Back in high school, my friends and I would host themed dinner parties, complete with hand-written invitations and silly favors for one another. We thought we were so mature and grown-up, and although I can’t remember what kind food we would serve, I’m sure some of our choices would make me cringe now. I remember loving that time together, and there’s no surprise that I grew to love entertaining well into my adulthood after all that practice. Thank goodness for the parents who would allow us to do it and put up with what was surely a messy aftermath.
Most experienced hosts and hostesses will tell you that entertaining is a learned skill. It takes a lot of practice to feel completely comfortable as the host, and feel confident that you have the coordinating down to a science: the guests, the food, timing, etc.
If you’re completely new to hosting, welcome! You’ve come to the right place. I’ve got some great entertaining tips that I hope will inspire you to open up your home and sharpen your hostess skills.
1. Start by entertaining family members or close friends
This will take the pressure off and they will more than likely be very understanding if something doesn’t go as planned. If not, you can kick them out. Just kidding. Don’t do that.
2. Don’t try to cook a new recipe for the first time
It’s always a good idea to serve a menu you’re familiar with. If you’re trying a new recipe, do a trial run a week ahead of time so you can make changes if necessary. Your oven or stove-top may be hotter than normal, your recipe may be too heavy on the salt, or altitude may effect your cooking time. Allow yourself a grace period to perfect the recipe so you can confidently serve up something to really wow your guests!
3. Choose a few simple foods
It’s perfectly fine to start with Costco lasagna (but for God’s sake, don’t serve it in the aluminum tray!) and ready-made salad. You shouldn’t be in the kitchen too much after guests arrive anyway, so look for dishes that don’t require you to labor right up until they’re done.
For one of her first dinner parties, my sister decided to serve risotto. It was a disaster because she was stuck in the kitchen tending to the risotto, which requires constant stirring for over 30 minutes. Her guests, who didn’t know each other, were left to fend for themselves without a hostess. Awkward!
A simple menu that I’d recommend to first-time home entertainers might be:
- Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus as your appetizer
- Ready-made field greens salad add fresh sliced oranges or strawberries for an extra pop of color, and top with goat cheese)
- Bourbon chicken over rice for the main course
- Maple Dijon roasted carrots as your side dish
- Store bought dessert such as lemon bars
4. Plan ahead and get preparations done beforehand
After all, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance”… remember that saying? Get as much done in advance as possible. It will be much less stress knowing you just have a few final to-dos on the day of your event. Here’s a good reference:
- 2 Days Before: Grocery shop
- 1 Day Before: Set the table, clean any outdoor areas, arrange flowers, cut up cocktail garnishes, chop food, and get out your serving dishes
- Same Day: Cook and bake, get appetizers ready, prepare beverages and ice buckets
5. Last but not least, relax!
Plan to sit down 15 minutes before your guests arrive to chill out, turn on some tunes and have a cocktail. Your guests will more than likely pick up on any stress you’re giving off, so just enjoy your company and make them feel welcome. If something doesn’t go quite like you wanted, chances are that no one will notice. A stiff drink and some fancy jazz hands will make everyone happy.