The sun is shining, and it’s been a great day catching up and creating some content that hopefully inspires you! In my last blog, I talked about how you could set up your home to create a flow and make it more conducive for entertaining, whether it’s just adults or with children as well. I know it can be easy to get caught up in the planning and it can become overwhelming, especially when we’re running out of time. Many of us probably run around like crazy women (or men) the last few hours before the party starts, and our kids think we have three heads, and our husbands (or wife) are seriously considering walking out and heading to the bar up the street. HA!

However, we need to remember why we’re having a party or why we have friends and family coming over. Honestly, when we look at the root of it, most likely, it’s not because we have to have the perfect home, serve the perfect meal, or compete with the neighbors last gathering or birthday party, but instead it’s because we want to spend time with those who are coming. Opening our homes is about building connections and creating fond memories, not about perfection. When preparing your home, ask yourself questions and make choices that will help facilitate conversation and put people at ease. When choosing furniture, choose pieces that are comfy, that won’t have you pulling your hair out when your kids put their feet up on them with their shoes on, or when crumbs or a glass of wine is accidentally spilled. Also, create a menu that is easy and not elaborate. Your guests probably don’t want to eat fancy food and you don’t need to be slaving over the stove either. I do, however, encourage you to pick up your house so that nothing gets lost, broken, or tripped over. The floors don’t necessarily have to be mopped – save that for after the party, once everyone has tracked in footprints with their shoes, for those who were most comfortable that way. The hall closet doesn’t need to be cleaned either – no one will go in there! I promise! Other than cleaning up a bit, another thing you should do, is ensure you have toiletries stocked in the bathroom, so you’re not running for toilet paper when you’re trying to take the entrée off the grill or out of the oven.

Right about now, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, she keeps telling me what NOT to do, other than stocking the bathroom with toilet paper, so what should I be doing to get ready for a gathering?” When I was single, without kids, I would have people over all the time and I considered it an insult or rude to ask anyone to bring a dish to pass. If I was hosting a party, I would do EVERYTHING! Well, as time has gone by, since then I’ve gotten married, had two girls, and it’s definitely not the single life anymore where I have all the time in the world to lay new floors or paint an accent wall until 3 am because I have a party the next night. I don’t have the time either to find the gourmet recipes – plus everyone usually asks anyways, “What is this?” HA! So needless to say, I had to re-evaluate my strategies. I have always loved party planning and entertaining, so not having people over for some fun was not an option, but I also didn’t want to be the one where my husband was walking out the door looking for the closest bar! HA! This finally led me to open my mind to create a menu where I could invite others to bring a dish to pass. Don’t get me wrong, there are times where we have parties and I do, do it all, however, those have become less and less and the casual get togethers that are smorgasbord style are becoming more frequent. There are so many reasons why I love it! Now, I have so much more family time the day of, all of us get to try different recipes that we normally may have not, the cleanup is usually less because our guests will bring their own dishes home, plus the expense is usually lower! Now, if we were to wait until I had time to create a party where I did everything, they would be so few and far between, which throws a wrench in what I love doing, so I am definitely enjoying this new outlook on entertaining!

With this being said, I want to share with you some key tips that will help you with your entertaining.

Create a List

Create a list of everyone you want to invite, the activities you want to have, music you want played, and the menu and drinks you’d like to prepare. I know it sounds silly, but if you don’t write it down, it may be forgotten, especially when things can tend to get chaotic during those last moments of preparation. Also, if you have everything in writing or drawn out, it’s easier to see whether there’s something missing or maybe some items you don’t need.

Make a Meal Plan

I would suggest doing this about 2 weeks in advance, especially if you are asking your guests to bring something. This will give them ample time to dig through their favorite recipes and plan as well. If it is a gathering where everyone is bringing a dish to pass, I generally announce the theme so that everyone can plan accordingly and be able to bring items that compliment each other. A group text can become overwhelming, especially for those who are in a cubicle and have their phones dinging every 30 seconds, so I suggest creating an Evite or something else similar. This way, everyone can see what is being brought and then there won’t be any duplicates.

This will also alleviate you from being the middle-man and having to communicate back and forth. By having your menu planned out two weeks in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to get to the groceries and find exactly what you need, so that you’re not rushing around the day of.

We will usually provide the beverages and the entrée. So that my husband or I aren’t bartending all night, I set up a beverage station where they’ll be wine, beer, liquor, and usually a punch of some sort that goes with the theme that are all self-serve. This actually helps make the guests feel more comfortable as they don’t feel they’re bothering me by asking for a glass or drink.

Clean-Up Your Home

I mentioned previously that your home does not have to be perfect but be sure to clean up the clutter. As I said, no one will be going in that hall closet, so stick everything in there if you need to. Just get it off the couch, counters, and floors so there are no injuries, or lost or broken items.

Clean as You Go

As you’re prepping and cooking for the party, clean as you go. No one wants to walk into a house with counters filled with dirty dishes and cut produce laying around. Plus, you’re not going to want to have hours of clean-up after everyone leaves. Consider using paper products and plastic utensils if you’re having a more casual gathering. There are so many fun and unique choices out there now that fit with just about any décor or theme!

Create all the Yummy Feels

Turn your lamps on, fluff your pillows, add some touches of fresh flowers, and light the candles, or refill your plug-ins, to create a welcoming and comfy home.

I don’t know about you, but I always have such a thrill when putting together a party or small gathering, so I can sometimes get out of hand (as my husband may tell you), but it’s just because I LOVE IT and get swallowed up in the fun! However, all of us (including myself) need to keep in mind, that most importantly, we need to focus on our guests and their needs. They may be struggling with things at work or at home and just want to come and chill. Perhaps they’re looking for a game night, where they’ll be plenty of laughs. Or maybe they just need to be surrounded by good friends and have a place where they can open their hearts. Whatever the reason, make them the priority, not how clean your home is, how delicious the food is, or the new sofa you just purchased for this get together! Create connections and toss perfection out the door. Your friends will remember how fun the party is because you’ve created a comfy environment, so that they can feel at home and enjoy their time! Wishing you lots of happy entertaining!