How to prepare for a festive gathering that is simple but stylish

During the past few years of being self employed we have missed out on one of those lovely winter treats - a work Christmas meal! This year we are hosting a self employed Christmas dinner for our friends who would otherwise be missing out on this December tradition too. I wanted to share my ideas for a simple but stylish gathering that would make even the largest of get-togethers feel special.
I love hosting but a Christmas meal applies a bit more pressure doesn’t it? I think the key is to prepare as much in advance as possible so that as the host you can enjoy the evening and be part of it. 
Cook simple food
Plan the food so that it doesn’t require you to be constantly in the kitchen, your friends have come to see you after all! I try to make whole tray dishes like pies, lasagne, tarts or crumbles that can be prepared in advance and then just popped in the oven when guests arrive. And there is nothing wrong with a delicious side salad in the winter, it can be prepared in advance and saves juggling a steamer full of veggies at the last minute. There are some delicious winter salad leaves in season at the moment and whilst for most of us greenhouse tomatoes have been over for a while, you can still buy Kent tomatoes from Thanet Earth in the winter months.
Gather natural decorations 
If you are spending the evening inside then my motto is the day is best spent outside! Fill your table with natural decorations that you have gathered during the day. Even if you don’t have a garden to forage, the hedgerows are full of ornaments prettier than anything you can buy in the shops. There is no need to go overboard either, a huge vase of flowers and berries is wonderful but not when its blocking your view of the person you want to chat to! Less can be more when it comes to natural decorations.
When decorating with natural foliage, I try to think about including different textures. You could look for fluffy grasses, smooth conkers or sharp thorns protecting glossy berries. I used some rosemary from the garden here to add a lovely aroma to the table without the need for scented candles.
Make people feel special
A cracker, party popper or one of those irritating balloons that whizz around the room screeching at you are all good fun but can be wasteful. I love the idea of making your own crackers with tailored trinkets for your guests. But simply choosing a different chocolate to lay on each place setting shows you have put some thought into the way your table will look and who will be seated where.

Some things to do
Meal plan- it’s a great idea to do all year round but plan a festive meal with ease of cooking in mind to give yourself that valuable time with your guests.
Look around next time you are out for a walk and gather small pieces that could inspire a larger table display in the future.
Think about a way to include a personalised present for your guests and buy or make these in advance of your meal.


Have a look at the time-lapse of preparing this table over on Instagram.


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