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 🙂 .