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Beginner’s​ Guide: Simple Tips for Entertaining

Entertaining doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. In this Beginner’s Guide: Simple Tips for Entertaining, you’ll learn how to plan ahead so you can entertain like a pro!

I love being the hostess of any get-together. Be it a birthday party, dinner party, having guests over for coffee, or my very favorite, hosting a BRUNCH party!

There’s something about having guests over that is so beautiful to me. It’s almost like time stands still for a little while as everyone mingles and has deeper and more meaningful conversations. Candles burning, plates clanking, the sound of laughter and giggles as someone cracks a funny joke. What happened to those times?

Most people prefer to be a guest than a host, but I wish more people would take on the role of the host more often.

I feel like we are losing so much of the charm of what life is all about. Enjoying moments together with the people that matter most in our lives. There’s nothing better than sitting around the table with a homecooked meal. Whether it be for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even around a coffee table for some coffee and dessert.

I know that entertaining can be rather stressful, too! That’s why I wanted to write this simple guide in the hopes that it will inspire you to bring some of that nostalgic charm into your home to warm not only your heart but the hearts of family and friends.

I’ve hosted so many different get-togethers in the last twenty-two years and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Mostly through my BIG mistakes. I’ve become quite adept at figuring out what NOT to do when hosting a party. But there’s one habit I cannot seem to break. And that is making so much food! My mother always loved to cook with abundance, just in case any unexpected guests arrived. So I guess I kinda learned that habit from her.

Let’s dive into the first tip. . .

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Tip #1: Don’t Aim For Perfection

Having guests over isn’t about impressing people with your cooking and entertaining skills. Rather, it’s about enjoying the presence of each other’s company over a nice meal. Yes, we still want to make everything look nice and we want the food to taste good, but if the food doesn’t come out perfect, that’s okay!

Tip #2: Keep Your Menu Simple

If there is one thing I have learned over the years of hosting my own parties it’s this— simpler is always better. Keep your menu as simple as can be. It’s so easy to get caught up with all the beautiful food imagery on Pinterest, but trying to cook very elaborate and complicated meals is not the way to go when you’re having guests over. Especially when you’re a beginner.

Keeping your menu simple means it will be very doable and will help alleviate a lot of the stress. Especially if you’re having a lot of guests over.

If you’re only having up to four people over, you may be able to get away with having a stellar dish that takes up a little more of your time.

But. . .

If you take away only one thing from this post it would be this — the bigger the crowd, the simpler the menu should be!

Tip #3: Don’t Cook Any New Recipes

When you’re having guests over, it’s not a good idea to experiment with dishes you’ve never cooked before. No matter how delicious the recipe might look. Trust me on this one! Even a seasoned cook like me fails when I try to attempt new recipes when I can’t give them my full attention. When I’m rushed, I pretty much always forget to add an ingredient or I skip over parts of the recipe and end ruin the whole sequence of steps. When I’m not in a rush, I can cook or bake very intricate and complicated foods because I just get lost in the whole process of it all, which I love! 

Aim to cook tried and tested recipes that you know you can pull off.

If you really have your heart set on cooking something new and you can’t try it out days in advance, cook it very early in the day and make sure you have a back-up meal just in case it fails. 

Side tip: If you see new foods that you would love to cook up for parties, start adding them to your weekly dinner meals so that you can get comfortable cooking them. This way, when you decide to invite guests over for a meal, you’ll have so many proven recipes to choose from. 

TIP #4: Plan Out Your Menu In Advance

No matter the size of my party, I always, always plan out my menu. Even if I’m only having family over for dinner. It’s such a fun thing to do! I pretend I’m head Chef at My Humble Abode, lol! As head chef, it’s my job to make sure that every dish goes together perfectly.

Get into the habit of planning out your menu as soon as you have decided to host a dinner party. I cannot tell you how important this step is! It makes it so much easier when you can see it all in print. 

You can either choose to write things down on paper or you can use any notes app on your phone. 

Personally, I find it easier to use the notes app on my phone. This way, I have it readily with me when I go shopping.

Planning out your whole menu in advance helps you stay organized and also makes it so much easier to go shopping for all your ingredients.

My menu might look something like this: 

  1. Appetizer: Baked Brie with Fig, Pecans, and Maple Syrup served with an assortment of crackers
  2. Main Course: Slow roasted beef
  3. Side Dishes: roasted potatoes with herbs and garlic, caramelized carrots with thyme, asparagus with hollandaise sauce 
  4. Drinks: assortment of sodas, juices, and water (we don’t drink for religious reasons and we have an alcohol-free home, so I don’t serve any alcoholic beverages. Our guests understand and respect that!).
  5. Dessert: apple dumplings served with vanilla ice cream
  6. coffee and tea

Do you see how much easier it looks when you write it all down? 

Tip #5: Make a List of All the Ingredients

Once you’ve decided on your menu, make a list of all the ingredients you’re going to need.

Go over your ingredient list several times to make sure you didn’t miss something.

Nothing is worse than starting on a meal and realizing you have one or several missing ingredients. Especially if you have to stop cooking because there’s no one else to go to the store to get it for you.

I do this by writing a list of ingredients for each individual meal at a time as well as how much of that particular ingredient I’m going to need. You’re likely to find that you’ll need some ingredients in several different dishes, so writing down the quantity you need is going to help you so much!

This will also save you money. I’m sure we’ve all been there where we know we need a particular ingredient, but we’re not sure how much of it we actually need, so we end up buying extra. I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me and then I get home and re-read the recipe to find out I only needed a little bit of that ingredient. When you write down the quantity, there’s no guessing!

Tip #6: Make a List of Non-Food Items

I think it’s so easy to forget about the non-food items we need anytime we are hosting a party. I like to think of the non-food items as things that you’ll need to serve your guests as well as items that will add to the ambiance.

If you’re new to hosting, you might not have all these things on-hand, so it’s great to start your own hosting collection.

Here are a few things you might want to pick up beforehand:

  1. Flowers
  2. Flower Vase
  3. Taper Candles
  4. Tealight Candles
  5. Candleholder
  6. Candle lighter
  7. Tablecloth
  8. Table Runner
  9. Dinner Napkins
  10. Dinner Plates
  11. Flatware
  12. Serving Platters
  13. Serving Set
  14. Glassware
  15. Salt and Pepper Grinder Set
  16. Coffee Mugs/Tea Cups
  17. Cream and Sugar Set
  18. Mini Coffee/Tea Spoons

As a hostess/host, there are so many things you’re going to need for entertaining so you can serve up your dishes beautifully. I love adding things to my collection over the years! Enjoy creating a collection of your own! It’s so much fun!

Tip #7: Clean the House Beforehand, Especially the Guest Bathroom

The last thing you’re going to want to do on the day you’re having guests over is clean the house. You’re already going to have a busy day as it is and trust me, time will never go by quicker than the day you’re having guests over!

Clean the house at least a day or two before the event. This is going to make you feel so much better when the day arrives.

If you haven’t used your stemware or other types of dishes in a while, it’s best to take them all out and wash them a day or two before the party.

Guest bathroom tips: clean the bathroom, empty trash bin, put out clean and fresh towels, a nice smelling hands-soap, and have an aromatic candle ready to light just before guests arrive. That will make the bathroom smell so good!

A couple of other things to do before guests arrive is to make sure that your kitchen trash can is empty as well as making sure you have emptied out the dishwasher.

Tip #8: Set the Table the Night Before

Having a nice looking tablescape is so important! That’s why I highly recommend getting it all ready the night before.

Here a few things you can do:

  1. Iron out your table linens and place them on the table
  2. Arrange flowers into a vase or several vases
  3. Put out your candles
  4. Put out the plates
  5. Put out your silverware
  6. Put out your napkins
  7. Put out your glassware

Having a beautiful tablescape doesn’t have to be expensive or super fancy. If you don’t want to buy flowers, or you just want something very simple, you can pick leaves and random flowers from your garden.

This is also a great idea if you’re on a budget or if the supermarket happens to sell out of nice flowers the night before (which always seems to happen when you need pretty flowers the most).

Tip #9: Prep Your Ingredients Ahead of Time

Prepping all of the ingredients is so time-consuming! If you can do this step a day or two before, that’s even better! If you can’t, then at least get an early start on prepping all your ingredients. You can peel and chop all of your vegetables early in the morning. I like to store all of my chopped vegetables in ziplock bags so that they take up less space in the refrigerator.

Tip #10: Buy Your Dessert or Make it Ahead

When you’re hosting a party, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying your dessert! I do this if I’m hosting a last-minute dinner sometimes. It’s a lot of work to get a whole meal prepared, so if you need to take a shortcut (or two) here and there, then go for it!

If you don’t want to buy your dessert and you don’t have time to make it ahead, then opt for a very simple dessert.

One of my favorite quick and easy desserts is vanilla ice cream topped with a cookie. This is such a simple yet super yummy dessert. Who doesn’t love ice cream and cookies, right?

Bonus Tip: Enjoy Yourself

As host, you set the mood and energy for your party. If you’re relaxed, your guests will also feel relaxed. If you’re running around frantically trying to get everything done, your guests are going to feel uncomfortable. There’s nothing worse than being invited over for a meal when you can feel the host is in a bad mood! Energy is so powerful and your guests WILL feel it!

A good thing to remember is that you actually do NOT have to have everything perfectly ready before your guests arrive. As long as you’re just waiting for things to finish cooking and you’re just putting on the last-minute touches, it’s totally OKAY! Your guests will understand!

Final Thoughts

Having guests over is fun if you have the right attitude about it. Hosting your own party is a lot of work, but bringing people together over food is such a beautiful thing! I wish more people would have a positive attitude about this! 

To me, entertaining, is FUN, FUN, FUN!!

I hope you found these tips helpful. I’m going to keep adding to this guide as time goes on, but for now, we’ve at least covered the basics.

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