Monday, May 4, 2009

Low-Stress Entertaining

At our house, entertaining is a pretty casual affair! Over time we've decided that that's how we like it, and that's what makes our typical guests most comfortable! When making plans to have people over, those are two important things to think about: What would make the evening fun and relaxing for you? And, what would make it fun and relaxing for your guests? For me, not having a ton of dishes to do, and getting to spend more time talking with my guests than cooking is important. The grill out back is a great solution to both these problems! We like the party to start outside around the patio, then migrate inside for the actual dinner part of the evening.

There's several other tips we've found make our guests more at ease:

Have plenty of beverages, and let your guests help themselves. This gives them something to do and it communicates that the mood is relaxed and casual. I like to have a little area designated for drink choices, plenty of ice, and glasses. I also love those ice tubs for bottle drinks.

Have lots of seating! Nothing makes people more uncomfortable than having no place to sit. Some inexpensive lawn chairs outside, and some extra folding chairs inside is all it takes to make sure no one is stuck standing.

Don't feel like everything has to be perfect! This actually intimidates people. I know when I walk into a friend's house, and everything is perfect, it makes me feel a little out of place, and I start praying my kids don't touch anything. When the spread is too beautiful to eat, whatever I brought to contribute never seems good enough. Plus, how many times should I compliment the hostess about how nice everything is? Try to picture things from your guests' perspective. Also, if you are having female friends over, leave a little something for them to help you with, like folding the napkins. It gives you a chance to chat with them while you are finishing things up in the kitchen, and it lets them contribute a little something too.

Don't make everything yourself! It's really okay to buy the desert, or one of the sides. Time you save can be spent making the house a little cleaner, getting everything ready ahead of time, getting yourself ready, and just trying to relax and enjoy the whole thing.

Make yourself a good list of what you want to get ready before your guests arrive. Things like setting the table, making the salad, and lighting some candles should be done hours before the party. Try to do your major cleaning and shopping the day before. That way you can take care of your "problem spots", make a final toy sweep, and have an empty dish washer on party day. And have plenty of time to get yourself ready and into the party zone! A relaxed, happy hostess makes the atmosphere much more at ease, and the evening will be much more enjoyable by everyone! (including your husband and kids!)