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Looking ideas for a home-cooked 60th birthday for my dad

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I am just starting to brainstorm about my dad's big 6-0 birthday in mid-December. This is a very busy time for me, along with everyone else, so I know I'll want to send invites several weeks in advance and have a good idea of what I need to do before the holidays hit.

It's pretty much a blank canvas right now. The house will be decorated Christmas-y of course. And while it's not intended as a holiday party, I do not mind tipping my hat to the season and serving more holiday-appropriate foods.

I anticipate around 25-35 guests. I don't know if it makes more sense to have an appetizer/cocktail party or a dinner party. My thoughts on the pros/cons:

Appetizers are more labor intensive while a dinner could be a large pieces of roasted meat(s) and dishes of sides.
I don't have enough tables for a seated dinner. I could probably rent tables and fit them in but the expense will go up and the house already gets congested with christmas decorations.
appetizers enable people to mingle more and not remain stuck in one seat
on the other hand, it's hard to juggle food plate and drink plate and whenever I'm at a cocktail party I'm always desperately looking for a place to sit and rest

If you have a recommendation on the style of the party, if you could then please make food suggestions?

If sit-down, I'm thinking something like a fancy lasagna or stuffed shells, rolls, salad, antipasto tray, wine, and store-bought cake (or likely cheesecake since that's dad's preference). Or Standing rib roast, roasted or smoked turkey, possibly a fancy macaroni and cheese dish, salad, another veggie and again dessert.

I'm feeling a little more lost with regard to if I go with appetizers because I simply will not have the time to do it all by scratch. Probably a big antipasto platter, italian meats tray, maybe some kind of beef/gorgonzola crostini or mini beef & horseradish sandwiches, shrimp....yeah I'm a little lost and boring here.

Thanks for the recommendations. I need to start sketching this out before the end of the year gets away from me.

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  1. How about something where there is a buffet table set up with various different things and let people eat when they want to and where they want to? The table could have a roast or sliced meats (super easy), salads, breads, dips, appetizer type things could be on the table, passed or laid out at different places around the main rooms. The usual things to keep in mind: your dad is going to be thrilled that you're doing this for him, people appreciate being invited for a party where they don't feel like they can eat as much or as little as they like, and if you keep the wine/beer flowing it will make everyone more comfortable. Good luck!

    1. I think your first question should be; What would Dad like?

      Take it from there.

      The buffet suggestion is a good one.

      I'd also suggest having catered appetizers if the cost isn't prohibitive.

      1. A lot of your sit down idea lend themselves to a buffet-standing rib roast, antipastos, lasagna etc. plus chair rental are usually less costly than whole seatings and/or easy to borrow.

        But I agree with the previous poster-what does your dad prefer? Big event like parties or more intimate sit down dinners. Answer that first then build a budget that makes sense.

        If the budget was small I know my dad would have preferred less guests and top notch food/wine. My FIL on the other hand would have preferred a packed house and deli platters.

        What your dads idea of a great meal/party?

        1. For the menu i would go with your father's favorite comfort foods. Maybe you can do some discreet "research" and see what he loved that his family made when he was a child.
          For myself a drinks and apps party feels less stressful. Make ahead and freeze ideas include: meatballs (serve in platter w sauce, side of pretty toothpicks), savory mini muffins (cheese, corn), mini muffin frittatas, cookies, brownies. Buy assorted dips for crudite, good crackers and cheese with grapes.
          Alter the menu to include your dad's favorites and
          GET HELP. Have your mom/sister/brother/whomever take on responsibilities as well.

          1. I would go with the buffet option. You could have your table all pretty but not formally set, but indicating please sit here and eat yummy food, and set up some card tables (borrow from friends/family) for more places around the room, and scavenge chairs like wise. That way people and sit and eat yet aren't stuck next to that person that nobody wants to be next to at a dinner party.

            For that number of people, i would do at least 3 lasagnas, with one veggie option. Easy to make ahead and just bake and serve. Rolls and salad would be lovely and easy. For apps, I would pick one "fancy" app requiring detailed prep and then cheese/crackers/crudite/dip etc. Some veggies to nibble on for those watching their holiday weight would probably be appreciated.