By Kelley Abbey
Entertaining is an art form. It has many colours and textures that meld together (hopefully) to create an enjoyable occasion.
Some welcome the challenge of having 10 people over at the last minute on a Friday night. To many, it’s an inconvenience, a daunting task that comes with a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of stress. From someone who has been throwing parties for years, from bridal showers to cocktail soirées, my best advice is to relax, have fun, and keep it simple. Below are a few guidelines to follow when you’re having people over.
“Here’s to alcohol, the rose-coloured glasses of life” F. Scott Fitzgerald
Offer your guests a drink when they arrive. As soon as you’ve said your hellos and hung up their coats, hand them something to sip on. Holding a drink in your hand when walking into a room full of people not only gives you something to do, but let’s be honest, it helps one relax.
Have some wine or beer chilled and ready to go with glassware makes the process seamless and easy. It’s often fun to start the evening off with a signature drink. Pick one that generally everyone will enjoy; a glass of sparkling wine at a dinner party, or a lime margarita at a BBQ. This can even be pre-made so you can just grab a glass with ice and hand it over.
Another useful idea is to set up a “Guest Bar” in the kitchen or dining room area. It doesn’t need to be fancy or fussy; just stock it with whatever drinks you will be serving, some ice, mix, glassware, and a corkscrew. Tell your guests you’ve taken care of their first drink and the rest is up to them. Say goodbye to the infamous kitchen party, and hello to the bar party!
“People who love to eat are always the best people.” Julia Child
Food makes a party. Food is also the number one thing people talk about when remembering an event or occasion. Think about the most memorable wedding or Christmas party you went to. If you had a great time, chances are you loved the food.
The main thing to consider is how much to serve and when. One of my pet peeves is being invited to a party that starts at 6:30 and there are chips, dip, and a veggie platter. That’s it. If you throw a party over the dinner hour, do feed your guests appropriately.
Start with a selection of cold appetizers. Think veggie and cheese trays, charcuterie boards, and dips. Then introduce some warm appetizers into the spread throughout the night. Great choices are lamb meatballs, dumplings, and flatbreads, because they do a great job of filling people up.
As a general rule, try to serve a new warm dish every hour until the food is no longer being eaten. Make sure the food table always looks appetizing. This means refilling the food, napkins, and flatware throughout the night, and above all, taking off any dirty dishes that have been left behind.
“Where words fail, music speaks.” Hans Christian Andersen
In the internet age, there is no excuse not to have good music at a party. Put on a popular play list, or curate your own. There’s no better feeling then when a great song comes on while you are with your favourite people in the world sharing food and laughter.
Setting the Table
“We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine” Eduardo Galeano
There is nothing worse than drinking a $30+ bottle of wine out of a plastic cup. It’s also a proven fact that good glassware enhances the flavour and aroma of any drink. Even water.
Having 12 extra wine and highball glasses on hand will cost you next to nothing. Keep the boxes the glasses came in, and when the party is over, wash the glasses and put them back in the boxes to store safely in a storage closet or garage.
All in the Details
“The devil is in the details” – Proverb
When you know you’re having friends over, give your house a good clean so both you and your guests are more comfortable.
Adding a few pretty details along the way always leaves a good impression too. Flowers at the buffet table, kitchen counter, and bar area, add the perfect touch. Pick up two or three inexpensive floral bunches at the grocery store in the same colour tone, and create a little ensemble in some vases.
Candles also add ambiance to a room, and when it gets dark everything looks beautiful in candlelight. A lit candle in the Powder Room will keep that room smelling fresh.
A good napkin is icing on the cake. Something with a bit of weight to it and an interesting design goes a long way when you are setting your table, and more importantly when your guests are using it.
Entertaining in your home is a wonderful way to celebrate special occasions, catch up with old friends, and create new memories. Time is precious, so spend it with people you love and have fun while doing it.
Try out a few of these ideas and you will find a love for entertaining in your own special way, and open up your home to family and friends for many years to come.