entertaining hacks

23 Entertaining Hacks That Actually Make Hosting More Simple

Does the thought of hosting a gathering in your home cause you so much anxiety? Or do you love hosting but tend to overdo it, leaving you stressed and exhausted? Maybe you are somewhere in the middle. You’ve hosted a few gatherings, and looking back you wish you were able to enjoy it more than you did. No matter where you find yourself, if you are looking for ways to simplify hosting gatherings in your home, then you need these entertaining hacks.

When it comes to hosting people in our home, we tend to over-complicate everything…and we probably have Martha Stewart and Pinterest to thank for that. We get it in our heads that our parties need to be spectacular, our decorations mesmerizing, and our food worthy of praise from the best chef in the world.

Let’s take it down a notch, shall we?

23 Entertaining Hacks to Simplify Hosting

When you think about it, parties and other gatherings are supposed to be about the people who are there. Shouldn’t there be good food? Probably. Festive decorations? Maybe. But the most important thing is that you are able to enjoy the people you invited into your home.

Applying any of these entertaining hacks will make hosting so much more simple so that you can actually enjoy your time and the people around you:

Preparation Hacks

1. Don’t go to Pinterest for ideas.

Seriously, just don’t. Unless (maybe) you are looking for something in particular.

I said this before, and I’ll say it again. Looking to Pinterest for homemaking ideas often makes us feel less than. And you are not less than…you are just you and not them. If looking through images of elaborately decorated dinner tables and picture-perfect desserts makes you feel like you need to do more to impress your guests, just stay away!

2. Adjust your expectations to be more realistic.

Think about what you want to do, and then decide if it’s realistic. Do you actually have the time and energy to accomplish all that you want to do? If so, by all means, go for it. If not, reevaluate and adjust your expectations to something more doable that your guests (and you!) will still enjoy.

3. Don’t worry about others’ expectations (or what you perceive them to be).

Sometimes we think we are expected to do certain things, whether we are right or not. Most of the time, our guests only expect what we tell them to expect. The rest is in our heads! Do what works for you, and don’t worry about what others may have been expecting.

When you’re a happy host, they are more likely to enjoy their time as well. If, however, you are unhappy because you are doing things you don’t even want to do, your guests will be able to tell.

4. Don’t feel like you need to copy whatever you experienced growing up (or what your mom always did).

This goes hand-in-hand with the last one, but seriously, get the idea that you HAVE to do anything out of your head. You don’t have to do what your grandma did. You CAN do your own thing, put your own spin on things, or start new traditions.

5. Clean the entertaining area of your home only.

When I think of entertaining hacks, I think about saving ourselves tons of time and effort. Here’s one way you can let yourself off the hook.

I know that when you decided to host, you probably had it on your list to deep clean the entire house. But seriously, unless your house is basically always clean because you are always on top of it, a thorough clean of the whole home is not realistic. Just clean the areas where you will be entertaining your guests (probably the kitchen, the living areas of your home, and one bathroom).

Food and Drink Hacks

6. Ask about allergies in advance.

Don’t forget to ask about any allergies your guests may have. This will save you from feeling awful for having nothing your guests can eat. You could request this information right on the invite when they RSVP!

7. Don’t try to cater to everyone’s tastes.

Now allergies are one thing, but trying to cater to everyone’s tastes is unnecessary. You can’t please everyone. We already know this, but still, we try. So, save yourself the agony of trying to make everyone happy. Make what you want to make…and whatever you feel you are good at making.

Just don’t be upset when your cousin skips the green beans.

8. Choose food that you can prepare ahead of time.

One of my favorite entertaining hacks that will save you a ton of stress is to prepare everything you can ahead of time.

This may not be possible for everything, but planning a menu that can mostly be prepared ahead will make the day of your event so much more enjoyable. You won’t find yourself racing against the clock to have everything done and cleaned up before your guests arrive!

9. Ask everyone to bring a side to share.

Another entertaining hack is to ask everyone to contribute to the meal in some way, however small. Think of ways that will make your life a little bit easier, so when people ask what they can bring you have an answer for them!

10. Plan a simple menu.

You really don’t need more than one item for each food category. You can easily get away with having only 3 foods (the main dish, a side dish, and a salad). You really don’t need more than that! Obviously, you will want to have something to drink as well, but water and one other thing are just fine.

Try to do a few things well instead of “wowing” everyone with the amount of food you made. Honestly, people often complain of getting overly stuffed at parties and other gatherings, so save yourself (and them!) the trouble.

11. Consider buying pre-made foods.

If you aren’t much of a cook, you can still choose to host gatherings in your home. Buying pre-made foods is just fine, just try to find a few nice items that will feel special.

And if you are just wanting to save yourself some time, having one homemade dish along with some store-bought foods is always an option. This is about doing what works for the amount of time and energy you have currently.

12. Don’t do all of the work.

There are entertaining hacks around fun food ideas that make your life a little bit easier. You could set out a “build your own” bar of some sort so that you only have to prep the ingredients, and your guests will assemble their food or beverage in the way they like it.

Even having a simple buffet-style meal can make your life easier (if you don’t provide too many options). Another benefit of going buffet-style is that it leaves you more room on the dinner table!

13. Spread snacks or appetizers around the house.

Another one of my favorite entertaining hacks is especially helpful if you are short on space or are hosting a large crowd. Try placing the same snacks or appetizers in different places around your home to encourage people to spread out and help themselves.

You could place food on the coffee table, the top of a bookshelf, or on a desk. That way, you won’t have everyone swarming around one place in the kitchen!

Decoration Hacks

14. Keep decorations simple.

When it comes to decor, the more simple the better. Too many decorations look cluttered and distract your guests.

And, if you are short on space, excessive amounts of decorations will just get in the way of valuable entertaining space. Try adding small bouquets of flowers in each room or something on the wall that won’t take up so much space.

15. Work with what you have.

This is one of the best entertaining hacks for those of us who are working to keep clutter to a minimum. Who says you need to go out and buy a bunch of stuff in preparation for hosting guests in your home? Try looking around your home for what you already have.

Maybe you’ll want to move some of your decorations around, or maybe you’ll want to repurpose something into a decoration. You could use glasses as vases, fresh herbs instead of flowers, or a cake stand as a centerpiece on your table.

16. Don’t overfill your table or other eating areas.

Don’t over-decorate surfaces that you are using for serving food or eating. You may find that you run out of room for all of the food if you over-decorate your counters or tables. And remember, you want it to be easy for your guests to find a place to set their plates down when they are getting food or eating.

When it comes to a dinner party where everyone will be sitting around a table, stay away from tall centerpieces that will make it hard for people to have a conversation with the people across from them.

Entertaining Hacks

17. Focus on enjoying the company of those in your home.

Your party isn’t about having perfect decor or food; it’s about the people you have gathered together. When you are hosting people in your home, it is easy to be distracted by any messes or whatever you need to do next.

Do your best to stay in the moment and enjoy the company of the people around you. Besides, your guests will become uncomfortable if you are stressed and running around cleaning up after everyone. Just let it go, have some good conversation, and laugh a little!

18. Give yourself some grace.

If something goes “wrong” just go with it. It may not feel like it, but no one’s judging you. Things happen to the best of us, and it’s best to let the little things go. Forget the imperfections…that’s not what your guests will remember, so you shouldn’t either.

Clean-Up Hacks

19. Start the gathering with an empty dishwasher.

Sometimes we fail to plan ahead when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of hosting a gathering in your home. Of all the entertaining hacks, this one is a must for your to-do list if you have a dishwasher.

Before your party, make sure you wash and put away any dishes you’ve been using instead of leaving them in the dishwasher. That way, when dinner is over you can simply load up the dishwasher and run it after your guests are gone.

20. Don’t clean while your guests are there.

We often forget about everything that’s required of us after the party is over. That’s why you need entertaining hacks that help you make clean-up easier!

This first one may seem like it’s making your life harder, but really, waiting to clean until after your guests leave allows you to enjoy the gathering. And, it keeps you from multi-tasking and being pulled in a million directions! If cleaning that thing isn’t urgent and is only going to take you away from your party, leave it alone.

21. Let your guests help if they offer to.

If, however, you really want to get started on washing dishes, let your guests help! Take them up on their offer to clear the table, wash some dishes, or sweep the floor.

The key here is to not be away from your guests because you are cleaning up alone. If you are cleaning with the people who came, it can still be valuable time with them!

22. Consider using paper plates, cups, napkins, and plastic utensils.

Using paper plates is kind of one of the obvious entertaining hacks, but not everyone is comfortable doing this. But, especially if you aren’t doing a sit-down dinner party, consider using paper and plastic goods.

There are times when you aren’t going to want to do tons of dishes after your guests leave, and that’s okay. Or, maybe they are staying the night and you want to be able to just hang out after dinner.

23. Use a machine-washable table cloth and place settings.

If you aren’t going disposable, make sure that the table linens are machine washable. That way, you can just throw everything into the washing machine when the night is over!

Final Thoughts

There are so many ways that you can simplify your life. We tend to overcomplicate everything, which is so crazy to me in this day in age of convenience and everything digital. It doesn’t need to be this way!

Hosting can be so simple if we let it be. Putting any of these entertaining hacks into practice for the next gathering you host in your home will make your life much easier so that everyone enjoys the party (including you!).

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Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.


  1. This article has been an eye-opener and a great lifesaver. I’ve been going about hosting the wrong way and I’m always left exhausted and grumpy for days. Thank you for the insight 🙂

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