How to Plan a Holiday Appetizer Party

April 7, 2012Katie

Sometimes a huge meal can be time-consuming, costly and become more stress than it’s worth for a holiday party.  A fun alternative can be hosting an Appetizer or Hors D’oeuvre Party. (Click here to go to my Appetizer recipe page for ideas and step by step instructions!)

(If you’d like to see us discuss hosting an appetizer party click play below!)

Finger foods are genius because not only do they make one feel  more at ease in a roomful of people, but they get people moving around and as a host/hostess, you simply place them out at various locations and check periodically to see if anything needs a quick refill.  You can socialize as well!

One mistake commonly made by many well-intentioned hosts/hostesses when planning a party is they overdo it.  If you take nothing away from this post, it’s this…

A party is meant to be enjoyed.   DON’T OVERDO!

Of course you need to please your guests.  And feed them.  And sometimes entertain them.  But remember, they are showing up because they like you, and they probably want to spend time with you.  Most people will take greater offense to being ignored at a party than they will at the food not being stupendously good.

The good news is…you can do both.  With a little preparation and some tips and shortcuts, your appetizer get together can be fun and enjoyable for both you and your guests.

TIP #1  If possible, have several serving areas.  Place your appetizers around your house in different areas.  This not only gives easier access in many spots and eliminates one big line, but it sets up different areas for people to group and get acquainted at. This can be anything from a card table with a table cloth tossed over it, to your kitchen counter.  Create extra space over your sink by placing a large cutting board or wooden board over it. My mom always used to do that at gatherings at our house growing up to stretch space.

TIP #2 Put your drinks in a separate location to prevent line backups.  We are fortunate enough to have an older model house with a wet bar in the living room and I love having it.  If I ever get a new house, I will invest in having one put in.

TIP #3  Distribute your silverware, plates and napkins widely.  Instead of just placing them at one end of the table, place them on each corner. This gives your guests easy access when wanting to pick up an additional bite as well.  Use paper goods in colors for punches of color on your table or for a fancier look, get the clear plastic ones and use the faux silver plastic spoons and forks.  Throw-away dishes will make your life easier at the end of the party when you’re tired from a good thing…having fun at your party!

TIP #4  Use easy centerpieces.  Add a small store bought poinsettia on each table with a votive candle or two in the center.  Store bought bouquets can be broken up and placed in small vases in the summer for a cute look.  Place 3 upside down wine glasses over flowers with the stems removed and place a votive candle on top of the base for impromptu candle holders in a grouping.

TIP #5  Make anything you can ahead of time.  Instead of making 8 full blown time consuming appetizers, pick one or two special ones to serve this Buffalo Wing Chicken Dip.  This dip can be made the up to 2 days before and kept in the refrigerator and then baked the day of the party!


OH! And be mindful that things like guacamole, (while delicious), have to be done at the last minute and turn brown quickly.  Instead, opt for make-ahead things you can make the week before and freeze or that you can make the day before and then set out easily.  Set out the following things that people love to snack on:

*Nuts – find candied walnuts or spiced nuts or make my recipe for Spiced Candied Walnuts the week before!

*Olives – find something special like feta stuffed olives

*Cheese board with fruit, crackers and honey – pick a variety of cheeses- like a hard aged, a bleu cheese and a brie (serve with hot pepper jelly)

*Veggie tray with a ready-made dip

*Chips and Salsa – is never disliked.  Find a great store bought one or make my 5 minute Unforgettable Salsa the day before by clicking here.

*Pasta salad – Make ahead is always better on this..the flavors meld…or buy a bucket full from your neighborhood grocer.

*Antipasta Skewers – see my recipe for two kinds here! Or simply lay out an array of Italian deli meats, cheese slices and marinated vegetables.

*Chips and Dip –be as creative as you want here or just buy a dip and repurpose it in a pretty bowl.  Add some chopped fresh herbs on top and people will think you made it!

If someone offers to bring something – LET THEM!

TIP #6 Keep refills in covered containers in your refrigerator labeled with a taped- on sticky note.  As you see a platter or bowl empty out –you can quickly refill it and be on with your fun!

TIP #7 Allow 2 apps (or 2 servings) per guest of each appetizer you fix.  (Large items like the Antispasta Skewers probably – only one).   Keep messy drippy sauces at a minimum or don’t use them.  Make as many as possible finger foods that don’t require silverware for easy eating.

TIP #8 Have Fun!  Enjoy your party, your guests and the evening.  You are an important part of the atmosphere of the evening..a tense host or hostess rushing around sets an uncomfortable tone.  Help people be comfy by being that way yourself!

Happy partying!

Please visit my Appetizer recipe page to find many ideas for your party by clicking here!

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