The presents are wrapped, the turkey’s in the fridge and the Christmas pudding is ready to be cooked. Now it’s time to think about setting the table and dressing it with decorations. Getting organised and planning a few final flourishes can make all the difference to your stress levels as you get ready to serve up. We share 10 easy ways to impress your dinner guests.
1. Plan which dishes to use
Make a list of all the dishes you will be serving on the big day. On Christmas Eve, get out all of your big serving dishes and mark each one with a post-it note for what you will serve on every plate. This way, you won’t be hunting around for the gravy boat come dinnertime.
Discover more tips to help you get ready for Christmas.
2. Get ahead
Look out for recipes which can be prepared a day or two in advance. You can blanche carrots and greens, peel and boil potatoes, make stuffing, wrap sausages in bacon and make all your sauces on Christmas Eve. Or why not have a couple of things already cooked and stashed in the freezer? We have recipes for Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes that can be cooked from frozen, leaving you time to concentrate on dressing the table. For more inspiration, try these 10 classic Christmas recipes you can make ahead.
3. Jazz up shop-bought accompaniments
If you don’t have time to make all the dinner accompaniments, shop-bought can still look beautiful. Decant sauces into pretty serving bowls, scatter cranberry sauce with a little orange zest, and swirl a little melted butter, a few thyme leaves and some grated nutmeg into bread sauce. Wrap ready-made stuffing balls in half a slice of bacon and skewer with a rosemary stick.
If you have more time on your hands, take a look at our favourite Christmas side dish recipes.
4. Plate your starter in advance
With your oven full and hob space limited, it’s a good idea to choose a cold starter, which can be prepared in advance. A sharing platter of seafood, cold meats, paté or a terrine are all great options – try potted shrimp, crab cups or ham hock terrine. Place them on a big wooden board in the middle of the table and let everyone tuck in.
Be inspired by our top 10 Christmas dinner starters.
5. Borrow extra tables and cover with cloth
If you’re hosting a big family get-together but your dining table only seats four, create space by borrowing extra tables of the same height. Once the tables are covered with a tablecloth and dressed for dinner, your guests will never know you’ve had to do a patch job.
6. Create homemade place settings
Creating homemade place settings is a great way to welcome your guests to the table and adds a personal touch. Get the kids to make our sweet name place cookies or try coconut & cinnamon place-name biscuits.
7. Choose a theme
Theme your table for a dramatic effect. Start by matching the colours to your dining room or other decorations. Use a simple tablecloth with a decorative table runner to create a central focus point. For a vintage theme, look out for dramatic candelabras, lace napkins and antique napkin holders. Or follow the trend for a hunting lodge-themed interior with pine-cone name placeholders, rustic fabrics for napkins and taxidermy-inspired centrepieces.
8. Choose centrepieces carefully
Your centrepiece will be the focus of the table, but you don’t want it to use up valuable space. Pick candelabras or vases with narrow bases so you can still see across the table and have plenty of space for the food.
9. Set up a DIY drinks bar
Set up a small table or sideboard as a bar close to your dining table. Make sure you have a selection of drinks, glasses, ice and spare napkins so you don’t have to leave the table to fetch extra refreshments.
Not sure what to serve? We have plenty of ideas for Christmas Day drinks, festive punch recipes and mocktails everyone will love.
10. Use a slow cooker to steam pudding
Christmas dinner wouldn’t be the same without a glorious steamed pudding. To make sure yours is ready to serve on time, and to save hob space for your veggies, you can reheat your pudding in a slow cooker. Plug your slow cooker in (in another room if you want to save counter space) and half-fill with boiling water. Place your pudding in the slow cooker and leave to steam for at least two hours or for up to four hours. We love the dark and fruity Guinness, treacle & ginger pud from our Christmas pudding recipe collection.
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Got more great tips for dressing a festive feast? We’d love to hear your ideas below…