Environments that Astound & Last

Make Your Checklist for Entertaining Season

Fall and winter offer ample opportunities to entertain, not only on holidays (of which there are plenty!) but also with more casual gatherings. And whether you entertain a lot or a little, having a well-stocked home can take a lot of the stress out of party planning. From setting the scene to setting the table, cooking to cleanup, pick and choose from the items on this checklist from Houzz to create your own master list of party-planning essentials.

Accept your strengths and weaknesses as a host. No one can do it all! The key to a low-stress event is to play up your strengths and outsource your not-so-favorite parts of entertaining. For instance, finish a homemade meal with a lovely dessert from a local bakery or throw a potluck buffet or cocktail party instead of having a formal sit-down meal.

Keep things real. Your guests are there to enjoy your company, not judge your home or your cooking. If you’re not “done” getting things ready before your guests arrive, ask for help. Most guests are more than happy to pitch in lighting candles, setting the table, stirring a pot or pouring wine. And before reading the checklists that follow, remember that you can always rent party gear rather than buy rarely used items.

Set the scene with:

  • Vases and floral arranging supplies
  • A go-to flower arrangement that you’ve had a chance to practice
  • Low-watt lightbulbs or dimmer switches
  • Tea light or pillar candles (real or battery operated) for ambience
  • A few different music playlists — mellow for during dinner and something livelier for before and after
  • Fresh soap, hand towels and a stain-removal stick in the powder room

The bar:

  • Wineglasses and cocktail glasses for a crowd, if using
  • Set of cocktail tools
  • Ice bucket and tongs
  • A console or side table for the bar, with bottles, openers and glassware gathered there

For the table:

  • Enough flatware and dishes for the number of guests
  • Enough chairs (and table space) for the number of guests
  • Chargers, if using
  • Glassware, including water glasses for the table and extra wineglasses
  • Tablecloth and backup tablecloth in case of spills
  • Cloth napkins — one set each of cocktail napkins, dinner napkins and dessert napkins
  • Napkin rings, if using
  • Candleholders with unscented candles for the table
  • Low floral arrangement for the table — try bud vases clustered on a tray, or a soup tureen filled with one type of flower cut short

The well-stocked pantry and freezer:

  • No-cook nibbles, such as crackers, olives, nuts and jarred artichoke hearts
  • Birthday essentials, including birthday candles and matches, balloons and a few emergency cards and gifts
  • Basic baking ingredients
  • Spices that are still fresh — be sure to give them a sniff, as spices lose potency over time
  • Frozen puff pastry, pie dough and gelato or quality ice cream


  • A cooking schedule, especially important on big cooking days like Thanksgiving — that way you know you will have room in the oven when you need it, and everything should come out at the right time
  • Any specialty cookware needed to cook the meal you have planned, from a roasting pan to a turkey baster
  • A few spare cutting boards, so you don’t need to worry about washing one before prepping the next dish (also so several cooks can work at once)
  • Knives that have been recently sharpened
  • Two or more timers, depending on how many dishes you plan to cook at once
  • Cookbook holder or tablet stand
  • Aprons to protect your party clothes


  • Boards, platters and trays — these workhorses can be used for everything from cheese plates to dessert
  • Serving bowls in various sizes
  • Large serving spoons
  • Lidded soup tureen and ladle
  • Large salad bowl and tongs
  • Several trivets, to protect your table
  • A nesting set of classic white oven-to-table casserole dishes
  • Cake stands — for cake and other desserts, fruit or appetizers

Entertainment ideas:

  • An activity that gets guests participating, like a Dream Tree for Thanksgiving or a smile booth
  • For a casual party, an assortment of games and cards … and a rule book for common games, because no one can ever remember the rules when you want to play
  • Show a classic movie (without the sound) or project it onto a blank wall — Hitchcock for a Halloween party, A Christmas Story for a holiday open house and so on
  • A roll of butcher paper to cover the kids’ table — put a sheet of stickers and a cup of crayons at each place

Cleanup and storage:

  • Silver polish and soft cloths for cleaning silver, if needed
  • Empty wrapping paper rolls for storing laundered and ironed linens without creating fold lines
  • Stain-removing kit for treating stains after the party
  • Specialty storage boxes for stowing extra glassware and dishes after the holidays
  • Start an entertaining journal. A simple notebook where you jot down what went well (and what didn’t) can become an invaluable tool over time.

If your list includes a new home for your family then checkout our new build on Quail Lane. This Shaddock Custom home is currently for sale in the Prairie Creek Estates neighborhood in Richardson.  Click here to view Quail Lane.

Don’t forget to Follow Us on Houzz! If you would like to learn more about building a custom home with Shaddock Custom please contact Ben Caldwell at 214.497.5858 or

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