My friend Vivianna texted me a few months ago, “does it really take confidence to entertain at home?” She asked. Yes, it does! Our conversation caused me to think about the responsibilities of being a host and what is involved in the planning process—the overwhelming stress and exhaustion of handling the entire planning and day of festivities. Plus, to make sure your guests feel attended to and welcome.
The good news is that it is possible to entertain at home without feeling the slightest bit of stress and exhaustion.
Unlike my friend Pet who was born to entertain, entertaining at home did not come naturally to me. I did not feel confident enough. But the more I did it, the more confident I felt. I was able to go from hosting two guests to over 80 at our home.
Today I will share the things that have helped me gain the confidence to entertain. Which I believe to be the foundation of entertaining at home. Try them on, take what you need and what works for you, and leave the rest.
The common misconception is that you need a large space or budget to host your family and friends. My space is small (in my opinion), and many of the events I have hosted at home were budget-friendly. Sure, there are limitations on how many people can be invited at one time, but with intelligent and strategic layouts and flow, I had the best time entertaining over the years.
I enjoy entertaining in small groups most of all. It gives me a chance to connect with and learn more about the family or friends I am hosting.
Here are two things I have done over the years which has helped me a great deal whenever I am ready to entertain at home.
- When you begin to entertain at home, you will want to add fabulous pieces to your decor, trays, barware, glassware, etc., that you already own. So, I continuously and intentionally add to the articles I own. In addition, I am always on the lookout for things that work well with what I already own.
- And it is wise to clean regularly and keep your home organized. Who wants to hide clutter? When you create a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly cleaning schedule, cleaning for your event will be a breeze. But if you dislike cleaning your home, there is no shame in hiring someone to clean and organize your home.
Know your strengths and weaknesses.
You begin by being honest with yourself. Learn what your weaknesses are and lean into your strengths and skills. You know what you do well, so rely on that. Then, focus your energy on what you love doing and what you are good at.
- Are you a good cook?
- Can you craft a cocktail?
- Do you enjoy cleaning your home?
- How do you feel about decorating your home?
- How many guests do you think you can comfortably handle at one time?
- How many seats do you have available in your home?
These questions are essential because they are the beginning of gaining the confidence you need to start. Then, when you have determined your strengths as a host, you are ready to begin.
Now that you have evaluated your strengths and weaknesses, it is time to set boundaries and limits. For example, have an idea of your guests’ count and budget. Again, you will be well ahead of your planning by noting these things ahead of time.
Prepare as much as you can, including setting your table the night before [if it is a sit-down dinner] or setting up the bar and glassware. That way, you can focus on having a fabulous time with your guests.
Do not be afraid to outsource.
Remember those questions? So if you dislike cooking, get the food professionally catered or order takeout. Family and friends will not judge you for not preparing the meal yourself. They will ONLY remember how delicious the food was and how fabulous you made them feel.
Decorating is not your thing? Then recruit a friend that enjoys decorating to help you out. Or outsource it. I love to decorate, but sometimes I choose to do too much for my events and need the help. I enlist my daughter’s help—she has a good eye, takes pride in what she does, and knows my style. Want to focus more on your guest? Hire a bartender. Need extra linens? call your local rental company.
Do not be afraid to ask for help.
Like me, I am sure many of you will want your event to be perfect. And you may believe that doing it all yourself will make it perfect. But, trust me, asking for help is much better than missing out on quality time with your guests. Asking for help can be as simple as asking a guest to bring a dish or helping to clean up afterward. It is ok to ask for help, and it is ok to outsource tasks.
Do choose a unifying theme or inspiration. Then pair down your decor, and create an ambiance.
Your events can be as fabulous and chic as you like. But choosing a theme or inspiration for your event helps you narrow down the million and one ideas floating around in your head. In addition, it makes choosing your decor much more straightforward and allows you to stay cohesive in details.
During my text conversation with Vivianna, she asked if she “needed balloons and banners for her girl’s night in?” It is a personal choice on how you design your event. I love understated decor. It is always elegant and chic.
I love fresh flowers throughout our home, my signature home scent, gorgeous serving trays, platters, cocktail glasses, etc.
Suppose I host a few people; then, I love creating a cozy ambiance with intimate seating. But for New Year’s Eve, I may rent a heated tent to cover my entire backyard, cover the ceiling with balloons and drop confetti at midnight. You get the idea. Create your event as grand or low-key as you would like. There is no right or wrong way.
Keep the guest list manageable and mix it up.
Go back to questions five and six. How many people do you feel you can confidently host? How many seats do you have in your home? Now it is time to select and make your guest list. Make sure you mix it up a bit. I love to have a mix of family and friends over together. It makes the event interesting. I include my sister, aunt, and daughter if I have a girl’s night.
Add personal touches.
Adding special touches will make your guest know that you were thinking of them and that they mean a lot to you.
Examples of special touches include handwritten place cards, ribbons tied around your champagne flutes or wine glasses, a strategic seating arrangement to make guests forge new friendships, creating a signature cocktail, etc.
Creating flow is a two-part step.
If you want your event to flow easily, you will need to focus on the timing. Know how much time you will need for preparation and setup. Create a timeline for your event. It removes the overwhelm and allows you to relax, be flexible and enjoy your guests. I love creating my timelines with a good ole fashion paper and pen. It keeps me focused and lets me stay on my tasks.
The second part of flow involves the layout of your event and knowing what happens next. Think about the flow of the evening or day. Create a floor plan. It is essential to understand what happens when your guests arrive, what happens next, etc. Strategically place the food and bar to guide your guests throughout the event.
- I set up whatever signature cocktail I am serving on my coffee table so that my guests receive a cocktail upon arrival,
- Appetizers, cheese platters, snacks, etc., are set up on my countertop in the kitchen, accompanied by necessary utensils and dishes. Then after each guest has a cocktail in hand, I invite them to the kitchen for appetizers.
- Once my guests have made their way back to the living room, it is usually a time for guests to connect or reconnect. So, first, I spend some time with my guests before excusing myself to ensure everything is in place in the dining room.
- Guest are then invited to the dining room for brunch or dinner.
- After dinner or brunch, I invite everyone back to the living room for more cocktails and dessert.
Create the mood with entertainment.
Music is the perfect way to set the mood for any event. So whether you decide on a live band, a DJ, or syncing your phone to your Bluetooth speaker and playing your carefully curated playlist, do not miss the opportunity to set the tone.
Do not be afraid to pair down your menu.
I love to spoil my guests with a three-course meal, whether brunch or dinner. But remember, if you can not or do not want to cook, cater or order take out, create a grazing and snacking menu. That means creating a cheese and fruit platter, a melange, various dips with healthy crackers, etc.
Create a signature two-ingredient cocktail.
There are so many two-ingredient cocktails that will elevate your event. I like to create my signature lychee martini. It is fun, and your guests will love it. Of course, having wine and non-alcoholic beverages on hand is a good idea.
Remember, nothing is perfect.
I can not tell you how insane I would drive myself whenever I had people over. I wanted everything to be perfect and worked extra hard to keep it together. It was exhausting, and I did not enjoy the time with my family and friends.
Be flexible and keep it simple, and you will enjoy your guests. Your guests do not care about perfection; they want to enjoy an evening or day having fun, laughing, and eating great food with you.
Welcome your guests and have a fabulous time.
It is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Welcome your guests with a cocktail, relax, engage with your guests and have fun.
Happy Entertaining. Comment and share additional tips that have worked for you.