As we approach the holiday season, chances are, you may be feeling just a little bit of stress about entertaining at home. Don’t! All you need to consider is how you are going to make your guests feel welcome and special. To that end, it really doesn’t matter what you serve, but it is important what you serve it on!

Here are some tips to make your gatherings more special and worth remembering:

Get out your dishes and china that you save for ‘special occasions.’ There is nothing more special than spending time with friends and family; and it is just as easy to wash a pretty plate, as it is a plain one. I encourage you to use your better things more often—life is not a dress rehearsal! Presentation is everything: Celery stuffed with cream cheese arranged on a pretty dish just looks and tastes better!

Use your silver. I know, you hate to take the time to polish those family heirlooms and wedding gifts. Here is your solution: Take your silver utensils and platters to a reputable plating company and have them polish and lacquer it. You will never have to polish it again!

Containers for your floral arrangements can be whimsical, campy, traditional, contemporary, simple or ornate. Get out Aunt Bertha’s vase that you inherited and fill it with flowers. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, call your favorite professional florist. Think outside the box: Brass urns, antique juice glasses, epergnes, pots de crème and English biscuit boxes all make for an interesting container, as well as a great conversation starter.

If you or your guests are allergic to flowers, use interesting statuary at the center of your table. Royal Doulton figurines grouped on a tray or a pretty tablecloth are perfect for a ladies’ luncheon.

Use candles after 5 p.m. No one looks good in bright light after that hour, enough said.

Plan a color scheme. Blue and white, for example, mixes well with most colors and has been gracing tables ever since the Silk Road opened up with Marco Polo. Sometimes, having a color scheme makes the host’s or hostess’ job easier. Carry out your theme with cocktail napkins, table linens and stemware, if you can.

Be creative with your napkins: Tassels, Italian floral hooks and ribbon, as well as store-bought rings can be used in different incarnations. Folding the napkin differently or placing it under the plate so it cascades onto the tablecloth is a simple but effective way to introduce color and contrast to your table.

Place cards make everyone feel special. Use traditional ones, or use fronts of holiday cards from years past to brighten up the table. Using a picture of your guest in a decorative frame is another way to identify their place of honor at your table and also provide them with a parting gift.

Mix and Match. Occasionally, we have incomplete sets of china we just hate to part with. Introduce them to other patterns and create a one-of-a-kind table setting. Use those mismatched plates for your hors d’oeuvres, as well. What a great way to dress up the first course!

Most important, have fun and don’t worry if something doesn’t go as planned. I once had a black-tie dinner where the main course (tenderloin) was not ready on cue. I served another cocktail, and everyone had a great time and left with a memory!

Happy entertaining! Cheers!

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