I’m obviously on an entertaining kick! The thing is, I’m always on an entertaining kick, but creating the setup and situation to take photos is a bit of an undertaking, so I’m working with friends to help me add more of this content to mix in with my favorite recipes! Since the holidays aren’t too far away (don’t freak out!), I thought it’d be good to share some of my easy entertaining tips for having friends and family over for a get-together. Whether its drinks or a Thanksgiving spread you’re hosting, there are a lot of ways to cut back on stress, save time, and enjoy the whole process of entertaining prep to party!
15 EASY ENTERTAINING TIPS
1. Write out the menu. This sound crazy, but no matter how big or small the get-together is, having a list keeps you organized and on target. Here you can organize recipes, ingredient lists, and find any holes in your setup!
2. Don’t fret about décor. There are so many ways to decorate, but this is the part that can really be stressful. Dinner parties (or brunch if you so desire) is about getting together with people you love. Don’t worry about decorating. The most I do is buy flowers, but nothing over the top and nothing stressful!
3. Give yourself time. I like to think I can whip everything together in no time, but I usually underestimate one or two things. Ok – maybe everything. Give yourself extra time – you will need it!
4. Combine homemade and store-bought. There’s no need to make everything from scratch. Heck, if you want to buy everything – you can! Keep timing in mind when planning what you’ll make, what you’ll buy, and what you’ll have guests bring!
5. For larger parties, pull out dishes the night before. If you have more than 6 people (or really more than 4), pull out dishes, silverware, and any linens or napkins as well. This should include serving and baking dishes in addition to glassware. It saves a bit of time before guests arrive and it’ll be another thing off your to do list.
6. Make ahead as many things as possible. After you’ve written out your menu, see what you can make ahead. For this late summer dinner party, I made everything the day before except one salad! Sauces can be made 1-2 days ahead. Soups too. And don’t wait til the day of your party to buy everything. Save time and make sure your produce is ripe by buying 1-2 days before!
7. Focus more on small bites and fresh produce than huge entrees that require time, energy, and stress. It would be amazing to pull off a Coq au vin with braised whatever and a souffle for your guests, but you don’t have to and you really shouldn’t even try. The starters make the first impression and I find guests appreciate a comfort-food entree over something that puts me on edge any day!
8. On that note, make recipes with which you’re familiar! There’s no sense testing out a recipe with guests. Make something you know is good – even if you think it’s simple. Spaghetti will win over more hearts than you’d think!
9. Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring something. Where we got the idea that a host/hostess should provide everything is archaic. Our friends and family aren’t traveling miles in a horse and carriage and we’re worried about them catching dysentery on the way. Let them bring something; they want to! And make it be helpful for you. If wine, cocktails, or dessert would really ease your evening, that’s great. If you want them to pick up a fresh loaf of bread or bring a salad, then ask for it. They just want to know what will help!
10. When guests arrive, don’t shy away from letting them help you get ready. Guests don’t want to be “relaxing” in another room while you work away to get everything ready. That’s why they always end up in the kitchen. Let them set the table, open the wine, cut the bread – anything really!
11. Water. I can’t tell you how many parties (big and small) I’ve attended that didn’t openly provide water. Everyone should be drinking water anyway, so make it easily accessible. Provide a bottle for the table (I love having these big glass bottles filled with water in my fridge at all times)
12. Clean everything before your guests arrive so you start the evening with all clean dishes. You’ll dirty enough during dinner anyway!
13. And then clean up right after your guests leave. If there’s more than one person hosting, one of you can start dealing with the dirty dishes in the kitchen while the other stays with guests at the table. After everyone has gone, wrap up all the leftover food and do a quick clean on everything. My husband and I split the after-dinner clean up – I wrap up all the food, he loads the dishwasher, and then we collapse on the couch or into bed.
14. Remember to breathe and relax. The point of having guests is to enjoy each other’s company – not to wow them with your organizational skills and event planning! So remember that it’s ok if it isn’t a magical spread fit for Vogue. You’re a wonderful person for hosting friends and family in your home!
15. Set it and forget it! There are many points during this process over which to worry or micromanage. Don’t! Once you decide on a menu and start buying ingredients, stick with it. And enjoy your time!!