Entertaining in your home…the simple phrase can strike terror in some and joy in others. I grew up with parents who often hosted gatherings for friends and family, ranging from large holiday parties to smaller supper club dinners. The thing I remember most about these gatherings was how my parents always exuded an air of ease and simplicity in every party they hosted. Now trust me, I am not naive enough to believe that there were never those panicky, stress-inducing moments. Some certainly were large enough to recall, like the time sweet potatoes ended up covering the walls and ceiling from an unfortunate slip of the pan. I simply mean that the memories I carry of those gatherings are ones of happiness and delight. The point of hosting gatherings is to enjoy each other’s company, and everything else should be secondary!
Here are some simple tips to help cut down on stress so you can enjoy yourself more:
- Manage expectations (mainly yours). Your friends and family do not expect you to be Martha Stewart, so do not put undue pressure on yourself to present gourmet food, extensive decor or theatrical party effects. Set the tone for the evening by choosing food, décor and experiential effects that you can realistically do well.
- Plan ahead. You might be thinking this is a no brainer, but when I say plan, I mean you should spend an hour, before the party, conducting a thorough “walk-through” of the entertaining space as if you were one of the guests. Start at the front door and walk through all aspects of the evening. It is helpful to walk with another set of eyes – someone you can bounce ideas and questions off of. Here are some things to note on the walk-through:
- Where will guests drop off coats and/or umbrellas (if it is raining) as they arrive?
- Where will the bar be set? Flow to and from this area should be open and allow for some standing room. Remember, the bar is typically the first place a guest will go to upon arrival.
- Where will the main food items be placed, and is there enough space for multiple people to easily navigate the area to fill their plates? Once plates are filled, where will dining take place? Adjust your food, plates and utensils accordingly depending on if guests will sit or stand to eat.
- Make note of furniture pieces that impede flow and plan to move those for the evening.
- Don’t forget overlooked items like stocking bathrooms properly, your having extra space in a refrigerator to store excess food and relaying parking instructions to guests.
- Carry a notebook and log items that are needed for the event. Examples of items typically needed are linens and tables, floral and candles, extra trashcans, music, dishware, serving trays, barware and napkins.
- Outsource, when needed. For those items you are not confident in doing or simply do not enjoy, consider outsourcing it or asking a friend for help. For example, I am terrible at arranging flowers, so I typically either use a florist, or purchase flowers and convince a close friend who is talented at arranging to create some pieces for me. I also lean on a savvy interior designer friend to help me pick out linen colors and create a décor plan for the evening. I could agonize over those items for hours whereas she easily offers expert input in the blink of an eye.
- Prep the day before. Save yourself the heartache, and get a jumpstart of day-of preparations! Move furniture that needs moving, set the bar and food tables with utensils, glassware and serving trays so all that is needed is the addition of the food, beverage and ice. Set out candles, floral and have your perfect playlist ready to go.
Finally, have fun! Once the party starts take a deep breath and be in the moment. Don’t take yourself or the party too serious. Chances are if something is amiss, you are probably the only one who will notice. I promise your guests are more likely to remember and appreciate the amazing catch-up session with a special friend or family member they don’t see often verse the type of flowers or wine that was served.
Cheers to your next gathering!