A No-Pressure Guide to Entertaining
If you’re hoping to throw a dinner party that’s Instagram-perfect, this is not that story. But if what you really want is simply to see more of your friends, these no-pressure hosting rules are here to help.
Say no to excessive cleaning, over-planning and complicated cooking, and yes to twinkle lights, paper plates, and seconds of dessert. Set these rules of engagement for yourself and get ready to start having more fun at your own parties.
1. I will refuse to plan. When it comes to big holidays and special occasions, planning is certainly important. But for everyday gatherings among friends? That’s a different story. With issues like kids getting sick, meetings running late, and plain old tiredness, it can seem next to impossible to get a dinner with friends on the schedule. The solution: Skip the planning and go right to the good part.
Only invite people over when the stars align, your schedule clears (at least for the night), and you actually (gasp!) feel like hosting. Will this work every time? Sadly, no. But you might be surprised at how willing your friends are to show up when you text them, “Wine and pizza, my house, 7 p.m.?”
2. I will say yes to twinkle lights — and no to frantic last-second cleaning. We can put so much pressure on ourselves to present a “perfect” home in which to host our friends. But guess what? After stepping into your beautifully imperfect home and being greeted with a warm hug (and a cold drink), the last thing your friends will be looking for are dust bunnies in the corners. In fact, your guests may actually be breathing a sigh of relief that your house is a lot like theirs (maybe they’ll even be inspired to host next time). So put down the vacuum, turn on the twinkle lights, and relax: You’ve got this.
3. I will lower the bar. Forget finding babysitters, making three kinds of appetizers, and arranging flowers for every table. Big-deal occasions are wonderful — every once in a while. But trying to pull off a capital-D Dinner party on an average weekend night can be a mistake if you’re already stressed about hosting. Instead, keep expectations low. Include the little ones and spread the word among friends that it’s a new rule that you’re not allowed to clean up before the crew arrives.
4. I will not beat myself up for choosing paper plates. Speaking of cleanup (are you sensing a theme?), if the thought of washing a mountain of post-party dishes has you ready to run for the hills, give yourself a pass and grab the paper plates instead. If it saves you time and mental anguish, I’d call that a win.
5. I will say yes to other people’s leftovers. If the cost of hosting is something that keeps you from having friends over as often as you’d like, or if you’d simply like to waste less food, consider hosting a fridge clean-out dinner. The idea is that everyone brings something from the fridge that needs to get eaten: It’s like an unplanned potluck! You might end up with some kale salad, half a quiche, assorted cheeses and olives, soup, banana bread … part of the fun is getting everything together and creating your own feast out of everyone’s odds and ends.
6. I will go for fuss-free traditions. My favorite traditions embrace casual togetherness: taco Tuesday, pizza-and-a-movie Friday, and my personal favorite: the snow day chili dinner. When thinking up your own fuss-free traditions, brainstorm some of your own family’s favorite dishes or activities and incorporate them whenever possible.
7. I will take cooking off my must-do list. Just because it’s a dinner party doesn’t mean you have to be the one to cook the dinner. Try hosting a takeout feast — invite each guest to bring a favorite dish from a different restaurant (assign a course to each person to make sure you have a good balance). Or pick up ready-to-go food at the grocery store, spread it all out on pretty platters and call it dinner.
8. I will recognize the night-redeeming power of dessert. So the garlic bread got burned, the soup was over-salted, and the chicken was dry. The memory of a less-than-perfect dinner will soon be wiped from your guests’ memories with the arrival on the table of a beautiful dessert. And just knowing you have a delicious treat (pie, gelato, a big hunk of chocolate) waiting in the wings is sure to make you feel more confident about the whole hosting gig. And, I probably don’t even need to mention this, but: Buy it, don’t make it.
"8 Rules for No-Pressure Entertaining" by Laura Gaskill originally appeared on Houzz.com, a home design platform that sells vases for floral centerpieces and shares information on modern party etiquette. Photo credit: Angela Flournoy, original photo on Houzz.