Just reading the words, “holiday entertaining” makes some people start to sweat.
Whether you’re a pro or struggling to get it together to host a small party, here are…
7 Tips for Stress Free Holiday Entertaining
One :: The gathering is not about YOU… it’s about your guests.
Whether you’ve been entertaining for years or you’ve been trying for years to get enough gumption to invite friends to your home…remember the party is not about you. It’s not about how good your cooking is or isn’t. It’s not about how beautiful your home is or isn’t. It’s not about the size of your home, how old your furniture is, or that pet stain you can’t get off the carpet. It’s not about what you’ll be wearing. It’s just not about YOU!!
It’s about gathering people together to have fun, to develop friendships, to offer a place of safety, a place of peace, and to break bread together. People come with all kinds of baggage. Your job as a host is to think about your guests, their comfort, and most of all to listen, care, and offer true hospitality.
Two :: When you invite your guests… let them know what to expect.
Tell your guests what time to come. If you’re planning drinks and appetizers for an hour or more before dinner, let them know in advance. I hate breaking my neck to get somewhere only to find out I could have taken the time to freshen up after work. All wiggle room for your guests, too. The holidays are busy and often the weather is unpredictable.
Let them know how to dress. Seriously, nothing is more uncomfortable for some people than arriving to a party over or under dressed.
Let your guests know you’re planning to serve food and when they can expect to eat. Be sure to say, “Come at 8 o’clock for appetizers and desserts.” Or invite them to come at 7 o’clock and let them know you’re planning appetizers, but dinner will be at 8 o’clock. It makes a difference. One year we were invited to a couple’s home at 6 p.m. Thinking that was the dinner hour, we didn’t eat before we came, directly from work. At 8:30 we were served a gooey apple dessert. And yes I remember many years later as that was 8 hours after I had an apple slices and cheese and crackers for my lunch. Wondering all night when we were going to eat did not make for a pleasant evening.
Don’t hesitate to invite your guests to bring something, if they wish. Tell them you’re serving lasagna (or whatever is your dish) and ask if they would like to bring dessert, salad, bread, etc. Don’t pressure them, though. Listen for cues. Finish your menu around what your guests are bringing. It’s expensive to serve food to a crowd and most people, if they’re able, love to bring something.
Three :: Have beverages available for guests when they arrive.
When guests arrive, it’s good to have a punch bowl and a carafe of water or other beverages available. Make it self-serve. It gives people something to do initially and it’s an easy way for them to mingle. Many people feel more secure holding onto a glass or cup.
Four :: Make introductions
If all your guests don’t know each other, once everyone has arrived, make introductions. Briefly, tell how you came to know Chloe or Sam. And then ask each guest to share their favorite food, sport, band, author… etc. If you’re creative, come up with another way to help your guests have fun and get to know more about each other.
Five :: Prepare ahead, so you’re not spending all your time in the kitchen.
It might require a trip to the deli, or cooking ahead of time, but be conscious of spending time in the kitchen when you need to be spending time with your guests. I can be so guilty of finishing the meal in the kitchen and leave my husband to do all the chatting with everyone. I read about a very wealthy and famous woman who could have had her meals catered, but instead chose to cook for her dinner parties. She cooked the day ahead and only had to warm her food for her dinner party. She said that the biggest reason was because food tastes better the next day. Whatever the reason… cut yourself some slack so that you can enjoy your guests. The biggest reason they come to your home is because they want to spend time with you.
Six :: Keep it simple.
Repeat the phrase… Keep it simple. First I should say that I need to hear those words myself. In this Pinterest world we live, it’s so easy to obsess over our appetizers, our tablescapes, our buffets, and our menus. I am sure that some of your friends will appreciate your efforts. But, nobody appreciates a stressed-out hostess. Do what makes your heart sing and no more. If you love setting a pretty table. Do that. If you love making amazing appetizers. Do that. But, don’t try to do it all.
Seven :: Don’t worry about the dishes.
If you’re serving food, get one or two large sturdy baskets that can be slopped on, and use those like bus-boy baskets. Collect or have your guests deposit their dirty dishes in those baskets. That will keep your counters clear and clean and nice for serving desserts after dinner. Again, have a basket ready for dessert dishes and coffee cups, etc. Pick up the baskets of dirty dishes and place them out-of-the-way in your mud room, laundry closet, etc. After your guests have left, then you can start the cleaning up task. Remember… the party is about your guests… not your dishes. Sure a little food will get dried on. It’s nothing a short soak in the sink won’t take care of. And with the dirty dishes out of sight, your guests won’t even be thinking that they should help you in the kitchen. If someone wants to stay after the party is over to clean up… let them. Unless you plan to tackle the kitchen in the morning, which is just fine. I promise the party police won’t be over to check.
Hopefully my 7 Tips for Easy Holiday Entertaining will help a little to reduce your stress.
I have “one” more thought to add…
Choose to have a good attitude. Choose to bless your guests. Choose to have fun.
The success or failure of a gathering mostly happens in our minds before a single guest steps into our homes.
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