Opening our doors to friends in December has become a bit of a tradition.  With my husbands birthday in December, I always feel like we are doing the age-old “two birds with one stone” (he won’t thank me for that!) by welcoming friends in to celebrate both.  It’s that time of year when I want to ensure we make the time to see everyone, and having a birthday celebration on top of the usual festivities gives us the perfect excuse to get everyone together for an evening of fun and laughter!  This year, rather than doing our usual drinks and nibbles at ours, and then off out for dinner; I took the plunge and said I would go the whole-hog (not literally) and host.

I’m definitely one for making the most of an occasion (wherever it might be!) and having a celebration at home definitely gave me the perfect excuse to go all-out on delicious food!  I wanted the table to take on a dreamy, festive feel too; to make it feel like we were all out at a fabulous restaurant; and thanks to M & S I was able to do just that!

I laid the eight place settings using Herringbone Metallic Placemats.  I then used two of the Pine Cone Dinner Candle Holders, both festive and elegant, and surrounded them with some fresh eucalyptus that I picked up from the florist earlier in the week.  To top off the centre of the table I decorated with a simply stunning Gold Boutique Garland.  Scattered with real pine cones, it all made for the perfect winters-evening table.   Now, obviously no December birthday table would be complete without Christmas crackers; right?!  Whatever your thoughts on crackers before the “big day”, I love them, and I think they make for perfect table settings.  These Luxury Gold & Black Crackers finished the table to perfection!  Plus, who doesn’t want to see everyone sitting around wearing a gold crown?!

I’m always one to be enjoying the gathering rather than being stuck in the kitchen when everyone else is enjoying themselves; but I am also a massive foodie and love to serve wonderful food whenever we have guests.  This year I decided we would serve canapés with drinks, and then do selection of food at the centre of our table, where everyone could dig in.  It couldn’t have worked any better!  We started with the Vegetarian Party Selection (as I don’t eat meat, but these were perfect for everyone!); the Brie & Cranberry Tartlets were a particular hit with our guests.

At the table we tucked in to a host of festive treats.  I think everyone was actually pretty wowed when I told them I hadn’t really lifted a finger!  It made the whole process so much more relaxed and fun for everyone, and the food was far better than anything I could have prepared in that time (I am sure you can just sense the smug expression on my face right now?).  The Side of Sliced Smoked Salmon looked so impressive; and I have to say it was genuinely the tastiest smoked salmon I have had in a long time!  There was plenty of meat too, with a whole British Sweet-cured Ham , and “the boys” in-particular all really enjoyed the Yuletide Sausage Roll.  Even the salads were pretty show-stopping, we opted for a Fruity Pecan Cous Cous, and a Mozzarella and Tomato; both so well prepared, I  just popped them into serving dishes and straight onto the table.  Both went beautifully with the main dishes, and the couscous was such a fun-festive spin on a classic salad dish (yum!).

If anyone was ready for a lie down after the main course, they certainly didn’t say so when pudding came out!  My husband is a huge white chocolate fan, so it only seemed right to serve the White Chocolate Snowball Wreath for afters; it had a real wow factor and tasted just as good!  I also decorated the plate with holly and some beautiful Luxury Lustred Macaroons (These would make a perfect gift, although I fear I wouldn’t actually want to give them away!).  The Collection Cheese board when down like a storm too; it came with rye biscuits and the most delicious spiced apple and pear chutney; definitely one to serve on Christmas Day!

It only felt right to top off a festive party wth friends with after-dinner drinks and some games.  I did my best Tom Cruise impression with my new Cocktail Shaker and attempted to impress our guests with some gin cocktails!  As a gin-lover I must say that the Botanist Gin was a real treat, and definitely one I’ll try again.  The best loved drink was our take on a Gin Fizz;  gin, elderflower and Prosecco.  Those three combined with lime juice and some sugar for the rim of the glass are the perfect party combination!  The After Dinner Games cards games went down a storm too, with “Name Five” providing an abundance of laughs (I mean who can really name five famous scientists when put on the spot?! Actually, don’t answer that.)

It was so much fun to combine a Christmas evening with friends with another celebration, and feeling like I had everything in hand made for such a happy and relaxed evening for everyone.  It also felt so cosy to do it all in our home, with the fire crackling and the sound of everyone’s laughter ringing throughout the house.  If anything, it made me want to try and do it all again before Christmas Day itself.  Any excuse, hey?

What did I find myself doing at the end of the evening when when our lovely friends had all gone home?  Curling up under the perfect, cosy Pom-Pom throw (of dreams) in front of a fire with Boris, and one last drink of course;  hot chocolate or another gin fizz? I’ll let you decide……

Happy Christmas!  I hope you all have as much fun opening your home to friends and family this year as we did…..

Elle x


This post has been created working in paid partnership with Marks & Spencer, but as always all writing, opinions and images are my own.