Experiment with menu items or hire a caterer. If you plan to take charge of the cooking, lay out the menu, then do a test run for any dishes you've never tried or aren't confident making, such as a finicky soufflé or an unfamiliar cut of meat. If you'd rather delegate food preparation to a caterer, get on the phone or web as soon as you can — most of them book up fast during holiday season. Striking out? Ask a local culinary school if any of their more advanced students might be right for the job.
Decide on a signature cocktail or two. Browse recipe books and food sites for intriguing cocktails that go well with the occasion. Try a few, then choose the ones you like best and buy any special ingredients or barware you’ll need. You'll also have time to make flavored simple syrups, fun garnishes and other festive fixings.