Even if you’re running around with a million things to do, make sure your home is calm and inviting for guests when they arrive...
Light a couple of scented candles. Try the Blackberry and Bay or English Pear & Freesia from Jo Malone.
Invest in a couple of potted bay trees or small fir trees to display at your front door and decorate them with outdoor fairy lights for a special festive welcome.
If your dining table isn’t long enough then create a makeshift table with outdoor furniture, or if you’re really stuck use a sheet of MDF placed on top of a smaller table. Just make sure it’s secure and your table cloth is big enough.
You never know how long your dinner party will go on for and if everyone’s enjoying themselves it could last until the early hours. Comfortable seating is a must, so make sure you’ve got enough suitable chairs. If it’s a squeeze, benches or stools are ideal as they take up less space, but it might be a good idea to scatter lots of cushions around.
If your dining table is an heirloom then make sure you invest in a table protector. If you are not using a tablecloth use heatproof mats to avoid damaging the wood.
A festive decoration always adds a little something extra to your dining table. For a traditional take on Christmas, mix holly and ivy with other greenery such as eucalyptus in a low vase or group of small plant pots to ensure it doesn’t interfere with your guest’s eye level. Group some non-scented together candles to create a warm glow (scented candles will interfere with your cooking smells).
For an alternative, low cost decoration, try filling huge glass bowls with colourful Quality Street sweets... Just make sure your guests don’t fill themselves up on chocolates before lunch!
Put a smile on your guests’ faces and place an tiny present at each setting. Rather than something personal for each guest, you could make it easier by buying the same gift for all the men, and something different for all the women, or if you have younger guests maybe a colouring book might be a good option to keep them occupied. Alternatively, get everyone to contribute an inexpensive gift for an anonymous 'Secret Santa'.
Finally, before your guests arrive, hunt out some old games suitable for all the family such as Jenga and Pictionary. One more thing: flick through the TV listings and make a note of good films for the kids. It’s a great way to give the grown-ups an hour’s peace and quiet.