We spend so much time curating and making our spaces just right, don’t we? And yet if you’re like me, you’re not entertaining nearly enough. With the holiday season in full swing, it’s time to show off your space, enjoy the company of friends, and not get too caught up in the details.
The holiday season is known as the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also make you nervous to throw a casual gathering of friends — it’s easy to feel as though there’s extra pressure to get everything just right. That everyone’s schedules are too precious for a get together that’s less than spectacular.
For the holidays and all of the days, this isn’t actually the case. The best gatherings are those with good kin and happy spirits (both the drinks and the emotions). So get a date on the calendar, pick out a simple menu, and get ready for an evening of fun with friends.
Here are a few tips for entertaining in your home.
1. Don’t get bogged down by cleaning
The thought of cleaning alone can be enough to extinguish your party planning. Thankfully, a clean home doesn’t have to mean spending hours scrubbing your floors. Here’s what we do: Wipe down the surfaces that people will see and use, like tabletops. Dust anything at eye-level — think mantels and bookshelves. And get rid of any cobwebs in the corners or dust bunnies on the floor.
The one place you want to spend some time getting your clean on is in the bathroom. Guests are more likely to notice details (like dirt!) when they’re alone in a space. And, come on, you know your bathroom could use it anyway.
2. Turn down the lights, and up the music.
Good ambiance is always important, and so easy to get right this time of year as it’s already dark long before evening gatherings. When it comes to lighting up your party, choose anything but overhead lighting sources — table and floor lamps, string lights, and candles are perfect for this. It’ll feel more relaxing for the guests, and hide the cleaning that got skipped over.
As for music, choose a station off of your favorite music streaming service and let it play DJ all night. Begin with the music at a comfortable volume, then continue to turn it down and let it serve as a background as more guests show up. Do the opposite and you’re at risk of guests shouting over the tunes.
3. Host with joy
The guests may not all know each other, but they all (presumably) know you. That being said, by staying positive and relaxed throughout the evening, your guests are bound to reciprocate the good vibes.
Start by pouring yourself a drink before anyone else arrives — welcoming guests into your home with a smile and drink in hand will make them feel comfortable instantly. Ask how they are, and take care of their coats and bags for them. If there are other people present, be sure to introduce them before tending to other tasks.
The biggest task, of course, is keeping your cool while preparing food. Choose something simple to avoid having to scramble or show any frustration with the food. Even if you’re a bit worried the chicken is dry, don’t broadcast your fears and mistakes about the menu to others — it’s likely they won’t notice anyway.
4. Don’t let appetizers intimidate
When did it become normal for hors d’oeuvres to be fancy? This isn’t high tea, so don’t burn yourself out cutting the crust off of tea sandwiches, or crafting several different labor-intensive appetizers on the ends of toothpicks. Save that energy for the main course.
Personally, we love to opt for a beautiful spread of cheese. Pick out 3-4 varieties (or have someone at your local cheese counter help you), add in a cured meat, a bowl of olives, and some crackers. In lieu of a fancy cheese board, a clean wooden cutting board works just fine.
Once you’ve got that looking nice, mess it up a bit. No one likes to be the first to dig into a beautiful spread, so take a bite of it all before anyone arrives!
5. Use place cards
Place cards make everything feel a little bit fancier, don’t they? And also keep people from doing the awkward, “where should we sit dance” — Let the dancing come later.
Make a few simple place cards with a calligraphy pen and some tent-folded cardstock to add a little extra glamor to your table.
6. Time the meal right
You don’t want guests to feel like they need to sit down at the table the moment they get there. You also don’t want them to be standing around for too long before the main course is ready.
We say have about 45 minutes to an hour from the “start time” to when the meal is served. That leaves plenty of time for appetizers, introductions, and your friend who is always late — without having so much time that people begin to check their watches.
7. Prepare the kitchen for the aftermath
There’s no way around it — you just can’t keep your kitchen sparkling clean the entire night. And that’s ok! After all, a messy kitchen with greasy pans and used plates is surely the sign of a wonderful time. However, there are ways you can make your cleaning process a little easier on yourself.
First and foremost, do tidy up before you get started. Clear mail and other non-essentials off of the countertop, making it easier have space throughout the night and wipe up at the end of it.
Most of all, be sure the dishwasher is clean. That way, it’s ready to be loaded once the guests say their goodbyes. While you’re at it, clear the washer and dryer as well. At the end of the evening, gather up all of the table linens and toss in.
Most of all, don’t stress about the cleaning. Enjoy yourself, and don’t feel any remorse by simply throwing the dishes in hot, soapy water overnight and heading straight to bed.
What are you best entertaining tips? Are you throwing any holiday parties this season? We’d love to hear from you, so reach out to us in the comments below or over on our social media pages!