Easy Entertaining Tips!

Happy happy happy Wednesday!

I had someone email me back a few months ago about sharing my favorite tips for entertaining, and I jotted it down on a sticky note to save for this fall.  I don’t know about you, but this time of year is my favorite time of year to have people in my home for dinner (or any meal!).  So, I thought I could share some of my easy entertaining tips and then you could share yours!  So many of my ideas have come from other people, so I would love to hear yours too!!

There’s nothing better than sitting around a table with family and friends laughing until the wee hours.  A cozy home is my favorite home!

Come on in, friends!

I like having other people over for dinner.  We typically do this several times a year, and they’re probably my favorite parties.  I have told this story a million times…but it always sticks out when I think of this topic.  Years and years ago, Andrew and I were invited to a little dinner party with several other couples and right as we were pulling up to their house, the husband called us in the car and said not to come in.  He said the wife had been making cornbread bowls to go with our chili that night and her bowls didn’t turn out, so she was sobbing.  He asked all of the guests to wait out front until she got it together.  Um, that was awkward.  I get it…I have those moments too in life…but I really don’t want to get myself that stressed out over dinner with friends that I make them wait in the yard until I stop crying.  That’s not fun for anyone.  The whole night was tense.  I don’t want tense.  If I ruin the food, I really try to have a “let’s order pizza and laugh” attitude because that is fun and memorable.  So, I say all of that to say, tip number one: RELAX.  Seriously, no one is Martha Stewart but Martha Stewart, it’s okay if it’s not perfect.  I just want to relax and have fun when people are over, so that everyone has a good time.

#2: Don’t make everything.  I heard someone on Food Network say this one time (I think it was Barefoot Contessa), and it’s always stuck with me.  I try and make about three things when I have people over and then I let the store help me with the rest (or some great bakers!).  For instance, I’ll make a lasagna, salad and pie, but I’ll order a cheese board from my grocery store and pick up bread from the bakery.  Or I’ll buy a turkey from the store and make two sides and buy a pie.  I just don’t want to be so busy in the kitchen that I miss out on being with my guests.  Which leads me to tip #3…

#3: Make as much as you can ahead of time.  I try to be really organized so that I don’t have to be cooking when people are over.  I’ll have things already in the oven, salads made, desserts ready to go and whatnot, so when they ring the doorbell, I’m not preoccupied with cooking.

 

#4: Play fun music!  I know this sounds silly, but music sets the mood for any party!  We always have a big Halloween dinner prior to trick or treating, and we’ll play a spooky mix on Pandora or during the summer outside, we’ll play oldies.  There is always a play list for every occasion 🙂 .  Music makes things FUN!

#5: Use white plates.  After years and years of buying colorful plates with cute patterns, I realized that gosh darn it…food just looks better on a white plate.  So, I went to Walmart and stocked up on plates (they were $1 each!), and we use those for every occasion.  I change out the napkins and table decorations to make things seasonal, but my plain white plates stay the same.

#6: Turn the a/c up!  I went to a dinner party one time and I thought I was going to have to go to the restroom and take off my pants.  I was DYING!  It was so hot in there!  As silly as this tip sounds, you have to remember to cool things down.  Nothing is worse than eating hot food in a hot room.

#7: Make your wifi password easy.  I mean, we live in 2017 and people want your wifi password, so I try to make it something easy because they’ll ask and won’t remember if it’s hard.  One of you ladies suggested that tip to me one time and it stuck!!  This is good for overnight guests too.

#8: Clean up later.  I’m really big on enjoying people when I have them in my home, so I clear the table (if we stay around to chat) or just leave the dishes there (if we move into another room) and worry with the dishes and mess later.  The dishes will be there, but your friends will eventually leave, so I make sure not to clean while they’re hanging out.

#9: Make it fun!  I host several parties a year that involve contests or games.  For instance, I always host my annual recipe exchange where the best recipe earns a prize (voted on my the guests) and then for Christmas Eve, we like to play fun “minute to win it” type games.  This stuff just makes people laugh and have a good time.  Plus, nothing is more fun than seeing your friends get competitive.  My prizes always vary…but it’s the game that people enjoy the most.

 

#10: Have the basics for outdoors. We host a lot of outdoor parties, so I make sure to keep sunscreen and bug spray out where they can spot it.  I learned this just from attending parties where I was dying for some bug spray but didn’t want to bug the hostess for some (because those darn mosquitoes just love to bite me!).  So, now, I keep that stuff out along with towels for them to use too (if we’re swimming and they didn’t bring one) in a place that is very visible, so that if they need it, it’s there.

#11: And let’s go ahead and say bathroom basics too.  Um, yeah. Make sure you have soap, lots of extra TP and I like to use those long napkins for hand towels during a party instead of a hand towel.  Because I don’t know about you…but it’s kind of gross to me to dry my hands on a wet towel that other people have used.  This way, they can dry it off with a napkin and toss it.

#12: Make sitting fun and easy.  I’m all over the place on whether or not to assign seats at a dinner party.  I get why it’s good because you get to mix up people, but I typically just have my table set and tell people they can sit anywhere they like.  I realllllly try and keep things unfussy.

#13: Have a theme!  I love a good themed party.  Whether it’s a theme in cuisine (like Mexican or Italian) or a theme in holiday (a spooky Halloween supper, ugly Christmas sweaters, or a British hat party)… themes are just plain fun (and keep the mood LIGHT!).

#14: Party favors are fun for adults too!  I almost always give out a little party favor when my guests leave.  It can be anything from a candle to popcorn from our town’s popcorn shop to a jar of apple butter to a fuzzy throw…just a random assortment depending on the season/how many people/the occasion.  I think it’s fun to give gifts and passing them out as people leave always makes me happy.

#15: I try to be sensitive to food allergies and what I’m serving.  I have several friends with severe food allergies, so I really try and make sure nothing served has anything in it they might be allergic to.  Also, when I invite new people over, I ask them about allergies and I also ask them if there is just something they don’t enjoy eating.  If they hate pork, I sure don’t want to serve it.

So, those are my tips.  Or at least the tips I could remember to tell you today 🙂 . The bottom line for me is this: when people leave my house, I don’t want them to remember what they ate, I don’t want them to remember how pretty the table was, I just want them to think back with warm fuzzy thoughts about how much fun they had.  That’s it.  That’s all I want them to think about…the fun.

Now, it’s your turn!  What are your favorite tips for having people over for a meal?  I can’t wait to read them!!!  With the holidays quickly approaching, I know we’re all probably doing more entertaining than normal.  Please share 🙂 .

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114 Comments

  • Reply Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog October 4, 2017 at 4:47 am

    I have to agree on only using white plates. Food does look so much better on a plain canvas!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  • Reply Erika Slaughter October 4, 2017 at 5:24 am

    My biggest tip would be stir whatever you’re serving really well so you don’t serve a vegetarian meal accidentally while the meat is on the bottom of your slow cooker. ;). hahahaha!

  • Reply Eileen October 4, 2017 at 5:26 am

    This list of tips is perfect for me. Entertaining and throwing parties stresses me out. I love your tips an am going to try to incorporate them more. I get overwhelmed having the house clean and ready. With 3 kids, I get stressed trying to clean the house, pick up, prep food, get the yard ready and furniture clean (if it’s an outside party). My husband does the prep with me and we’re both exhausted by the time our guests arrive. Our kids help now, which makes it better, but we always seem to run out of time (no matter how much I plan ahead) and are scrambling during that last hour before everyone arrives. How do you handle all of that party prep with regular life and kids in the mix?

    • Reply Amanda October 4, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      I get the same way and I have 3 littles too. If you can afford it, I would highly recommend having a cleaning service come in and clean the day before. If anything, maybe they can just clean the bathrooms and kitchen to save you some time (and money). They don’t have to do the whole house.

      I think the advice of not making everything is also a good one. I also keep in mind that these are my friends/family and they will love me even if the kitchen isn’t spotless and every thing isn’t in the perfect place.

  • Reply Sara October 4, 2017 at 5:31 am

    A few years ago, I stumbled across Nora Fleming at a local boutique. Those are my favorite serving dishes. They are white, just like you said, but they have a little tiny hole where you can place a mini decoration (it’s like a little knob that fits in the hole, and stands up on the corner of the plate). You can make them festive by adding a decoration or keep it simple and white. I have several of her dishes, and have gifted many as well.

    https://norafleming.com/

    • Reply Kristin October 4, 2017 at 6:30 am

      I second Nora Fleming! Her line is adorable, simple, elegant, and perfect for any occasion. She has a “mini” for every event/holiday and we always get questions and compliments on her pieces!

    • Reply Tiffany Nagy October 4, 2017 at 6:39 am

      Yes!! I have those as well. They are perfect and so cute and there are SO MANY little attachments!

    • Reply Nancy G. October 4, 2017 at 6:46 am

      Love Nora Fleming!!!

    • Reply Lindsey Stromberg October 4, 2017 at 10:02 am

      LOVE THIS!

  • Reply Annette October 4, 2017 at 5:33 am

    For somebody who scored a 2 on hospitality from their churches spiritual gifts assessment, this post is GOLD-haha! Thanks, Shay, these are truly helpful, fun and practical 🙂

  • Reply Elspeth Mizner October 4, 2017 at 5:34 am

    Wow great tips Shay! I’m going to have to try some of those. A tip I have is if someone offers to bring something, give them a suggestion that way you don’t have to worry about having double, so if they offer to bring an appetizer don’t make too many appetizers. Or if they’re want to bring a fruit and cheese tray don’t make a fruit salad! Great tips I’ll be using in the future!

  • Reply Sarah October 4, 2017 at 5:41 am

    Your tips are AMAZING!! Spot on!! So I definitely get stressed out just thinking about having people over. So much anxiety over whether my house is clean enough, guests will have fun, the food will turn out, etc etc etc. Speaking to other moms has made me realize we all have our anxious areas (some moms are always concerned their home is too small, their furniture is outdated, etc) and we need to let them go so we can enjoy the people in our lives!! Thank you for the great tips!! 🙂

    -Sarah http://www.thefrugalmillionaireblog.com

  • Reply Beth Jensen October 4, 2017 at 5:44 am

    Great tips! We are in sync. My favorite lately is setting up a variety of soups in the crockpot with fixings on the side. It’s so easy and leaves time to have fun. I always have some kind of tasting. I did fall beers (of course pumpkin), my favorite wine finds in small tasting glasses….But fun is the key. I am getting ready for my annual Halloween party and always do a game that I post questions in different rooms to get people to walk around, partner up and talk, or they would stay hovering around my kitchen. 🙂 Have a great day !

    • Reply Michelle October 4, 2017 at 8:09 am

      Sounds so intriguing! I also host a Halloween Party–what kinds of questions/game? My theme is spooky/ghoulish and I make signs for my food/drinks so they sound super disgusting and I always send an email reminder with my spooky menu ahead of time so people get excited. Halloween is my favorite party time-always looking for fun activities to add in!

  • Reply Sarah Shaneyfelt October 4, 2017 at 5:45 am

    I used to think that if I had people over then that meant I needed to do everything. But now if someone asks if they can bring a dish, I let them! It’s made things much easier knowing that I don’t have to do it all!
    MeetTheShaneyfelts

  • Reply Kristen Hardison October 4, 2017 at 5:46 am

    These are great tips Shay! I would add that lots of times when we have our good friends over, we have them come in pjs or comfy clothes. The parents bathe the kids in advance and bring them in their pjs and it seems like everyone is more relaxed and can stay longer bc they don’t have to rush home to do baths. This is especially helpful on a Saturday night because let’s be real…Sunday mornings can be tough being on time for church with little ones ☺️

  • Reply Michelle October 4, 2017 at 5:50 am

    I make sure to not have anything scented in my house… no candles burning or perfumy hand soap to wash their hands with. A lot of people have sensitive noses and skin ( I know I do) and the last thing I want to do is give guests a headache or cause them to be annoyed by the lingering scent on their hands! I buy unscented organic hand soap to have in the bathrooms! I totally agree on having the guest hand towels that you throw away!

    • Reply Bev October 4, 2017 at 8:52 am

      Thank you for this! I suffer from fragrances and it’s game over for me!

  • Reply Narci October 4, 2017 at 5:57 am

    These are such great tips, friend!! I always love coming to your home for a party! You are always so relaxed and welcoming!!

  • Reply Sheaffer Sims October 4, 2017 at 5:58 am

    Um, I want to go cruise Pinterest RIGHT NOW to start getting ideas for this year’s recipe exchange! You give the best prizes!

  • Reply Bethany October 4, 2017 at 6:04 am

    Plan and bake ahead is huge! At our last base I hosted 50 young airmen! I made so much ahead of time. For example, cake is great after being thawed. I made the cake days ahead of time and simply took it out and iced it the day of.

  • Reply Tara G. October 4, 2017 at 6:10 am

    Yes – I hate wet hand towels! I buy the kleenex boxes of hand napkins that pop out like tissue. And I’ll even remove the hand towels completely to encourage their use.

    If I clear dishes off the table, I put silverware in a plastic container on the counter with some dish soap & water, scrape the plates quickly with a rubber spatula & just run water over them as I stack in the sink. My kids are old enough to serve this way now while the adults visit.

  • Reply Amy Heinl October 4, 2017 at 6:27 am

    Such great ideas and you hit the two most important ones right off the bathroom….relax and don’t try to make it all yourself. We like to do progressive dinners where we go to one house for appetizers, then next house for salad, then next for dinner and last for dessert. It takes the pressure off having to host it all, and especially for holiday themed parties you get to see more than one house. Its always fun for everyone . It keeps everyone entertained because every 30 to 45 min you are off and moving to next spot

  • Reply Angelique at FourPointsMom.com October 4, 2017 at 6:28 am

    This is perfect timing! I’m throwing my son’s birthday party this weekend and we have over 50 people coming (and about half are adults). I’m stressing about food and the house and everything in between. I had never thought about that napkin trick for the powder room. That’s a great idea! And, yes, turn the A/C down people. I often feel like I’m hyperventilating at parties. 🙂

    http://www.FOURPOINTSMOM.com

  • Reply Renee October 4, 2017 at 6:28 am

    I like the hand towel tip! I agree, SO GROSS to use a cold wet towel to dry your hands!

  • Reply Audrey October 4, 2017 at 6:32 am

    You mean turn the a/c “up”? Maybe turn the “heater” down? 😜 (unless my head’s functioning backward 😕)

    • Reply Mix and Match Mama October 4, 2017 at 6:47 am

      Hahaha! Correcting that now.

      • Reply Michelle October 4, 2017 at 10:50 am

        AC down is correct… if you turn it up it won’t get as cool! 🙂

        • Reply Alyssa October 4, 2017 at 4:03 pm

          Turning the AC down was correct Shay! 🙂

  • Reply Tiffany Nagy October 4, 2017 at 6:44 am

    I’d say make sure to take a few pictures. Of you’re friends, of all the kids together etc. it’s fun to sort of look back through the years of get togethers at how everyone’s families have grown or how groups of friends have grown. Or of a single friend is married and her husband is now joining the group fun.
    I also like to set up a drink area when I’m not doing a “formal style” sit down dinner. This way guests can help themselves to whatever they’d like to drink, or refill after I’ve offered them something. I usually set it up in one area of my kitchen or on the bar in my dining room.
    Another thing I love to do is set out fun things for the kids to do outside (season permitting of course) like sidewalk chalk, bubbles, balls, hula hoops. Kids can entertain them selves in many ways typically, but it’s fun when they have stuff to play with together.
    Gosh, I can go on and on. I love entertaining!

    • Reply SS October 4, 2017 at 7:29 am

      We leave a sharpie out for plastic cups, so you can write your name on your plastic cup.

  • Reply Anna October 4, 2017 at 6:47 am

    This post was AWESOME!! SUCH great ideas!!

  • Reply Mama V @ Snowflakes & Coffeecakes October 4, 2017 at 6:53 am

    These are great tips Shay! Another thing that works well with a crowd is to serve buffet style – rather than sit-down dinner. SO much easier! And let people help – you don’t have to do it all yourself! Have a good friend help you with set-up and decorating, and let guests bring something if they offer – appetizers are always great! Another thing that we do during the winter holidays is have a jigsaw puzzle going on a side table. I’m always amazed at how many people will sit for a while and work a puzzle while still enjoying the party!

  • Reply Cindy October 4, 2017 at 6:56 am

    Such good advice within this post. I so wish I could have had some of these great tips earlier in my life. In my 60’s now- I used to try hard to have people over. My husband loves to have dinner parties/wine gatherings. I dislike these to my core. I have tried . I first cooked -cleaned- had the children dressed for bed after hi and /good nights to guests. My anxieties had me in he bathroom -yup getting sick. I then tried the catering route ( an excellent caterer)…. and the filet mignon in pastry was way too undercooked. ( guests returned to the kitchen with the “plated” food and requested I re-cook). The embarrassing situation had me in tears. I believe I have had such a high level of post trauma that I break out in cold sweats just to hear my husband say ” let’s us have a dinner/party”, Let’s us have friends over….. statement ruins me. Now I am just glad to sponser a guest at our Country Club…. works for me. But— now when our son /and his family come to visit I again have these horrible memories of past failed parties, and I worry more than enjoy. It is nice to see that in some way it could work by reading-and your sharing some tips. Thank-you.

    • Reply Rose October 4, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      Cindy, get re-started with the idea of entertaining by taking baby steps. Invite a couple over for dessert and coffee. Enjoy the conversation and keep it simple and casual. After you get over that hurdle try inviting a couple of friends over for an outdoor meal. Meals served on the deck or patio are relaxed and casual by nature and should lower the stress factor. After that becomes do-able have people over for a simple buffet, something they have to assemble themselves, even perhaps a taco salad. You just set out all the fixings and let people serve themselves. This works great for lunch which is not expected to be a formal meal. I hope you can find a way to enjoy entertaining again. Baby steps! 😊

  • Reply Brooke Richardson October 4, 2017 at 7:14 am

    These are awesome tips! And I have to say all the times we have been to your house have always been A blast. I always like to have several Candles burning too in different places.

    • Reply Sanna October 6, 2017 at 1:33 am

      I agree with the candles burning, except I now make triple sure that the smells coordinate with each other. And also, that I have had the candles before and know what to expect smell-wise. I had people over one night, and I literally thought someone was wearing bad cheap pefume, I almost felt nauseous and certainly headachy the whole night. Only to find out the stank came from my own dang candles. Poor guests!! Best to also keep the smell of the candles kind of neutral, so many people are sensitive to strong perfumy smells. I may love the pumpkin candles, but my guests may feel like they are being fogged out of my house.

  • Reply Melissa October 4, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Those are great tips! I remember you saying the one about not making everything you serve and have applied that several times over the years. You are right…it does take a huge stress off as the hostess. I have a type A personality to the max so I’m always striving to stress less and focus on my guests and the experience more. Happy entertaining season!

  • Reply Amanda @ Cupcake N Dreams October 4, 2017 at 7:23 am

    This is a post I didn’t even know I needed from you!! Great tips, especially the one about the white plates and the a/c. I host a Christmas party for my girlfriends and I’ll definitely remember those white plates, you are right, they make everything pop! My only tip is something you touched on, let your guests bring something if they ask. Most people seem happy to contribute and it takes some of the stress off the hostess!
    xo
    Amanda @ Cupcake N Dreams

  • Reply Laura @ Laura Likes Design October 4, 2017 at 7:28 am

    These are such great tips! I love hosting and attending parties at others’ homes — it’s so much more special that going out to eat with friends!

    LauraLikesDesign.com/Blog

  • Reply Erin Port October 4, 2017 at 7:30 am

    These are great tips. I always say make it all about your guests and their needs. I try to do everything ahead too so I can enjoy them and our time together 🙂 xoxo ERIN.

  • Reply SS October 4, 2017 at 7:32 am

    We head to the dollar store to get plastic table clothes. We put them right over our other table clothes. We also get decorations, any plastic ware we need, and any other fun stuff.

  • Reply Ariadna October 4, 2017 at 7:35 am

    These are great tips!! I remember one time for Christmas Eve my husband and I went over to my mom’s house, tried to go in the house and it was locked! Rang the doorbell, my mom peeks from behind the door and tells us to get back in the car, that the house isn’t fully ready yet!! WHAT?! I used to live here mom!! I don’t care if the house isn’t 100% ready!! I get that my mom wanted the house to look really nice, which it really did, but nobody but immediate family was coming so it wasn’t a big deal if it’s not 100% done!! So funny! Also, thanks for the white plate tip! I’ve been seriously considering switching all of my dishes to something white and a little bit more modern, thanks for the push!

  • Reply Justine @ Charm City Ciemny's October 4, 2017 at 7:58 am

    Those are all really great tips! I have to agree on the long napkins in the bathroom… I do the same thing!!

    Justine @ Charm City Ciemny’s
    http://www.lifeasabaltimoregirl.blogspot.com

  • Reply heidi October 4, 2017 at 7:58 am

    Fun tips!
    I agree on everything especially let them bring things or order some things out I used to always so ” just bring yourselves” and then be stressed. . Now if they offer I gladly accept!

  • Reply Tracy October 4, 2017 at 8:01 am

    I always make sure to have fresh flowers or greenery cut from my yard placed in simple vases scattered throughout the house. To me that just adds a little something special to the event.

  • Reply Alexis deZayas October 4, 2017 at 8:02 am

    It sounds like you really are an expert at hosting! Definitely saving this one!

  • Reply Colleen October 4, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Love this! Thank you! I used to think that good hosts were just gifted and I didn’t have that gift! Now I recognize that preparation and practice can make anyone a good host. I stress way too much, but I am learning that being welcoming is about way more than the perfect centerpiece. Your get togethers always look so welcoming. Thank you also for #15! My youngest has lots of allergies and I’m terrified to let anyone else feed her. Our world is changing and it seems so many more have allergies. Do you have any “go to” recipes for allergic guests? Do you ever post modification suggestions on your recipes?

  • Reply sydnee October 4, 2017 at 8:07 am

    All great points! I try to make ahead what I can…and definitely don’t make everything yourself. You should be out there mingling and having fun as well.

    Design by Sydnee

  • Reply Kim October 4, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Wow do I appreciate having all of these wonderful tips in one post. I “pinned” the post and hope to refer to it soon! Thank-you, thank-you!

  • Reply Faith Storck October 4, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Number 7 literally made me laugh out loud. There is no way my husband would ever make an easy password. (He’s an IT dude) I just tell my friends to pass him their cell phone and he will put it in. I’d have thought he would have learned how big of a pain that is and change it, but it hasn’t happened yet.

  • Reply Amy Bernards October 4, 2017 at 8:14 am

    I love hosting! Fresh flowers and candles burning around the house make for a welcoming home. When we host, I tend to make the entire meal, appetizers and desserts: so planning ahead is a must! I use my pre-made grocery list to be sure I have all of our groceries ahead of time and then use crock pots whenever possible to help. We tend to set up our kitchen island buffet style and the our butler’s bar as the dessert bar. If we are serving a taco bar, I plug in chili pepper lights to make it festive… I have found that the little details make a party that much more special, without any extra work.
    xoxo

  • Reply liz October 4, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Such good words of wisdom. I also like to have a decor theme and everything less fuss and easy. Looking forward to having you over when we are home in Dec. after the New Year maybe?

  • Reply Tina October 4, 2017 at 8:24 am

    I no longer “clean” my house before parties. Instead I gather anything that is not where it should be in a laundry hamper and stuff it in my closet to deal with later. I make sure my powder room is fresh. I keep the lighting low (and add candles). Low light is very forgiving of surfaces that may not have been dusted in a while. 😉 I always serve buffet style. Finally I almost always offer some kind of multi-generational activity like pumpkin carving or ginger bread houses…I pair up little kids with a grandparent type person. We have some older neighbors who LOVE hanging out with littles which also gives the parents a break.

  • Reply Paige E October 4, 2017 at 8:25 am

    What a great post! I definitely don’t have the entertaining gene, like my wonderful mama, but anyone can come sit at my fire pit and share a cold one and roast some marshmallows! Sometimes that’s more relaxing to me than a dinner so I’m more likely to do it! Its all about welcoming people in your home and connecting. Great ideas here!

  • Reply Meredith October 4, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Hi Shay – I noticed you don’t post much about serving drinks. Do you drink and/or serve alcohol at your parties?

    • Reply Mix and Match Mama October 4, 2017 at 11:52 am

      It depends! We do sometimes and we don’t sometimes…depends on who are guests are and the occasion.

  • Reply Beth Miller October 4, 2017 at 8:34 am

    I live by The Nester’s mantra, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful!!! I vacuum but don’t mop and make sure my house doesn’t look perfect bc I don’t want to give the impression that it’s always that way. I do let guests help in the kitchen bc I like to help when I go to someone’s house. I have most things ready but I think it helps people relax when you give them a job in the kitchen. It doesn’t feel as formal! I almost always forget to put something out, and the best compliment I’ve received is that my house is homey and welcoming.

  • Reply Becky October 4, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Love these tips and do a lot of them! I had my 2nd annual Scarf Exchange last night…got that idea from you! It’s SO fun!

    My awkward tip, is that I try to have a plunger easily find-able in the bathroom for guests! So awkward to have to ask!

    I’ve been trying to do better at adding music. I’d love to see a post with hospitality music ideas! I basically want to feel like I’m in a romantic comedy movie for background music 🙂

    • Reply Alex Curtis October 4, 2017 at 3:53 pm

      We once had a guest have to awkwardly ask for a plunger during a dinner party we were hosting. He was absolutely mortified. We keep one easily accessible in our powder room now for that exact reason!

    • Reply Amanda October 4, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      Find the score or soundtrack for your favorite romantic comedy (or two) on Spotify, Apple Music, etc. and have that playing in the background.

  • Reply Kim October 4, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Love all the tips, and will definitely put to use. Any suggestions for having families over. I love to do this but I do not love the sight of my playroom after…. how do you handle all your kiddos “stuff” when multiple friends of various ages are over? Not to mention various parenting styles:)

    • Reply Becca October 5, 2017 at 1:29 pm

      Great question!

  • Reply Erin October 4, 2017 at 8:40 am

    One thing I like to do for casual parties is buy individual drinks, whether is water, tea, pop, lemonade, etc. and put them in big containers with ice for people to self serve. Then I’m not constantly checking people’s drink glasses to see if they need a refill. I cringe a little at the plastic, but it frees up a lot of my time “hosting,”

  • Reply jackie carson October 4, 2017 at 8:41 am

    This is completely random…but for bug spray…check out ‘bug soother’ on Amazon. It’s more of a natural one that smells good and WORKS!!!!!! Better than any other bug spray I’ve used. When you mentioned having it out I thought of that 🙂

  • Reply Angela Ellingson October 4, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Gosh, I want to be like you when I grow up. Ok, I’m only like 3 years younger than you, but still. Such great tips!!! We just bought a house and I’m so excited to get settled after we close and hosting friends and family. How about a post on basic decorating tips?? 😉

  • Reply Amanda @ That Inspired Chick October 4, 2017 at 8:43 am

    The Christmas couples dinner at your house last year was SO much fun!!!! We had the best time! Love all these tips!
    That Inspired Chick

  • Reply Julie October 4, 2017 at 8:48 am

    My husband and I love to entertain and we host a big Christmas party every year. My biggest tip is have a “FLOW!” My husband used to laugh but now he knows it can make or break a big party. So, that just means have a plan for what people should do when they arrive. There’s nothing more awkward than showing up at a big party, not finding the hosts, and just wandering around with your coat. When people come to our party, we greet them at the door. (Or at least one of us if the other is busy!). We take coats, let people know the layout (beer on the deck, cocktails at the bar, wine in the kitchen, etc) and then they feel like they know how to start. It sounds like a small thing but it really just sets the tone and makes each person feel personally welcomed. I also like to use roses as gifts. So I have a HUGE beautiful bouquet of roses on the table in my entry hall, and then when people leave for the night, I hand one to each lady. (Sorry guys!) Oh, and make the front door festive! We use a lot of paper lanterns and that sort of thing…just gets people excited right away.

  • Reply MARY V October 4, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Love your Blog and Love your advice. I do have one question for you. What are some of your go-to recipes for entertaining?

    • Reply Mix and Match Mama October 4, 2017 at 11:51 am

      I typically do casseroles, lasagnas, pulled pork and such. Taco bars, fajitas and things like that are good too!

      • Reply Julie Clark October 4, 2017 at 1:46 pm

        That’s what I stress over the most….what to have for dinner.

  • Reply Kelsey October 4, 2017 at 10:15 am

    When we first got married, I hated letting anyone bring anything or help. I have learned to relax (a little) and let others bring a dish or drinks or something to help out. It makes me less stressed & they feel like they get to contribute!

  • Reply Danielle Henzel October 4, 2017 at 10:15 am

    I like to have my house clean, especially the bathroom before guests come over. However, I try not to make my house look perfect because someone once told me your house should looked lived in. It makes people, especially moms, more comfortable knowing I don’t have it all together!

  • Reply TG October 4, 2017 at 10:24 am

    For an actual dinner party, etc. (not having a best friend or a neighbor over on a whim) please make sure you clean the public areas/bathroom— I don’t want to notice your hair or your dogs hair all over the place/bathroom or a dirty bathroom. I don’t mean to be rude, but it makes me not want to eat home-cooked food in your home if I don’t feel as though you’re sanitary. 🙁 I also agree 100% with having paper hand towels in the bathrooms and the ac thing. I think everyone should also have a lit scented candle in the bathroom (only) too. And, I have no idea why, but my Mom ALWAYS had fresh flowers in our home if someone was coming over, so now it’s something I always, always do and always notice in other people’s homes. It surprises me when people don’t have fresh flowers out at a dinner party, etc., especially since you can buy them for $3.99 at Trader Joe’s. Ha! I also agree with what Erica said. STIR your soup. I was at a dinner party at a boyfriend’s aunts house once and she served matza ball soup to her guests…well I had a bowl of broth with abosoluely nothing in it. It was terribly awkward and gross.

  • Reply Amanda October 4, 2017 at 10:58 am

    These are great! My best tips are-
    1. Get ready before you finish dinner. If a guest arrives early (or you’re running behind) It’s much easier for them to chat with you in the kitchen than in the bathroom while you curl your hair. And on a similar note

    2. Save a couple easy tasks for early arrivals or guests that are a little more shy. These could be things like chopping cilantro for garnish, lighting the candles, or putting out napkins. I always love helping the host when I go to parties!

  • Reply Patricia October 4, 2017 at 11:07 am

    For dinner parties or big holiday meals, I set the table the day ahead and even set out the servers. One less thing to worry about. For very informal kid friendly dinners, I set the table with brown craft paper and put out crayons.

  • Reply Whitney Pegram October 4, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Great tips!! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply Erin October 4, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Never mind my tips! I can’t stop laughing at the thought of you having to take your pants off in the bathroom!!! Totally agree–nothing worse than being too hot at a party. Misery.

  • Reply Liz October 4, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Love this post because it made me think of my own tips! My fave of your tips is the disposable napkins in bathroom – never thought about it but you are so right. Here are mine:

    1) don’t have *everything* all ready when people arrive – must be carefully balanced with your tip #3. I have arrived at parties when every last thing is all laid out and prepared and it feels – awkward? Trying too hard? I like to save a few “last minute things” for when guests arrive – I’m talking easy stuff like chips in a bowl or dip in a bowl – because I feel like it makes it all seem more effortless and comfortable as you mentioned.

    2) make things bite size! I used to get full size magnolia cupcakes for parties and realized none of the ladies would eat them because everyone feels guilty eating a *whole cupcake*. Cut those babies in half or get mini cupcakes? Gone in 60 seconds. Because eating 3 mini cupcakes is way better than eating 1 full size 🙂

    3) have one “surprise” hot item to pull out about 45 minutes in – maybe even just an appetizer from Trader Joe’s. it gets the room smelling nice while heating up and makes people feel like you have gone to all this trouble when you haven’t.

    4) have lots of different size plates and bowls and make sure they overflowing (so always choose a vessel slightly smaller than the amount of food) – it makes everything look delicious and like you have put together a wonderful spread!

  • Reply Becky Dern October 4, 2017 at 11:36 am

    I love hosting parties at our home and these tips are so helpful! I try to be unfussy too-my friends and I are in a stage of life where we all have little kids. We couldn’t do a fancy dinner party if we tried!! Thanks for these. 🙂

  • Reply Tina L October 4, 2017 at 11:56 am

    We entertain a lot. I live by the Barefoot Contessa’s (Ina Garten) advice as well. I usually make three items – one appetizer, the main course, and either a side dish or dessert. I buy everything else (but get the best of what’s available, i.e. at a specialty store, or bakery) or, I let friends contribute if they ask. My other key entertaining mantra is being very organized and I always make dishes I can prepare in advance or that finish cooking as my guests arrive (added benefit: the house smells great.) This is usually a braised meat dish, or a casserole of some sort, like lasagna. I rarely grill at parties because I also want my husband to be part of the party and not stuck outside grilling. If its a casual outside party I’ll do something like homemade BBQ beef sandwiches. I also never try out new recipes for parties – I use stand out things I’ve done before. No cook wants to be surprised or embarrassed like your friend who messed up the cornbread bowls. Also, I do like a candle burning in the powder room and we usually have a fun cocktail ready for guests as soon as they walk in!

  • Reply Lindsay @ Lindsay's Sweet World October 4, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Great tips, Shay! One of the most important things to me when hosting is having ambient lighting. I’m a big lighting person and I don’t do harsh overhead lighting. I always turn on all the lamps and we have lots of twinkle lights/marquees in our house that I turn on, too. It creates a cozy glow. :o)

    • Reply Sanna October 6, 2017 at 1:44 am

      Yessssss, so very important, the lighting. Some people have lamps hanging above the dining room table, where the 40-60 watt bulbs are exposed, and sitting underneath them feels like you’re in a tanning booth and should have brought those little sunglasses. And some old kitchens still have that fluorescent light, ughhhh!!! Not only do those not flatter any complexion, but if you take pics at your party, you’ll look like you are staring in the airplane bathroom mirror, you know, with that awful lighting that they have in there.

  • Reply Whitney October 4, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    This is such a fun post!😻

  • Reply Niamh October 4, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Great tips. I totally agree with all of them. We also try to have a basket of pashminas available if we are hosting outdoors. It can prolong the party if the evening gets breezy as your guests can grab a scarf and (fashionably) keep themselves warm.

  • Reply SC October 4, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    My mom is a fabulous hostess. Her house is not fancy & isn’t always super clean – her food is not fancy but is abundant – but her heart to love on people is so genuine that people love to come over and are blessed by being in her home. I try to be like her.

  • Reply Christine October 4, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Your tips are so helpful! I always light unscented candles in the kitchen and a scented candle in the bathroom (only if children are not around). Thank you so much!

  • Reply Laurie N. October 4, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    I agree about the wiping your hands on a wet towel in the bathroom! Question-you said you use long napkins in tip #11, but can you share what you use specifically? Is it more like folded paper towels that are used in restaurant bathrooms? I would think a regular long paper napkin would shred when wiping your wet hands? Or maybe you mean a cloth napkin? (I’m just thrown off by the use it and ‘toss it’ comment as it leads me to believe it’s a long paper napkin.) Thanks!

    • Reply Mix and Match Mama October 4, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      I order them off of Amazon or buy them in little gift shops around town. They’re rectangular shaped napkins (so longer than your basic square napkin). I always pick up pretty or seasonal prints in packages and have them out.

      • Reply Melissa October 4, 2017 at 3:30 pm

        We use cloth napkins for everyday meals and special meals. they are so rare these days that it automatically steps up a dinner party. Then we just throw them in the wash with towels, bins, etc.

        • Reply Sanna October 6, 2017 at 1:51 am

          We use the cloth napkins too, and I always fold them into a special something, like a rose or a bird of paradise. I blame my hotel industry employment for that, but you can find really easy rose folding on youtube. Adds something special. I do the same with overnight guests. I fold the guest towels like they do on cruise ships, again if you don’t come from a hotel background, youtube has great easy tutorials. All you need is a big towel and a handtowel for every animal shape you fold. The easiest for towels are crabs, and sting rays. Don’t attempt a bunny, they look easy but aren’t 🙂

    • Reply Kelli October 4, 2017 at 3:57 pm

      Kleenex makes a box of paper towels specifically for bathrooms. They’re usually located in the store near the tissues. They’re wonderful for guests!

  • Reply Gail October 4, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    I didn’t grow up in a home that had parties, so it was a mystery to me. When my husband moved from doing Youth misnistry for 14 years to Adult ministries I felt like I should step up and start entertaining. So I found a lady in our church that entertained beautifully and asked her to teach me how to do it. She would give me “assignments’ and told me that when I felt comfortable with one then she would give me another one to try. So we started with gathering the essentials– white dinner ware and platters , a coffe pot, electric tea kettle ( it still surprises me how many people like just a cup of hot water to sip), and something I never thought about is a seperate set of silverware for entertaining so it is always available. Also make sure your dishwasher is empty so cleanup goes much quicker. Clean the day before. She told me to practice on college kids because they are always hungry and so grateful to have someone care about them!

    • Reply Cris October 17, 2017 at 8:13 pm

      I love this whole comment! I want to find a lady like that who will train me! Yes, I’m old enough to *be* that lady!

  • Reply Liz Thorson October 4, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    So many wonderful, helpful tips from you, Shay, and from many others, too! Thank you!❤️

  • Reply Megan Michelson October 4, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    These are such great hosting ideas! You should host a Birds & Bees Gathering – easy theme, lots of laughs and incredibly helpful info for all. Your friends will thank you!! http://www.birds-bees.com/gathering
    Love all of your posts, Shay!

  • Reply Erinn October 4, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    When you host a dinner party do your kids stay home with a sitter some place else in the house or do they head to grandparents for a sleepover?

    • Reply Mix and Match Mama October 5, 2017 at 5:03 am

      They’re usually upstairs with a sitter 🙂 .

  • Reply Tamra October 4, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Girl…. I about DIED on #6. I too have thought of going to someone’s restroom to take off my pants, but then there is the fear of Ross and his leather pants situation where they wouldn’t come back up. Literally dying!! Being too warm at someone’s house is so uncomfortable! Thanks for this great list and a good laugh today!! 💖

    • Reply Nikki October 5, 2017 at 6:53 am

      That’s one of my VERY FAVORITE episodes!!!

    • Reply Sanna October 6, 2017 at 1:55 am

      Hahahahahaha, I totally forgot about that episode. Is that the same episode as the one with the eighties lighting and Ross has his teeth whitened, and they light up in the black light glow? Now that I think about it, I think that is a different episode, but wow, everything we need to know about dinner parties, we can learn from Ross. Even about ambience lighting.

  • Reply Melissa October 4, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    We have a guestbook that people sign every time they come over. It’s so fun to look back through old entries and remember this dinner or that game night!

  • Reply Kelli October 4, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for mentioning allergies! My six year old daughter has a severe peanut/tree but allergy, & it’s so nice to visit friends who are aware and make an effort to avoid those foods! ❤️

  • Reply bri October 4, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    I never would’ve thought about wifi/AC! So smart! Side note: is it weird that the first thing I thought about when the Yankees won the wild card game is “Could there be a Yankees vs. Red Sox ALCS? The Shulls would have so much fun with that!” Lol. Good luck to your teams, I think it would be a fun blog post to read 😂

  • Reply Heather October 4, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    Good call on hand towels for bathrooms. Never thought about it, but it really is kinda gross, huh? I will be making sure to have those on hand in the future! Great post!

  • Reply Canadian Cathy October 4, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    I would agree with all your tips and add two more:
    1. Get your kids involved – making decorations, placards, signs for food etc. My kids are older now but I want them to know and enjoy how to host people!
    2. JUST DO IT. Don’t wait for your house to be perfectly clean or for you to “feel like it”. If you are nervous about a whole dinner – invite people over for drinks/coffee and dessert. Or to make s’mores outside around the fire, or coffee/juice and muffins in your drive way while the kids play. Make memories!

  • Reply Nikki October 5, 2017 at 6:56 am

    Great tips … Just in the last month or so, I’ve started trying to collect glass and/or white plates/platters of varying sizes for serving. I’ve got some Arthur Court platters that we wedding gifts (almost 19 years ago) with cute little bunny designs, but they aren’t my style anymore. I’ll save those for Easter, but use the white/glass for year-round entertaining.

  • Reply Alex Curtis October 5, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Love these tips! We always turn our AC up when we have company over, but I also make sure to have plenty of throw blankets out in case someone is chilly!

  • Reply Jenny October 5, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Your parties always look like the best! I’d love another post on some ideas of food that you make. 🙂 I’m always trying to think of things to make usually for a larger crowd.

  • Reply Sanna October 6, 2017 at 2:00 am

    Just one more tip, make sure you have enough seating for the number of guests. This is especially important if you throw huge parties that aren’t a dinner party. No girl wants to have to stand in her new heels all night long. This seems so simple, but I have been to many parties where there were no chairs left. I think it makes your guests want to leave.

    I also love those things they sell for around wine glasses, those numbers and/or letters that tie around the glass stem, so noone has to study their lipstick on the edge of the glass to know what glass belongs to them.

  • Reply Cindy October 8, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    What are the white plates you bought from Walmart (the ones that cost $1.00) made of ? Thanks

    • Reply Mix and Match Mama October 9, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      They’re ceramic!

  • Reply Angela Townsend October 8, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    My husband and I love to entertain!
    After each party we sit down and write down ” what was right” ” what was missing” and ” what was confusing”
    We save it and look at it for our next party so we know what we need to do. We also don’t mind asking people for help if they arrive early. Most people are happy to help! So we have learned to say ” of course!” 🙂

  • Reply Keri October 9, 2017 at 12:52 am

    One of the best tips that I have heard about entertaining is actually kind of odd but it is… Make sure you have a toilet plunger in each bathroom. How horribly embarrassing would it be for your guest to have to ask you for a plunger!

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