Here at IPHW, we like to see our friends and socialize but “entertaining” can be a little daunting. First, realize that everyone feels self-conscious about having even ones’ closest friends over for a dinner party (and don’t even mention the stress of having the family over!) My husband and I used to think we just weren’t getting invited places when it turns out they are just too intimidated to host! So here are a few tips on having a great party, with low stress, and your friends will be saying “It always seems so effortless when you have people over!”
1) Have a Wine and Cheese Party – this is a good intro to hosting. The main entertaining items needed are wine glasses. You probably got a ton of these for your wedding or bridal shower. Just ask each person/couple to bring a bottle of wine and cheese to match. You provide the wine glasses, cutting boards/cheese boards, bread and maybe a nice dessert (store bought – The first time we did this we just bought a package of every kind of Milanos).
2) When people ask to bring something, let them. They want to, they feel guilty not bringing something. Give them a course and check that off your to do list.
3) If you are having a big group for a cookout tell people “We provide the meat and beer you provide the sides and dessert”. You might end up with 3 fruit salads and 300 Two Bite Brownies but it shortens your to do list considerably.
4) To prepare for guests, clean the main rooms and the bathroom(s) guests will use. Shove things in closets and close the bedroom doors. I am generally a slob and most of my friends think my house is very clean. Be smart about where you clean – No one is looking in your bedroom closet.
5) Have a few couples over with kids. When kids are around it is inherently less formal (exclamations of “I gotta pee!” will do that to an event) and less daunting. Depending on how many kids there are (and ages) you can either feed the kids first or with everyone.
6) On the same topic, hire an older sibling, niece, nephew or neighbor to look after the little kids in the other room with movies or video games. No one has to get a babysitter and the kids are out of your (and your guests’) hair.
7) Try to use only dishes/pots/pans that go in the dishwasher even if you have to do multiple loads. It makes clean-up much easier and then the guests won’t feel like they have to help and you don’t have to spend dessert time in the kitchen. This may seem lazy but you will be thankful at midnight when you can just turn on the dishwasher and go to bed.
8) Don’t get fancy or try to impress. People are happy that you are feeding them and that they don’t have to cook. This is not the time to make Coq au Vin for the first time!