We all have friends.
In all honesty, we probably have lots of friends. Friends from school, work, gym, church, class, study, etc.
And we meet these people for dinner, drinks, shopping, lunch, coffee, golf, workout, etc.
But very rarely do we INVITE these people into our HOUSE for a MEAL.
We fear they would notice the chipped paint on the woodwork or the unfinished paint job in the laundry room or the spots where nail polish remover got spilled on the dining room table or that we can’t cook ourselves out of a plastic bag.
But in reality, they will notice none of those things.
Breaking bread with folks (otherwise known as sharing a meal in someone’s house) is a tradition as old as the history books.
Indians broke bread with Pilgrims.
Jesus broke bread with the Disciples.
Goldilocks broke bread, then broke the bear’s bed.
There is something magical that happens when you spend a couple hours with friends over a meal in someone’s home. Guards are dropped. Boundaries are moved. Relationships go farther. Neighbors become friends. Friendships become deeper.
But hosting a gathering – from an extra two to 30 people – can feel overwhelming. (Especially if it is your first time.)
I remember the first time I hosted a BIG gathering of friends. I cleaned like a mad woman for days before the event, bought several hundred dollars worth of food and drink, moved furniture around to get a better “feel” to the room, and agonized over every little imperfection in my house.
That was 15 years ago. And since then (and close to a hundred gatherings later), I’ve learned a few things. Some of these tips maybe nothing new, some might be, but all of them help make entertaining stress free for me.
Top 25 Tips to Entertaining Stress Free
Tips For Stress Free Cleaning
1. Don’t scrub the floors. They will only get trashed by guests who may or may not take off their shoes.
2. Don’t scrub the bathroom. Windex is your friend. Grab a paper towel, squirt liberally, and wipe down. It will look you spent all day and it only took you 10 minutes.
3. Close doors to rooms. If the room is a mess, close the door. No one will open it, I promise.
4. Declutter. A house looks instantly clean if you put away the clutter (magazines, video games, DVDs, books, remotes, cat litter box, etc.). Remember, you don’t need to find a place for it. Just put it in the room with the closed door. (See above.)
5. Vacuum an hour before guests arrive. A vacuumed floor makes a whole house feel clean.
6. Run the dishwasher and empty before guests arrive. Clean up becomes a breeze with an empty dishwasher at the end of the evening.
7. Use mood lighting. It’s amazing, dark lighting can hide undusted floorboards, chipped paint, scratched woodwork and more. Plus it feels more intimate.
8. Don’t give tours of the house. Unless it is a housewarming party – no one needs to see the master bathroom.
Tips For Stress Free Food and Drink
9. Potluck is awesome. I host several gatherings a year and provide a main dish for my guests and require them to bring a dessert or an appetizer. Everyone has great recipes for both.
10. Don’t cook, then embrace pre-made items. Thank goodness for the Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods Deli. You look like Julia Child and it came in a plastic box.
11. Paper plates, napkins and silverware. No one will care if they don’t eat on fine dinnerware. Plus it make clean up easy.
12. If having alcoholic beverages, make sure to have a red and white wine and beer on hand. Call it my small town roots, but I have the same philosophy about wedding receptions – a basic open bar makes the party more fun and last longer.
13. Place refills for chips, dip, veggies, etc. in a close to reach place. No one wants to go “down to the deep freeze” for another bag of chips.
14. No need for bottled water. A pitcher of water and glasses works great.
15. Have a dry erase marker for people to put their names on glasses or drinkware. A named drink is hard to lose.
16. Everyone will have enough to eat. I promise. I have yet to have a gathering where someone laid on the ground and complained about dying of hunger. You aren’t feeding an army, just your six closest friends.
Tips For Stress Free Socializing
17. Your friends are here to see you (and maybe your spouse). Spend time with them. Dishes will still be there tomorrow. Your friends won’t.
18. Ask questions. You have two hours of undivided attention. Ask them about their childhood, college, jobs, kids, family, religion, politics, etc. Get to know them better to develop those deep friendships.
19. Play games. I know…you are thinking LAME. But some of the best times I’ve had at a party was playing Taboo, Scene It, Trivial Pursuit or Bop It. Friendly competition is fun. (In fact, Hubs and I have started hosting a yearly “Blue-Collar Game” night – complete with trophy.)
20. Turn off the TV and turn on music. I will admit to the TV being on during certain Saturdays of the year (like last week). But overall, I prefer the TV to be off and music to be on. I love hearing about new bands or groups from friends that I might not have been exposed to before.
21. Don’t be a servant. While making sure people’s needs are met or being a hostess is required, serving people is not. Everyone is a big boy or girl. If they want a second helping of food or drink, they can get it themselves.
22. The party will end when it is suppose to. I have had gatherings end at 10:00 pm and others end at 1:45 am. (With the same start time.) Go with the flow. If people are having a good time, embrace it.
23. Take a nap before the party. Nothing is worse than seeing a yawning host or hostess.
24. Have fun. It’s party. Guests take their social cues from their host and hostess. If you are having a good time, they will too.
25. It will get easier the more times you host a gathering.
To be completely honest, I don’t stress anymore about having four or forty people in my home. It didn’t happen overnight. But when I quit stressing about the “stuff” in my house and started focusing on the “relationships” made in my house, it become much easier and stress free.
And now, I enjoy it so much, I have a hard time letting other friends host.
What about you? Do you entertain? What are some of the things you do to make it stress free? Let me know in the comments.