How to Make Entertaining Easy and Stress Free (Well, Almost)

Growing up in the south fostered in me a love of entertaining.  I remember my parents having guests over for dinners and parties and how much love and care my Mama took in preparing for them.  She passed down her love of entertaining as well as some tips and tricks to make it less stressful so that I, as the hostess, could enjoy the preparation just as much as the actual event.  After all, to me the preparation is all part of the fun!  So, I’d like to share some of these tips with you now.


So you’ve decided to host a gathering.  Choose your theme, if  you’re having one, the date and time, including the RSVP date, and determine your guest list.  Your invitations should go out three to four weeks in advance.  Choose either paper invitations or paperless.  There are so many amazing websites out there now that offer paperless invitations.  And while I love both, to me there’s nothing like getting an invitation in the mail (instead of bills!).


Now you can decide on your menu, which depending on the type of gathering you’re hosting, should include appetizers and possibly dessert.   I like to include a few items that can be made ahead of time so that I don’t spend the entire day of the event in the kitchen.  Figure out how you want the food to be served.  Will it be a sit down dinner, will you set up a buffet, or will your guests be free to sit or stand where they like?  It really all depends on the type of gathering you’re hosting.  Choose the type of drinks you will serve.  It’s a good idea to have a non-alcoholic option available for those not wanting to drink.  And last but not least, decide how you’re going to decorate, whether it be with fresh flowers, balloons, or anything else you come up with.


I’m a huge believer in lists. I like to keep a running tally of affirmative RSVP responses so that I know the quantities of food and drink I’ll need.   It’s a good idea, a couple of weeks before your party, to plan what ingredients you’ll need for each of your menu items and begin your grocery list.  I even go so far as to note how long each item takes to cook and at what temperature.  This can be very helpful if you’ll be serving several different dishes.  My warming drawer comes in so handy when I’m hosting a party.


One Week Prior – Determine where you’ll set up the bar and appetizers.  Plan where your guests will have their meal and/or hors d’oeuvres.  And make a list of the serving pieces, glasses, plates and napery you’ll be using.   Hopefully by now you would have received all of your RSVP responses, but if not, plan on a few extra guests just in case.  Now it’s time to make your grocery list.


The Week Of – Clean your house and tidy up your garden as required.  Usually two days before my event I’ll make another trip to the grocery store for the perishable items I need and anything else I may have forgotten.   If I’m hiring dishes, glasses, etc.  I’ll pick them up at this time.   If I’m decorating with fresh flowers this is the time to pick them up.  They should still be nice and fresh the day of the gathering.


The Day Of – Your home should just need a light tidying.  Get up early and start cooking according to your list.  Once that is finished I find it helpful to organize where each food item will be placed for serving.  I like buffets, so I’ll lay out the platters, etc. and put a note on each piece saying what food will be served on it.  Be sure to decorate the area where your food and drinks are being served.  This will make your guests’ dining experience all the more special.  A few hours before my event I’ll give the areas of our home where my guests will be a light fluffing, make sure all the garbage cans are emptied, soap containers are filled and fresh hand towels are laid out.  I find it’s the small details that make the biggest impact.


Try to catch a few minutes to yourself to relax. And remember, when you’re getting yourself ready for the party, be sure to have that all important Southern Dressing Drink!


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