When entertaining in your home, the planning stage may very well be the most important factor in how successful the gathering turns out. (My measurment of success is how much fun the hosts have.) Based on years of experience in catering in other people’s homes, as well as hosting people in our home, here are a few suggestions for laying the groundwork for fun.
1) Give careful consideration to your guest list.
Resist the urge to invite the same old gang. Even for a small dinner party, try to mix up the people. Invite people who don’t know each other or people you don’t know very well but have always liked. This kind of gathering makes for interesting conversations and potentially new friendships.
2) Consider the music.
Some of the most awkward and stiff-feeling caterings I have worked at I attributed to a lack of music. Some people really enjoy putting together playlists for a specific event, or even hire musicians to play live music. But really, even the radio tuned to your favorite station is better than no music at all.
3) Keep it simple.
Unless you are hiring a caterer, don’t plan an overly ambitious menu. It is stressful for you, the host, and that gets in the way of having fun, the whole idea of this event. You may be one of those types who loves to plan and execute a complicated menu. In that case, consider your guests. They came over to spend time with you, not just for a free meal. If you will be spending alot of time in the kitchen with the food, at least invite other people for them to talk to – preferably interesting ones (see tip #1).
4) Shut the door.
A hurdle for having people over can often be feeling as though your house isn’t in any condition to show off – especially if you are inviting those who you do not know very well. While we all have different standards of cleanliness, the only room that needs special attention is the bathroom. Any room you don’t want guests in, just close the door, don’t offer a tour (this isn’t a home show), and don’t be overly concerned about how things look.
5) Make a clean up plan.
Leave it for the morning, use disposables, or hire some help, but don’t clean up in front of your guests.
6) Do as much as possible ahead of time.
Many recipes will note that a dish may be prepared a day or two before serving – these are the kind of dishes you want to serve. Do the shopping, cleaning, and majority of the cooking the day before your party. The actual party will be much more fun for you.
7) Start planning early.
Things take longer to come together that you think. Give yourself plenty of time and opportunity to put a plan together. More work at the front end will result in a better time for all.
What tips do you have for planning a gathering?