How to Host Family Gatherings Without Missing Your Family

hosting a family gathering

How to Host Family Gatherings Without Missing Your Family

Recently, a friend and I were visiting, and the subject of family gatherings came up in the conversation. Apparently, we both have the same frustrations – even if we do a full day’s prep ahead of time, we are so busy during the gathering that we miss out on visiting with the family. I wanted to find out how to host family gatherings without missing your family.

Since I wanted to get as many ideas as I could, I turned to many of you for answers. I did little survey on social media, and I would love to share the results. I tried to shorten the list, but there are so many great ideas!

casual family gathering

Casual Family Gatherings

Sometimes the casual gatherings can almost be just as overwhelming as the major holidays, but they don’t have to be. The picture above is one of my favorites, because it was just a casual family meal. We had spent the day at the beach, Kristy cooked spaghetti, and we were very relaxed!

Here are some of the ideas people shared regarding casual family gatherings:

  • For family vacation put ribs in a smoker days prior and then freeze them – reheat them – fall off the bone good. (Anna)
  • Chili with all the fixings (Lisa)
  • 2 hour ribs (Bob)
  • Pick your favorite restaurant. Everyone picks their favorite food, order and pick up. Then split the check and tip. (Jennifer)
  • Get the ingredients for homemade pizza and everyone can make their own. Buy the small individual prepared pizza shells. (Sheila)
holiday family gathering

Major Holiday Family Gatherings

We always do a Christmas brunch with the kids. Anyone who wants to spend the night can. I try to make it simple, but many of the things I have chosen in the past had to be made that morning. Hopefully this year I will chose a menu that can be prepared ahead of time.

These ideas were given for when you gather for holidays (Easter, Thanksgiving, & Christmas, etc.)

  • Catering where the family all pays equally
    • Private chef
    • Potluck style – host does meat/family members contribute sides. (Courtney)
  • Prep everything in advance.
    • Bake cakes early and freeze them.
    • Make pies a day or two before.
    • Spend time together cooking and cleaning. (Rachael)
  • Brisket with potato salad
    • Non traditional food
    • Potluck style meal – Designated people bring certain dishes but only one dish, enough to feed their family. (Rachel)
  • Spiral sliced ham ahead of time and then slice and plate it.
    • Dinner rolls for sandwiches with the ham or just to go with it.
    • Quick side dishes (hot or cold) that can be heated up and set on the table.
    • Buffet style with lots of sides that can be made ahead of time.
    • Pasta salads, fruit salads, salads, baked beans, casseroles that were pre-baked
    • Cheese plates
    • Finger foods (Pat)
  • Nacho bar (Misty)
  • Chinese take out (Casey)
  • Mexican stack up with beef & chicken in crockpots and all the toppings (Kathryn)
  • Lasagna, garlic bread and salad
    • Smoke a tenderloin and have baked potatoes and veggies, rolls and desserts.
    • Earthquake cake freezes very well. (Melissa)
  • Order from Cracker Barrel. (Shawntay)
  • Cook many of the dishes the day before – Everyone that comes to dinner brings a dish. (Cheryl)
  • Pick a different theme at each holiday.
    • Each family brings a dish for the main meal and a dessert. One family offers to do the meat.
    • Taco bars, Mexican dishes, traditional, breakfast, etc. (Kendra)
  • Order a variety of take and bake dishes from restaurants. (Kellye)
  • Get the family fajita pack or tacos from Fiestas in Caddo. A couple do the drinks & desserts. (Kelly)
  • Pre-order a ham from Honey Baked ham and have it delivered a week before the holidays.
    • Make Christmas cookies two weeks before and ice and decorate a couple of days before Christmas Eve. (Tricia)
  • Roast a turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans and bake fresh sweet potatoes whole.
    • Make cranberry sauce the day before.
    • Do a rib roast, wild rice pilaf, glazed carrots, and rolls. (Erika)
  • Build your own taco bar. Everything is prepared a day or two before and just set it out. Reheat things in the microwave. (Jeanna)
  • Get the holiday packages at Cracker Barrel. We still make our favorites too like stove top and green bean casserole. (Robert)
  • Finger foods – sometimes pizza, we decide a week or 2 before. We as a household do a trip over the holiday. Our gift to the kids is the experience and of course, there’s usually some good food involved. (Deanna)

Miscellaneous Ideas for Family Gatherings

  • Use paper plates & plastic cups for easy clean-up! (Kathryn)
  • Use heavy paper plates so no dishes. (Robert)
  • You need multiple crock pots. (Christina)
  • Use Crock Pot Liners for easy clean-up.
  • Use Solo cups in coordinating colors to match your decor.

Fancy Finds for Family Gatherings

I have just recently gotten to where I love decorating the tables for special meals. In fact, last year I bought new sets of Thanksgiving dishes that I adore!

I am not ready to do away with those just yet. I may use them for Thanksgiving and then give my Christmas dishes a break for the big gatherings this year.

As I was thinking about this, I went to Amazon and found the cutest paper/plastic products for all occasions! I have several of them saved and can’t decide which ones I like best. I would love everyone’s opinions! Please share the option you like best in the comments.

Related Scripture

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

I am not comparing the importance of our relationships with our families to our relationships with the Lord. However, the whole point of family gatherings is to be with the family.

My family is always trying to help, but I usually tell them that I have it. I think I will take the advice about working together in the kitchen. The preparation will be a little more fun that way! My goal now is to let go of a few things and enjoy my family! They are worth it!

Please join me in this challenge. If you have other ideas, by all means, please share them! It is always good to have options. May we all be able to host family gatherings without missing our family.



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Related Sites

Kitchen Table Memories

Christmas In July

Fun and Easy Ideas for Family Meals and Game Night

Until next week…

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“When I am filled with cares, Your comfort brings me joy.” Psalms 94:19

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  1. Love these ideas so much, Susan! My Mom was like you she did EVERYTHING and we just sort of showed up and felt awful that she missed half the meal because she was back and forth from the table to the kitchen. Plus, she was also tired from prepping all day and while her physical body was there you could tell her mind was on the meal. We finally sat down and talked to her about how we could make things less stressful and now she lets us help. She still has certain ways she wants things but at least she lets us bring food now. One of my sister brings the charcuterie and the apps. another helps with the salad or sides, and I bring an easy dessert. We make her sit in the living room while my Dad and the rest of us help with the dinner dishes and their housekeeper comes an extra day to help clean before we get there so that makes it easier on my Mom too. Now instead of worrying if the biscuits are burning she plays games and is fully present in our conversations. It’s so much better now! I hope you’ll let your family help you too. It’s hard when you’re an adult but you don’t want to step on any toes or tell your parents what to do. I’m proud of you for speaking up and finding a solution that works for all of you. Hosting is not as easy as it looks on Instagram 🙂 Hugs, CoCo

    1. I love these ideas and the way y’all took charge! I am definitely taking your advice and letting people help this year. I usually don’t know what to tell them to help with, but I think with extra planning, I can get that part handled as well. I agree, I’m not sure Instagram hosting can even be a real thing. 😂

  2. Susan, everyone gave such great ideas here. I like #3&4 on your Amazon paper product list.
    Visiting today from Joanne’s. xo

  3. There are so many beautiful ideas! Finding the perfect balance is hard, but I am slowly learning to let things go and let others help. It is hard, but we do need to be able to enjoy our family. As you said, that is what it is all about. Thanks for sharing so many excellent suggestions to help to lighten the load for all of us.

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