Holiday Buffet Serving Tips and Display Ideas

Learn how to arrange food into a beautiful display at your holiday party, plus get great serving and storage tips, inspired by these holiday party food spreads.

By Holly D'Anna


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Christmas party buffet
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Easily Arrange a Large Buffet

    For large party food spreads, set dishes at different levels so the table feels less crowded and guests can easily see every dish. When serving a large amount of party food, make smaller and lighter dishes, such as two kinds of potatoes, vegetables, and wild rice, in place of larger main course dishes.

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Add Quick White Accents

    Arrange your dessert display on a white table adorned with a paper snowflake garland to create a sweet winter wonderland scene. Hang a silver ornament ball behind a white wooden picture frame with a light blue ribbon, and hang a mix of colored and silver ornament balls on a metal Christmas tree frame. For symmetry, lean two other frames with simple winter backgrounds against the wall and add white pillar candles on both sides of the desserts.

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Color-Coordinate Dishes

    Play up the traditional Christmas colors by serving food in red dishes and incorporating red table accents, such as a table runner and a vase of red flowers. A large salad in the center of the spread adds green to the color scheme, as do dishes garnished with fresh herbs.

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Create a Christmas Buffet Display

    Add to the holiday cheer of your party table with a tabletop Christmas tree in a green picnic tin. Fill the container with apples, oranges, or other fruits, top with pinecones, and use the decoration to mark the start of your buffet line.

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Elevate and Stack Serving Dishes

    Give a fresh look to your classic serving dishes by elevating and stacking them. Raise a salad bowl on a shallow footed compote dish, or turn over a cake stand to serve bread and top with a dish of herbed butter.

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Set Out Choose-Your-Own Drink Accents

    Let party guests personalize their beverages from the holiday buffet with monogram wine charms and colorful drink umbrellas. Store the fun drink extras in a mini loaf pan.

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Make a Holiday Plate Display

    Create a cheery punch table by spelling out "Joy" with monogram plates hung on the wall and surround with other red-and-white plates with intricate patterns and designs. Finish the table with a long, leafy garland along the back.

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Keep Champagne Cool with Snow

    An old garden urn becomes a champagne cooler at an outdoor holiday party, raised to serving height with a garden pedestal and filled with snow to keep the bottles at the perfect temperature. An elevated birdbath displays a garden nymph among sprigs of evergreen, sparkling Christmas ornament balls, and votive candles to add classic ambience to a holiday party.

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Serve Appetizers with Ease

    Make serving hors d'oeuvres a breeze by thinking through everything you need and keeping it all on one tray. Always keep the tray fully stocked with toothpicks and dishes so you don't have to do any extra work when guests arrive, aside from adding food and serving.

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Give Drinks a Holiday Glow

    Well-placed candles give these champagne flutes extra festive sparkle. Place filled glasses on a red table runner and accent the display with a tall vase of white snapdragons and a second vase filled to the brim with currants or another small fruit. For the final touch, accent a plain mirror in the back of the display with a holiday garland.

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Decorate a Buffet with Faux Snow

    For a fun winter party table, spread a layer of fluffy faux snow and set each dish on top to make a great serving area for cheeses, dips, and other small bites.

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Create a Themed Appetizer Spread

    Give your appetizer spread a cohesive theme using vintage paper elements. Off-white plates and bowls filled with fruit and nuts sit atop folded books, a covered hatbox, and chipboard sculptures, and greenery adds a winter ambience. Keep the display contained on a vintage tray.

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Add Presents and Poinsettias as Table Accents

    Spruce up your dessert table with holiday poinsettias set atop wrapped boxes. Place large red and silver ornament balls among the dessert dishes for an extra touch, and set the entire spread on a contrasting navy blue tablecloth.

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Utilize Function in Small Spaces

    Small space? No problem! Create a buffet on your kitchen table, even using easy-to-reach shelves to stash extra bottles of wine or olive oil. Keep it cohesive with all-white dishes and minimal extra decoration.

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Add Festive Greenery to a Buffet Spread

    Get Christmas party guests into the holiday spirit with a decked-out buffet table. Cover the table with a deep red tablecloth and line the edge with a leafy garland with red, green, and silver ornaments.

    Editor's Tip: To get the garland to hang from the edge of the table instead of resting on top, attach plastic clips to the table and wire the garland to the clips.

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Match Table Accents with Linens and Dishes

    Pretty white and pink roses in a small vase are the perfect minimal accent to this appetizer table with a salad, dips, spreads, bread slices, and a pitcher of punch. The colors of the roses pull together the spread by complementing the magenta tablecloth and white ceramic serving dishes.

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Add Personal Touches to Buffet Dishes

    Whether hosting a small or large holiday gathering, give each party guest her own personalized drink mug by attaching a piece of colored paper to the mug handle with jingle bells and ribbon. For extra show, place a cookie tree on top of the mug that looks almost too good to eat!

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Store Party Drinks Efficiently

    Make fewer trips to the kitchen for drinks by storing mixers and nonperishable snacks in a simple cork wood-grain cube placed in the living room.

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Serve Cocktails on a Tray

    Use a vintage metal serving tray to serve colorful cocktail drinks, and surround the glasses with silver and gold ornament balls for the perfect holiday party touch.

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Show Off Pretty Holiday Napkins

    A wide mouthed glass canister can be used for both storage and dispensing cocktail napkins. Purchase different patterns and colors of holiday napkins as they go on sale, and keep the top package unwrapped so they can be easily accessed.

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