I have loved entertaining since I was a young girl. In my neighborhood growing up, I would host 'movie nights' at our house complete with snacks, refreshments and the latest blockbuster hit. Unfortunately, I did charge for these 'events' and nobody would pay me, they would then eat all the food, and leave before the intro credits rolled😂. Luckily, I've learned a bit along the way and now my guests stay well beyond dessert. See below my go-to steps that make entertaining a breeze, leaving me enjoying the party as if I was a guest.
1. Plan ahead
1. Plan ahead
Even if it is just one day before, it is so important to plan ahead for any type of entertaining meetup and to make sure you WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Based on how many guests are attending and the style (dinner, brunch, drinks) of the event, I'll then figure out what I want the theme to be. This makes it easy to then draw up the menu, including drinks and appetizers. For example, if there are a lot of people and we can't formally sit at the dining table, buffet style dishes work best. I generally pull together a recipe that can either be completely made in advance (check Ina Garten's recipes) or a one dish wonder (like these bomb enchiladas). The goal of the planning is to do as much in advance as you can (re: grocery shop, marinade, make extra ice cubes, etc.), and leaving only necessary day of tasks on your plate.
2. Make a list for the day of
Now that you've planned, it's time to think through the day of. If you're anything like me, beyond just entertaining, I'm sure your brain is thinking of 100 other things, all at the exact same time :) To avoid stressing and perhaps forgetting to bring out that salad you whipped up that is now left to sit in the fridge, create a detailed list of all your tasks for the day of in chronological order. I'm talking, 1. pull out sour cream 2. put salt and pepper on the table 3. set the oven to 350 degrees. This planning will detail out your tasks and can help when scheduling the baking of multiple dishes, if you have only one oven. Also, when you remove these to do's from your brain, your memory will not have to work as hard, which can be a real stress reducer. You may even enjoy the process of getting ready for guests to arrive!
3. Take advantage of help where you can
This means if a guest offers to bring a dish or asks, 'what can I bring?', think about it and offer up some ideas. They wouldn't ask if they didn't want to help, and it not only offsets extra work for yourself, but makes them feel like they are a part of pulling together a great meal. Also, a rule that I've taken on myself is make no more than 80% and buy the rest. For dessert especially (although I do love to bake!), I'll go to Whole Foods and choose a few decadent individual desserts and cut them into fours, so guests can try a few bites of each. This is always a fun way to try new things, is inexpensive, you can accommodate dietary restrictions easily, and best of all, minimal work for me to go and buy.
4. Run the dishwasher
This seems so simple, but it is one of the best pieces of advice I've been given on hosting parties. Before the event, make sure your dishwasher is completely empty. It is a simple to do and it allows you to stack the dirty plates away right after a meal. This not only relieves you from the task, but also doesn't make your guests feel as though they need to roll up their sleeves and dig into the dirty dishes.
5. Remember, this is supposed to be fun
Since Pinterest has launched on the scene, it is important to remember that the main goal of your event is to share an experience, whether a meal, a conversation or a laugh with your guests. It is not to get an Instagram-worthy photo. I know it is hard to not get caught up in this, but it can really set the tone for an event. If your friends and family are arriving and you're stressed that the napkins are wrinkled vs. welcoming them, it can feel very off-putting. Being a victim of this for many of my past parties, I have to say it does take effort, but remain calm and give yourself at least ten minutes to unwind before guests arrive. They are here to see you, not your crazy alter ego who is obsessing over the floral arrangement.