Effortless Entertaining? 9 Tips for Success

Debunking the myth of effortless entertainingDo you remember the Crate and Barrel commercials where actress Reese Witherspoon obsessed over getting the details just right for her holiday parties? In them, we saw 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 were hilarious and memorable… but true. Hosting successful events takes plenty of practice. And, effortless entertaining actually requires the preparation of a General.

With the holiday season fast approaching, are living in dread, reminiscing about an event in years past that went hopelessly awry? Or, do you simply want to be a bit more organized for your next event? Here are my Top 9 Tips for Effortless Entertaining (or at least entertaining that looks that way):

1)Make a list. If you’ve already hosted one event this season, start a list today, while it’s still fresh in your mind. What went right?  And, what went wrong? Include new menu items you’d like to try, ideas for decorations, and any other details.

2)Decorate early. Each year, I take a week off from work just after Thanksgiving. My sole mission is to decorate the house for Christmas. Since I have the luxury of time, I can tackle not only the Christmas trees, tabletop displays and front porch, but I can also try some of the vignettes and ideas I’d been saving on Pinterest all year long. Once I am done, I am done. Plus, starting early gives me plenty of time to enjoy the effect which makes me more relaxed and oh-so-happy.

3)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 with just a quick wash.

4)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 also 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 will save myself a ton of effort and use clear glass dinner plates. These coordinate beautifully with any décor, any color, and any holiday. Plus, they are microwave and dishwasher safe. I will save “the good stuff” for small events and dinner parties, where washing masses of dishes isn’t an issue.

5)Choose make-ahead items (and actually make them in advance). This year, there were several dips and spreads on my menu that really require a day to mature. And, there were other side items that can be prepared, then frozen. A full month before the holiday, I start clearing out the freezer, leaving plenty of room for any dish that can be done ahead. (Freezing multiple batches of cookie dough is one of my favorite tricks!)

Effortless Entertaining? 9 Tips for Success

6)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 supposed to be effortless entertaining, right?) Make sure to book your date well in advance, as slots fill up quickly around the holidays. 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.

7)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.

8)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!

9)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. Remember to breathe and enjoy the party. In the past, I have set the prime rib on fire, mopped up after the basement sink overflowed, and broken a precious gift just moments after receiving it. And, do you know what? Although not “perfect,” it was a lovely holiday just the same.

To see more great ideas, please follow Susan’s Party on Pinterest.

effortless entertainingDISCLAIMER: No financial compensation was received in exchange for this Effortless Entertaining? 9 Tips for Success post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I believe will be beneficial for my readers.

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