Over the course of the years I’ve hosted many events for family and friends. Holiday get-togethers, family celebrations, and just Friday evenings with the girls.
With each event I’ve hosted, my goal has been to create a welcoming atmosphere where each guest can relax, enjoy the food I’ve prepared and can leave feeling refreshed and happy to have been with everyone else.
I learned from my mother so much of how I entertain and share my hospitality. The single thing that stands out is to do the most with what you have! You don’t have to offer prime rib or steak to your guests. Sometimes popcorn and beer is just the right combination. Other times, it may be a vegetable plate of your best summertime garden produce. And if you want to use paper plates, go for it—although I prefer not adding to our landfills—so I use washable plates and utensils.
But no matter the type of event, I’m guided by these five tips and my desire to offer sincere hospitality to each guest:
- Like goes with like: For guests that is. Invite people who will mix well with one another. Always determine which guests are natural connectors. Then when you have those guests add your other guests, thinking about what they have in common and how their personalities mix. And know each person’s style, formal, casual, overbearing or laid-back. Just don’t have too many overbearing people at an event, or you’ll get chaos!
- Create a setting that invites conviviality: Know how everyone gravitates to the kitchen? People like cozy settings. It’s our nature. It makes us feel protected. So, plan your party setting so that you have areas where people can gather for conversation. Establish the mood with creative lighting and cushions on the deck or furniture. If its daylight and you’re having your event outside, group potted plants with your lawn furniture so you create a garden room feel. The goal is to create places where people can cluster.
- Select a theme: Now we’re not talking each party has to be Arabian Nights! I mean think Winter Warm-up or the color red, as an example. If you select red, let it help you decide on your linens, plates, and flowers. You can even extend that to your clothes. If its summer and you’re having a pool-side event, think water; finding items that remind you of summer aqua pools and cool splashing. See what I mean?
- Plan your menu: Try to build your menu in alignment with your theme and select items that don’t have you completely in the kitchen at the last minute. Make your shopping list early and shop several days before your event. Also, many great hostesses will tell you not to experiment with an un-tested recipe at your event, but I’ll tell you that if you have confidence in yourself as a cook, you may want to do this, because the excitement that comes from doing something new carries over to your guests. However, don’t do this if you aren’t an accomplished cook! Instead, try something new, testing ahead of time so you aren’t harried.
- Relax: If you relax and are at ease, your guests will be too. And as the great Julia Child often did, don’t worry if something doesn’t come out right! The focus in on everyone being together, not on whether or not a few of the burgers are singed at the edges.