Let’s Look at your entertaining ideas!

Let's Look!

It’s LET’S LOOK!!!

Once a month, Erika and I host a link up where we “look” at little aspects of our lives.  If you’re a blogger, make sure you blog and link up!

Here’s what we’ve been “looking” at so far this year…
In January, we looked at the coziest spots in our house
In February, we looked at our favorite reads
In March, we looked at the people in our family!
In April, we looked at our pantries!
In May, we looked at our favorite #OOTD
In June, we looked inside our suitcase
In July, we looked at a day in the life of us.
In August, we looked at shows to binge watch.
In September, we looked at our calendar.
In October, we looked at our favorite fall recipes.

And today, we’re looking at our favorite entertaining tips!

With the holidays right around the corner, I don’t know about you, but I will be entertaining quite a bit.  Today, I’m going to share my top tips with you and then I hope you ladies share yours with me too!!

I love having people over for a meal or a party.  I love small groups and big groups…any size group.  There is just something about inviting people in and breaking bread together that makes me super happy.  Come in to my house today for my TOP 15 ENTERTAINING TIPS:

#1: Relax and have fun!  I always think that the more relaxed the host is, the more fun the party is.  If the host is fretting over the food, it’s hard for the guests to sit back and relax.  I always try to make entertaining nice for my guests, but at the same time, I just want them to come in, relax and have a nice 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, even at a party, people will 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 sweet readers 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 🙂 .

Let's Look At...

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog November 13, 2019 at 4:51 am

    Definitely agreed on using white plates! So budget-friendly and I personally think it looks so sophisticated! Simplicity is the best. 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • Erika Slaughter November 13, 2019 at 4:59 am

    This is why you’re so good at this-I only had five tips! 🤣🤣🤣

  • Sheaffer Sims November 13, 2019 at 5:07 am

    Great tips!!! And I cannot wait until this year’s recipe exchange!

  • Tammy Lynn November 13, 2019 at 5:23 am

    Great tips Shay! I’m curious about the wifi part. What are most guests doing with it? During a party, what are some of the things could you need wifi for?

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:48 am

      I think that tip is mainly for overnight guests or guests that are there a long time, but I feel like it comes up from time to time, so instead of making the password tricky, on Christmas, I’ll change it to “santa” or something memorable and easy to spell.

  • Gillian November 13, 2019 at 5:46 am

    My goal in life is to be invited to a Shay Shull party!!! You are the best host EVER.

    – Gillian x

  • Tara G. November 13, 2019 at 5:49 am

    It may seem archaic, but we often assign seats. It’s done thoughtfully to promote conversation & comfort for all guests.

    Totally with you on wet towels. I buy the pop up kleenex brand of disposable hand towels; the boxes can sit on the counter or be turned upside down on a towel bar.

    I Iove Northern Lights dripless tapers; I find them at Home Goods. So annoying to have wax on a tablecloth that needs attention later

  • Narci November 13, 2019 at 6:12 am

    Great tips!! Thank you for the link up!!

  • Bev November 13, 2019 at 6:36 am

    I don’t entertain much but I enjoyed reading your tips because it reminded me why you’re one of my top 5 bloggers. You are beautiful, have a lovely family, home, etc. but absolutely none of that defines you. It’s your love for the simple things in life, like wanting people to be happy and just have good, old-fashioned fun! You offer so much and deliver in a way that is simply charming!

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:47 am

      Well, this just made my morning. Thank you, Bev!

  • Kate S November 13, 2019 at 6:40 am

    I love the idea of games! Could you share some of the games you play? I agree planing ahead is key it makes the evening much more relaxed!

  • Tess November 13, 2019 at 6:50 am

    When serving a party with both kids and adults do you have separate tables or do you mix them up when seating?

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:47 am

      It depends on the occasion. For our big family parties, I like to mix up the kids and adults.

  • TGS November 13, 2019 at 6:54 am

    I like to buy some fresh flowers before I have any guests!

    Adjust lighting in advance of guests. For example, even if it’s light out when guests arrive, I’ll already have the lamps/lights adjusted for later (during a party). Maybe that’s super wasteful? I’m weird and I don’t like it when the light changes and I am walking around my guests trying out different lighting after the sun goes down. My mom will change the lights and test out different settings randomly when you’re sitting on the couch and the light show drives me bonkers. 😂

    I always light an inoffensive candle, in the bathroom (only). I know the scent thing was controversial on here last time.

    Take out kitchen (and bathroom) trash shortly before guests arrive.

    I like to have some easy drinks out in either an ice bucket or lined up on the counter (like mini water bottles) or even just cute cups and a pitcher out on the counter, so people can help themselves, especially with water, much like the bug spray. No one wants to awkwardly ask the host for some water before dinner, etc. when he/she already poured you a glass of wine upon arrival!

    I think this goes without saying but if it’s a big party with lots of mini conversations going all around the space, it’s important to me for the host (or me) to mingle and talk to everyone and also to thank people for coming. I think that’s a lost art.

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:46 am

      Yes, yes, and YES!!! I love these tips so much!!

  • CATHY Boulanger November 13, 2019 at 6:54 am

    I would say:
    1. Don’t be afraid to mix groups up (some hockey parent friends, some work friends etc.) We have BIG parties because I hate to leave anyone out and so we have mixed groupings. Now we have people that only see each other t our parties and they get excited to see them.
    2. Agree with having all food as prepared as possible.
    3. I purchase compostable containers from the restaurant supply store to send leftovers home with people.
    4. I always have designated places for garbage, recycling so people have easily toss their own things (at non dinner parties where there are just snacks).
    5. Get other people involved in helping the games, food, activities. We have one guy friend who LOVES to be in charge of rounding up the group to hear the rules etc. of the activity. He’s big, he’s loud, he’s funny and gosh darn it – people listen to him. When we had a karaoke party I called one of my talented and outgoing friends and told her, “I need you to start the karaoke. You can get this party started.” She was delighted and prepared, she even knew what song to sing. I have one friend who is quieter and loves to come a bit early and help set up – it is easier for her to be here rather than come into a busy house. Great! I have another friend who loves to take action photo and she is good. I always ask her if she would mind snapping some photos with her good camera – she is happy to.
    6. Set up a photo share if lots of people got good photos – everyone gets different shots and as a mom who is almost NEVER in the shot (I am always taking them.) I love to see other people’s photos. We just use google photo.

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:46 am

      Yessssssss! So many great ideas!!!

    • LisaD November 13, 2019 at 10:23 am

      Definitely agree with being organized ahead of time… I make lots of lists to keep me on track. Paper towels and a lit candle in the bathroom. I try to keep the food unfussy and easy to prepare so I’m not doing prep work with guests in the house. You have great tips!

  • Beth Valenta November 13, 2019 at 6:59 am

    I always do a game that helps people to mingle and even team up. I did a Christmas movie line trivia and number the questions and put them around my house so people can write down guesses and aren’t all crowded in one room. I do this for every theme party with a cute prize. Last year I did pictures of famous elves!

  • Tori November 13, 2019 at 7:03 am

    Always set a pretty table! For small gatherings, I love to use fun placecards. There are so many free printables online – pick a theme, print and write your guests’ names on them.
    For bigger parties, I like to print the menu out and set it in a pretty frame on the buffet table. It really helps guests know what each dish is, especially if they have food allergies.
    And flowers…always flowers!!! Doesn’t have to be fancy – small vases filled with herbs for an Italian theme or autumn branches in a tall container at the entryway.

  • Elspeth November 13, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Great tips. I always follow most of these already. Something I would add is if people offer to bring something, then let them. Guests always love to do their part. Hope you are having a great trip.

  • Bonnie November 13, 2019 at 7:43 am

    I always try to think about the flow and logistics of the food line. Keeping the napkins/utensils on the edge of the counter so in case someone forgot theirs, they’re not “interrupting” the line to get them. Or, drinks and ice in a separate station from the food so not everyone gets clogged up at the same point. I like to keep things moving, so I’ll go through the plate set up in my mind (if hamburgers—condiments, meat, veggies all in a row) so people don’t have to backtrack. 🙂

  • Katrina November 13, 2019 at 7:49 am

    I also like to leave the mess until after everyone leaves, but there is usually one party guest who wants to help me with the clean-up, and gets started doing dishes (no matter how many times I say to please leave it). Then I don’t feel right about sitting and talking while someone else cleans my kitchen – so there I am cleaning up too. The “leave it to later” plan does not happen for me.

  • Tracy November 13, 2019 at 7:56 am

    GREAT tips! I totally agree with cooling down the room and not cleaning while people are there. The cleaning can wait! People typically hate assigned seats – let them sit where they want. Love the idea of party favors for adults too! Now I want to throw a party. 🙂

  • Kayla A Bruce November 13, 2019 at 8:07 am

    Love all this! Question: How do you organize your parties? Like, do you just pick a date and hope people can come? I have a good group of girlfriends but finding a date for a night together always seems like the hardest part!

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:44 am

      Hey Kayla!! I do both. Sometimes, I pick a date and hope it works for the masses (understanding, I might not get everyone there), but then often, especially if it’s a smaller party, I will text out my date and confirm whether or not it’s okay. Snuggle that baby today, friend! xo

    • CATHY Boulanger November 13, 2019 at 4:49 pm

      Check out this simple way to find a date . . use DOODLE.
      I send it out with three possible dates and let people check when they can come and pick a date that works for most.

  • Jen November 13, 2019 at 8:10 am

    Lately I’ve actually been moving away from “seated” dinners when people come over… I like o do substantial and varied appetizers instead! I think it keeps the flow going instead of interrupting everyone to sit down at one time. Plus who doesn’t like to get to try a little bit of everything?

  • MelanieL November 13, 2019 at 8:13 am

    I love all your tips and ideas! I host my sister’s Dec. 22nd birthday each year to give the Christmas host a break (our mom!) and I just love throwing a birthday party during the Christmas season! I do a lot of similar things as you!

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:43 am

      I bet that is such a special party each year!!

  • Kathy November 13, 2019 at 8:20 am

    #6- I hope they weren’t leather pants (I.e Ross)

    Great suggestions! 😘

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:43 am


    • CATHY Boulanger November 13, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      That is literally the first thing I thought when she made the “hot in her pants comment”. LOL
      Friends for life!

  • Susy November 13, 2019 at 8:31 am

    I love doing a Three Soup Party in the winter. Serve three fun breads/rolls and everyone will find something they like. Plenty of bowls or cups for trying all three.
    For adults, serve a specialty cocktail of the night.
    We live out in the country, so offering a guest room for those who live afar is a special consideration.

  • CIH November 13, 2019 at 8:37 am

    I’m just going to say it (LOL) Poo Pourri or some other bathroom spray! It’s comforting to walk into someone’s bathroom and see it 🙂

  • Kaytlin November 13, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Great tips! The good thing about us having an arctic blast in the DFW area is that there aren’t any mosquitoes! 🙂 I would suggest for anyone who is a mosquito magnet to look into getting from Amazon some Spartan Mosquito Eradicators. They are amazing!!! We live by a lake, and my son and I used to get eaten alive by mosquitoes even with long sleeves and through jeans! After setting out these mosquito eradicators, after 2 weeks, barely any mosquitoes. I maybe got 3 bites the whole spring & summer without using bug spray, which is what I used to get being outside 5 minutes even after getting our yard professionally sprayed. We actually enjoyed our yard & pool this year without having to douse ourselves in chemicals! While they recommend changing the eradicators every 3 months, we do it every 2 months because we have a mosquito hotspot being by the water. The reviews on Amazon are hit & miss for people across the country, but for me and my friends who have tried it in the DFW area, it has worked great for the breed of mosquitoes here and would be something I would recommend to put out at least 2 weeks before having an outdoor party!

  • Allison Jones November 13, 2019 at 9:16 am

    Not necessarily a hosting tip, but I got a great idea for a hosting gift from a friend. Every time they go to someone’s house for a dinner, party, etc. they bring a loaf or muffins/egg dish for the hosts to eat the next morning. Nothing better after hosting the night before than to wake up and have breakfast taken care of!

  • Kelly Henderson November 13, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Thank you for being sensitive to food allergies! Both my daughter and I have life threatening allergies, it’s amazing to me the people who just don’t “get it.” I am allergic to shellfish and she is allergic to peanuts/tree nuts. While my only reactions have been after ingesting shellfish, she’s had two reactions because people near her were eating peanut butter. I don’t think it’s done with malice, people just don’t understand how severe it is.

    • Melissa November 13, 2019 at 8:12 pm

      Exactly! I really feel for you! I’m so tired of hearing from parents who don’t understand or even care so they pack peanut products in their kids’ lunches. I read every label because I don’t want any of my daughters’ friends to have a reaction.

  • Patty Anderson November 13, 2019 at 9:26 am

    Some people naturally have the gift of hospitality, and others have to really work at it. I’m sorry to say I fall in the latter group. My mom could feed a crowd at the drop of a hat but forgot to pass that gene to me. But I’ve always appreciated people who don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s the people who matter…not the details. I’m working on it but it’s still intimidating. You have a gift, Shay, and I’m sure no one is a stranger who walks through your door.

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:42 am

      Awe! Thank you for this sweet comment, Patty. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!!

  • Lily November 13, 2019 at 9:49 am

    This is more of general hosting-people-in-your-house tip vs a specific meal, but…make sure there is a functional plunger in the restroom! Nothing worse for a guest than having to quietly ask someone for help in the restroom.

  • Kelly S. November 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    “#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…” Shay, I think this is the funniest thing I have ever read on your blog! Noted– I will always remember to turn up the a/c from now on. Promise! 🙂

    • Mix and Match Mama November 13, 2019 at 9:54 am

      Desperate times call for desperate measures 😉 .

  • Annie November 13, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Great tips!! A couple more for the bathroom… I always put out a supple of toothpicks (in my Grandma’s vintage glass toothpick holder) and a tin box of mints like Altoids. 🙂

  • Jenny Waters November 13, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Great tips! 1) I like to start a party with an empty dishwasher. If someone insists on helping clean up, it’s ready to go.
    2) Food allergies/ sensitivities are a big deal! My family is gluten free and the riskiest times are at someone’s house. They think they didn’t put gluten in anything and then forget to read labels of some of the ingredients. I always offer to bring something that’s safe for us. 3) Table Topics is a fun way to get the conversation started and learn more about each other.

  • Lara November 13, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Totally off subject but would love to see a holiday (ie. Thanksgiving/Christmas) Trader Joe’s haul if you do one! I am planning to go soon and always like to know what I should be throwing in my cart. 🙂

  • Andrea November 13, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    I host family for Thanksgiving every year and I use real plates and silverware for dinner but for dessert I always get themed Thanksgiving dessert paper plates and plastic forks/spoons because it’s just easier. I got some gorgeous paper plates from Walmart that were from the Pioneer Woman and I can’t tell you how many people said how pretty they were. I usually clear off my buffet and I put all the fixings for coffee and the desserts on there with the plates and plastic ware. Makes it easier for others to get dessert whenever they want it.

  • Jaime November 13, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Hi shay we are having a Christmas party December 12th and I wanted to serve everyone egg nog and hot chocolate. I’m going to make your slow cooker hot chocolate but for the egg nog I don’t know how to keep it warm during the party. If I was to put it in one of my slow cookers to heat it up would it work? Do you know or have you tried it before?

    • Mix and Match Mama November 14, 2019 at 5:04 am

      I’m not a huge egg nog person, so I haven’t tried that. If I were you, I would make it in advance and see if it worked or not before making it for the party.

  • Leslie S November 13, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    LOL 😂 I LOVE the comment about taking your pants off! You totally win on this one! Gosh I think we’ve all been there and it’s awful! I love your honesty in sharing this tip and your experience – you are so relatable. Thanks for being brave enough to be you!!

  • Mother of 3 November 13, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    Sounds like you really know how to throw a party!

  • Kimberly C November 13, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Great tips Shay! I love hosting parties so I will be ingraining those I don’t already do into my brain.
    The one thing I agree with the most is not making everything. That being said, I always host Thanksgiving with my inlaws and make everything but some desserts for that meal. There’s only 12 of us total so it’s not that much of a burden. This year I am also hosting for my family the next day so we will do all the food that’s hard to travel with: turkey, mashed potatoes, things like that that are heavy and best when kept hot.
    I’m also a HUGE believer in doing as much as possible ahead of time (lists are my BEST friend). I just went to the store today and got all of the nonperishable stuff I need and will make a trip to Costco the morning before for the 3.5 pound pumpkin pie they have there.
    I’m getting positively giddy just thinking about all the holiday festivities coming up. =]

  • Lea November 13, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    Such great tips and I could have written a few of them myself. I never get in a tizzy over entertaining, it’s just not worth it. I always try to keep it simple yet elegant. Great post!

  • Krista November 13, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    One thing my sis does that I love is that she rolls up washcloths and has a basket in her guest bathroom downstairs for people to use instead of a hand towel. Fresh towel every time is just a fun extra in a high traffic area when you entertain a lot.

  • Ashlea November 13, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Hi Shay! When you go to dinner parties, do you take a hostess gift?

  • Amy St.Hilaire November 14, 2019 at 8:39 am

    I always make sure my dishwasher is empty before having company! And, I agree, make whatever you can ahead of time so you are not rushing around with guests over.

  • Monika November 14, 2019 at 11:35 am

    What type of “minute to win it” games do you play?

    • Mix and Match Mama November 15, 2019 at 10:43 am

      We just google “Christmas minute to win it” and a whole list pops up!! THey’re all really easy!