I finally did it!
Not only was my house, the food and I ready before guests arrived, but I actually greeted everyone at the door, offering them a glass of pretty, pink Moscato garnished with raspberries.
Granted, the only reason that I was able to entertain in style is because my parents, who are normally early to the party, were delayed when my Dad accidentally knocked over the cookie display in the store while picking up dessert on the way over, giving me the extra time I needed to finish getting dressed. Minor details.
Back to the party…
As I looked around my home filled with my people, eating, drinking and being merry, I truly felt like I was entertaining in style.
To me, opening your home to friends and family and making them feel welcome and cared for is the key to hostessing. So, I’ve put together a guide of my top tips to make your guests feel special. From having a place to put your guests’ belongings to picking out an outfit for you, this guide includes all the important details that will help you entertain in style.
How to Entertain with Style and Grace
Planning ahead is your saving grace. It truly helps calm your nerves and set the tone so you can entertain in style.
2 weeks ahead:
- Decide if your party is going to be buffet style, family style, or plate style. Some of this depends on your space. If you don’t have a place to set up a buffet, set up a family style dinner. In my case, I’d love for the Potluck to be family style, but there’s too many of us to fit at one table. And, I don’t have enough serving dishes to set two to three tables family style. So, our Potlucks (and every other family dinner) is buffet style.
- Make sure you have enough silver ware, glasses and plates for everyone. I like to think about what I’m serving and the types of dishes it should be served in. For example, chili is on the menu for our traditional Fall Family Potluck this year. So, I want to make sure I have enough bowls to serve the chili in. If you need more dishes, try eBay, TJMaxx or thrift stores. They’re loaded with dishes.
1 week ahead
- Pick something comfortable to wear. I don’t know about you, but I get pretty sweaty when I’m playing hostess. Between that and the inevitable bloating after dinner, I choose to wear loose, comfortable outfits, like a tunic top with leggings or a flowy dress. Being comfortable puts you at ease and lets you entertain in style.
- Shut the door. I’ve really loosened up on getting the house ready to host. As long as the bathroom is clean and the house doesn’t stink, I close the bedroom doors, and call it done.
- Designate a place for everyone to put their things. I have a coat rack by the front door. But, if that’s not enough space, I put purses and jackets in the guest bedroom.
The day before:
- Set the table – Keep your centerpiece simple and low so that everyone can see each other and easily make conversation. If you’re party is family style, be sure to leave enough room on your table for the food. Also, I rarely spend money on a centerpiece. Instead, I grab my garden shears and clip vines or branches from outside and call it done.
- Set up stations – We serve tea, water and sometimes wine. I set the tea and water up with glasses and let guests serve themselves. If guests are bringing food or drinks, have a place for them. I use post-it notes to label where things go. I just tell guests to find their label and set the dish there. Desserts go on the command center desk which I use as a dessert and coffee bar when I’m entertaining.
30 Minutes Before:
- Have appetizers ready. If dinner time is later than arrival time, have appetizers on hand. You don’t have to make them. Just buy a party platter and set it out with appetizer plates and napkins. Hell, one time I opened a jar of olives and handed it to my Dad with a fork. He was happy. I was happy. Everyone was happy.
- Turn on music – Music is great for setting the mood. You cannot go wrong with the Harry Connick Jr. or Michael Buble stations on Pandora. Keep the music low enough to just be background music and not drown out conversation.
- Turn on or light candles – Use unscented candles so they don’t compete with the delicious scents of the food.
It’s party time! You did most of the work ahead of time. Now, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
- Greet your guests – If I’m not available, (usually I’m not because I’m still getting dressed), Matt answers the door and welcomes everyone in. As we greet everyone, we show them or tell them where to put their belongings, and point them to the drinks and appetizers. But, if you’d rather unlock your door and yell, “come in!” go for it. Either way works.
- Relax and enjoy your people. If you’re at ease, your guests will be, too. Mix and mingle. Be in the moment. Make memories and have fun. Put people over perfection, every time.
- Take a few minutes to put away leftover food. Matt and I usually go ahead and load the dish washer and wash dishes after everyone leaves. It doesn’t take very long and before we know it, we’re sitting on the couch watching t.v. But, if you don’t mind leaving dishes until tomorrow, do it.
Remember, the party doesn’t need to be perfect to be a success.