Have you seen the Crate and Barrel commercials where actress Reese Witherspoon obsesses over getting the details just right for her holiday parties? In them, we see her “behind the scenes” preparations — testing 30+ cranberry jellies, nearly setting the house on fire practicing a lit cocktail, and hot gluing hundreds of pieces of popcorn to her Christmas tree. The ads are hilarious… but true. Hosting memorable events during the holidays, and throughout the year, takes plenty of practice and effortless entertaining actually requires the preparation of a General.
This was a busy holiday season for us! We hosted festive brunches, intimate dinner parties, and 39 of our closest friends and family for our annual Christmas Day buffet. While each of the events was unique, each required preparation to be successful.
Did you host an event this holiday season that went awry? Or, do you simply want to be a bit more organized? Here are my Top 9 Tips for Effortless Entertaining (or entertaining that looks that way!):
- Make a list. If you hosted an event this year, start a list today, while it’s still fresh in your mind. What went right? For me, it was my daughter’s Bouche de Noel pictured above! And, what went wrong? We left the potatoes in the oven on warm and never served them! Include new menu items for next year, ideas for decorations you saw that inspired you, and any other details.
- Decorate early. This year I took a few days off from work just after Thanksgiving. My sole mission was to decorate the house for Christmas. Since I had the luxury of time, I could tackle not only the Christmas trees, tabletop displays and front porch, but I could also try some of the vignettes and ideas I’d been saving on Pinterest all year long, such as the vintage bottle brush tree display, pictured below. Once I was done, I was done. And, I had plenty of time to enjoy the effect which made me relaxed and oh-so-happy.
- Wash and stow serving pieces. Throughout the season, I like to use pretty silver chaffers to keep our side dishes warm. And, I also use quite a few large crystal platters that have been given to me over the years. Since these items aren’t often used, I polish, buff or wash them and then stash them in sealed plastic bags out of sight in the garage. Then, when I need them, they are ready to go.
- Dishes that go in the dishwasher. My “good china” is simple white with a gold band. Lovely! However, the gold band means it can’t be used in the microwave. And, the dishwasher is a no-no because dishwasher detergent will eventually take the finish off. So, instead of laboriously hand washing every plate, which I’ve done in the past, this year I saved myself a ton of effort and purchased 40 clear glass dinner plates. These coordinate beautifully with any décor, any color, and any holiday. Plus, they are microwave and dishwasher safe. I save “the good stuff” for small events, when washing isn’t an issue.
- Choose make-ahead items (and actually make them in advance). This year, there were several dips and spreads on our menu that really required a day to mature. And, there were other side items that could be prepared, then frozen. A full month before the holiday, we began clearing out our second refrigerator, which then became command central for any dish that could be done ahead. Freezing multiple batches of cookie dough is one of my favorite tricks!
- Enlist some help. Even if you don’t normally use a cleaning service, if you are hosting a big event, this is a gift to give to yourself. (It is suppossd to be effortless entertaining, right?) Make sure to book your date well in advance, as slots fill up quickly. And, consider hiring some trustworthy teens or college students to work during the party. They can valet park cars (a wonderful idea if you have older relatives), take coats, bus tables, wash dishes, take out the trash, and more.
- Remember your youngest guests. Keeping kids entertained can be challenging. Although my own children are grown, I’ve held onto many of their favorite toys and games, which definitely come in handy. And, although it takes up a lot of real estate in our finished basement, I’ve kept the air hockey table, since it is always a hit with the under 12 crowd.
- Stock up on storage containers! A few years ago, after frantically searching through the cupboards for matching containers and lids (and not finding any), I was reduced to storing leftovers in zip lock bags. This year, I found some fabulous glass storage containers just right for taking yummy leftovers to work for lunch!
- Embrace imperfection. Although a picture perfect, Martha Stewart holiday is a lovely dream, it isn’t completely realistic. Even with the best of plans, things sometimes go wrong. If you are entertaining, you are bringing people who you love into your home to share a special experience. So, cut yourself some slack! A frantic hostess doesn’t make anyone comfortable (or happy). Remember to breathe and enjoy the party. This year, we set the prime rib on fire, we had a minor flood when the basement sink overflowed, and I broke a precious gift just moments after receiving it. And, do you know what? It was a lovely holiday just the same.
Finally, sometimes effortless entertaining is simply a state of mind! So, relax and try to enjoy your event. And, to see more great ideas, please follow Susan’s Party on Pinterest.
Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to real style for the way you live. From fabulous fashion and accessories, to gorgeous gardens and stunning interiors, plus the latest products and tips for throwing parties, weddings, and events of all kinds.
DISCLAIMER: No financial compensation or product samples were received in exchange for this Effortless Entertaining post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I believe will be beneficial for my readers.