Entertaining at home does not have to be a daunting task. I love nothing more than inviting friends and family over for a fun get together no matter the occasion. Not only does it give me an outlet to share my creative side and flex my organizational skills, but it also forces me to clean up my house and cross off all those to-dos that still remain undone. With our busy schedules these days, it is often hard to make time to get together with friends for a casual dinner or girls’ night. Just the thought of having to decide what to wear, put on heels, and drive to some fancy restaurant after a long day at work makes me exhausted.
The beauty of hosting an event at your home is that you do not have to go anywhere at all, you control the timeline around your schedule, and the people just come to you! (Ok, now to be fair it does require some pre-prep on your part.) Here are 10 easy tips to help make it not so daunting and have your friends feeling like you are the Hostess Extraordinaire:
This suggestion is two-fold. You always want guests to enter your home feeling welcome and excited. You also want to make sure that first time guests know they are in the right place. When decorating, make sure to include something decorative outside or on your front porch. Whether that is a festive wreath, signage, theme props, or balloons; select something that fits your occasion and style. This will not only let all of your guests know that their GPS has, in fact, led them to the right house, but also get them excited before they even set foot inside the door.
As the hostess, try to stand by the door to greet each of your guests as they walk in. This way you will have at least talked to everyone at some point, plus they will think that you really have your act together instead of running all around!
When entertaining at home, stick to your strengths. For me, I am not a cook, so I order food that I know will sit out well and pick it up or have it delivered. This way I can focus all my attention on the parts that most interest me like sprucing up the house or getting into a fun theme. If you have a few close friends or family there, delegate them to keep an eye on things and let you know when items need replenishing. That way, you don’t feel like you are constantly having to run back and forth to the kitchen checking on things.
If decorating isn’t your thing, ask one of your friends who is good at it to come over early and help you arrange some flowers. Don’t think your serving pieces are up to snuff? Call up your girlfriend and ask her to bring over that fabulous serving piece you recall from her last party. She will be flattered you admire her pieces. If nothing else, hire a caterer or decorator to help fill in the gaps of what you need help with the most.
Don’t feel like you need to bring out all your best china. Keep it simple! Order a stack of colored paper plates, napkins, and plastic ware. Nowadays you can find some really cute ones on sites like www.Orientaltrading.com or www.shindigz.com that will add a nice pop of color. No one will think twice about it and it will save you lots of dishes later in the night. Be sure to set out a few extra trashcans and have plenty of trash bags so guests don’t have to go searching.
Okay, we all know that as soon as all your girlfriends get there and start catching up that the room is going to be non-stop chatter. That said, it is important to have at least some background music playing, particularly as guests arrive and then just to keep the party going. If you don’t have a Bluetooth speaker or sound system, at the very least turn on your TV and search for a music channel to play in the background. Easy peasy, and makes a big difference!
A good party has people up and moving around, not all just sitting the whole time. Put the food in one room, but maybe desserts in another. Have the bar set up in one area, but maybe separate from the food slightly. Depending on your home, try to set up multiple sitting areas in different parts of the house so guests have plenty of space to sit, but can still bounce around from one place to the next without having to feel like they need to camp out to hold their seat the whole time.
If you have the budget for it and are looking to kick it up a notch, hire a fun entertainer for an hour in the middle of the party to keep guests on their toes. Depending on the type party, a fortune teller, trick bartender, magician, live musician, etc can be a real hit. If there are going to be kids present, be sure they are entertained as well. A Mother Goose story teller, puppeteer, or balloonist can keep kids entertained long enough for mom to get some time to eat and catch up with her friends too.
We often get so caught up in the details of our own parties that we forget to take a minute to capture the memories. At my daughter’s last birthday party, I don’t think I took one single photo. This gets back to delegating. Designate one friend or family member to take photos during the party and send them to you after. (In my house, this is my husband’s job). You will want to remember this great party! Guests also love a fun photo op, so if you have the space for it create a space with fun props or background that they can take their selfies and let all their friends on Facebook know what a great party it was too.
Most of the time we are so pre-occupied with the food and decorations that we also forget about some of the more practical things. Don’t forget to have extra toilet paper in all the bathrooms, and extra paper towels on hand just in case there are any spills. It is also a good idea to have some Shout wipes on hand just in case someone gets a little too happy on red wine. Ice is another one of those things that we tend to forget, so be sure to have an extra bag in the freezer just in case.
I always like to have a little takeaway item any time I’m entertaining at home. People like free stuff, so if you send them on their way with a small box of candy, wine accessory, glow in the dark necklace, or throw beads for the kids, they will remember your party long after they have left.
Last but not least, keep it simple. People like to get together to have a good time. They are not there to critique your cooking or how clean your house is. Odds are they are there because they want to catch up with friends and are thrilled that you are hosting so that they don’t have to! Don’t put too much stress on yourself – keep it fun and simple. By doing all these things, you will truly enjoy entertaining at home and become the hostess that everybody turns to for party advice.
One simple plate. One beautiful result.
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