7 Essential Tips for Entertaining

From birthday parties to holiday gatherings, these seven tips will help you host a great event in your home.

Amanda Thomas,
Episode #197

No matter what type of event you are hosting, there are a few tips that are always helpful. From birthday parties to dinner parties to holiday gatherings, these seven tips will help make sure you look like you have your act together and know how to host a great event in your home.

Prepare Ahead

This is the biggest tip I can offer. In fact, I would actually call not preparing ahead a rookie mistake. I remember when I started hosting parties at my house; I would consistently be calling a friend to pick something up on her way over. Serving dishes, bags of ice, and even extra food were all requests I made of my guests at the 11th hour. After a few times of doing this, I started to really feel like a schmuck. Why did I not have my stuff together enough to prevent this situation from happening?

What I realized is that I needed to start prepping earlier. I would often start cooking and preparing for my in-home parties a few hours before guests arrived. Now that I’m a bit more experienced, I start preparing a few days in advance. In fact, it’s my goal now to have everything ready at least four hours ahead of time, leaving only the last minute heating up to happen before the party.

What all does this entail? Here’s a little timeline that I follow:

Decorations: I try and make sure decorations are picked out and purchased at least a week in advance. Decorations won’t go bad (unless they are fresh flowers), so these can be purchased early so I can focus on other things. I set them up at least the day before the event.

Food Plan and Ingredient Shopping: My food is all planned about a week in advance as well, with the menu and ingredients clearly laid out into a timeline. If I can prepare something days before the party, I do, but if it needs to be prepared immediately before serving, I want to make sure I have enough time reserved to make it.

Serving Plan: Most importantly, a couple days before any event I bring out all my serving bowls and utensils to make sure I have one for each food item I’m making. There’s nothing worse than realizing at the last minute that you are one serving spoon short.

Put Effort into Décor

If you want to have a truly spectacular event, it’s important to remember the ambiance of your home. While more casual events may require little décor, the bigger or the fancier an event, the more thought and effort should go into creating an atmosphere to match the meal.

I admit, this is one that I have not always done very well, but I’ve been taking notes from a fantastic home chef that I’ve been able to assist with some of her dinner parties. From the moment her guests step into her home, they know they are in for a special evening. There are always candles lit around the home, great music playing, and the table decorated to set the mood.

Even if you are hosting a more casual event, you can still bump it up a notch by focusing on the decorations. Pop over to Pinterest for some quick inspiration that goes beyond streamers and balloons. Your guests will immediately notice the effort you put in, and your event will have a more festive feel from the moment they walk in the door.

Assign Seating

Have you ever been to a dinner party where you knew the host, but not anyone else? Or maybe you’ve met one or two of your friend’s friends over the years, but you don’t really know them? It’s awkward to figure out who you want to sit by to share the meal in these situations!

If you’re hosting a sit down dinner, consider assigning seating for your guests. I’ve found that it can help to pair people you think would mix well first, then place those pairs by complementing pairs around the table. You probably have a few friends who are more talkative or naturally lead conversations. Spread those people around the table, ideally with one near each end. This will help prevent two of them from hogging the entire conversation for a table. Mix in your introverts with people who you think they will connect with on a few issues, and then place the others where you think they will best fit. Not only will you have facilitate more conversation among your guests, but you may help them forge real friendships by simply placing them next to people you think will hit it off.

Be Clear in Your Invitations

You have a very important task before your event even begins: Properly inviting your guests. The invitation is where you are going to set the tone, and the ground rules, for your event. Whether you use an electronic invitation, a paper invitation, or you just send a quick and simple message to your guests, make sure you are clear in what you are expecting from them.

What is the dress code? What time does the event start? Are your guests able to come and go, or are you expecting them to be there for a period of time? What time is food being served? Are children allowed? Are dogs allowed? Should they bring anything? If you have an opinion on any of these things, you need to let your guests know in the invitation so they can plan accordingly. Otherwise, you have no right to complain if they show up an hour late, with their toddler and puppy in tow.


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