Today, I sat down to plan my menu, grocery list and decorations for the upcoming holiday season. This year, we plan to host as many people as possible in our home and around our dinner table.
For us, entertaining others isn’t just fun (although it really is!), it’s also a way for us to love on our friends and family. Nothing makes us happier than opening up our home to others: making them feel welcome, feeding them, and sharing in great conversation and fun.
Over the years, I’ve experienced some hits and misses with entertaining. Here are a few tips I’ve pick up along the way:
1. Create a thoughtful guest list.
As I’m preparing for a party, I like to make sure everyone in the room will have at least one other person there that they either a.) already know or b.) have some sort of connection (mutual friends, work, etc.) This takes some thought, but when you are able to bring people together and make them feel comfortable, 90% of the work for the evening is already done!
2. Create a thoughtful playlist.
Music when you entertain is a must. However, music should serve more as a comforting backdrop, rather than the main event. Keep your choices soft, neutral, and event-appropriate.
3. Plan a menu that varies in color and type.
This is a trick I learned early on from my mom, who is an excellent entertainer and host. Aim to have dishes that vary in color. A table full of yellow-ish dishes looks unappetizing, no matter how good they might each taste! Similarly, unless it’s a themed party like a soup and salad supper, try to have several different types of dishes (ie don’t serve all dips).
4. Plan a menu that doesn’t require you to cook more than two things on the stovetop at one time.
Trust me, trying to stay on top of anything more than two is just a recipe for disaster, especially if you also have things going in the oven.
5. No matter what type of gathering, make sure you have plenty of chilled water and ice.
6. Offer a tour of your home to guests who are visiting you for the first time.
I don’t know about you, but I love getting a tour of other people’s houses. They don’t have to be fancy, it’s just fun to see how other people decorate, lay out their furniture and fill a space. It can also be a great ice breaker for first time guests. Walking through your home offers plenty of opportunities for you to point out interesting things, or have them ask you questions about your home and family.
7. When planning an event you host annually, think outside of the typical guest list and include others who might enjoy an invite.
It is easy to get in a rutt and to end up hanging out with the same people all the time, and that includes family functions! Try adding a few new friends to your holiday party’s guest list. Or, at your next family event, reach out to a few families who don’t have connections in the area and ask them to come along. (Bonus: Extra, non-family members in the room tend to put typically ill behaved family members on their best behavior ;-).)
8. Don’t be afraid to specify “adults only,” or get a sitter to watch guests’ kids.
Nothing dampens the festive spirit like parents who can’t socialize because their kids are distracting them. Hosting “adults only” allows parents to come, relax and enjoy your event without having to divide their attention. Similarly, you can pay a babysitter to come to your house to watch your guests’ kids. This is especially nice for parents who like to keep their little ones nearby, or for whom the cost of baby sitting might be a barrier to their attendance at your event.
9. Look to books, magazines and blogs (like this one!) for entertaining inspiration, but at the end of the day keep it simple, keep it fun, and keep it truly you.
Nobody needs to have a “Pinterest party” to have a good time. The secret to a good time is: good food, good company and a warm and friendly environment.
10. Keep an open mind, a relaxed demeanor and expectations low.
Take it from me, I have come away from many a party or hosting experience where everyone else had fun, but me. Whether that be because I was too stressed about the details, too worried about things that didn’t come off as planned, or expecting things that were unrealistic or unnecessary, the end result is the same.
This holiday season, put some thought and planning into your next hosting event, but then allow yourself to enjoy the experience as much as possible. Plus, people pick up on the vibes a stressed out host throws! Set the tone with a fun and laid back persona, and allow the hard work you did in advance to pay off.
11. *Bonus Tip* Check out What’s a Hostess to Do? by Susan Spungen
This book is full of fun and helpful tips, like put napkins and silverware at the end of a buffet so people don’t have to carry it while also dishing items onto their plate. Genius! Also love her clever “no vase” solutions for how to arrange flowers. I ordered my copy from my local library. You can also order it from Amazon, What’s a Hostess to Do? (What’s a… to Do?)
Pick yours up today!