and neither of you should have to shoulder the duties solo. Create a plan of action that divides all necessary responsibilities equally. Then on the night of the dinner, work together to ensure everything goes smoothly. If you notice your spouse is caught talking to your brother and can't check on the turkey, do it for him. If you find yourself caught up in the kitchen, ask your spouse to be with the guests while you're unable to host. Teamwork makes everything easier.
There will likely be several moments during the preparation for and during the holiday dinner where you feel stressed out or like you'd rather call the whole thing off and order pizza. That's OK. Hosting is stressful for even the most accomplished party planners. The trick is to not let your anxiety get the better of you. Even if you feel like screaming (at your annoying sister-in-law), continue smiling. Even as you smell the roasted vegetables burning, don't cry – just add some extra glaze and hold your head up high. The calmer you pretend to be, the faster your anxiety will ebb away.
Most importantly, have fun. This is your first big holiday hosting event as a couple and you might as well enjoy it, stress and all. Despite the hard work, hosting is fun. You get to have all of your friends and family in one place, without having to go anywhere or trudge across town or state lines in a blizzard. Remember that everyone at the table wants to be there (well, maybe not your grumpy father-in-law), but for the most part, people enjoy holiday gatherings and will appreciate not having to do the cooking for once.
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