It’s that time of year to celebrate. Do you feel anxious at the thought of hosting a gathering in your home? Or do you love hosting but often end up feeling stressed and exhausted? Perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle, having hosted a few gatherings but wishing you could have enjoyed them more.
Regardless of where you stand, if you’re looking for ways to simplify hosting gatherings in your home, these entertaining hacks are for you.
When it comes to hosting, we tend to overcomplicate things, perhaps due to the influence of Martha Stewart and Pinterest. We convince ourselves that our parties must be spectacular, our decorations mesmerizing, and our food worthy of a Michelin star. Let’s dial it down a notch, shall we?
27 Entertaining Hacks to Simplify Hosting
When you think about it, parties and gatherings are about people. Sure, good food and festive decorations can add to the experience, but the most important thing is enjoying yourself and the guests you’ve invited into your home. So, simplify the hosting process and spend quality time with everyone with the following entertaining hacks that allow you to enjoy hosting more than ever:
- Plan Ahead. Make a to-do list and schedule for the day of the event to ensure everything gets done on time. Be flexible and make changes as needed.
- 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 repeat it. Looking to Pinterest for homemaking ideas often makes us feel less than. And you are not less than…you are you and not them. If looking through images of elaborately decorated dinner tables and picture-perfect desserts makes you feel you need to do more to impress your guests, just stay away!
- Adjust your expectations to be more realistic. Think about what you want to do, then decide if it’s practical. 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.
- Don’t worry about others’ expectations (or what you perceive them to be). Sometimes, we may feel obligated to do certain things, even if it’s not necessarily expected of us. However, in reality, our guests only expect what we communicate to them. The pressure we feel is often self-imposed. It’s essential to do what feels best and not worry about perceived expectations. Happy hosts equals happy guests.
- Don’t feel you must copy whatever you experienced growing up (or what your mom always did). Don’t feel obligated to follow traditional methods of entertaining that you learned from your mama or grandma. You can put your own spin on things or even start new traditions that suit your style and preferences. Pick and choose what works for you and let go of the idea that you must do something.
- Declutter. By decluttering things and removing excess clutter, you create a more inviting, comfortable, and organized living space for your guests. A clutter-free space can also make it easier to navigate and socialize, as well as provide more space for guests to sit and relax.
- Create a cozy atmosphere. Use warm lighting, soft blankets, and comfortable seating to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere for your guests to enjoy and relax.
- Clean the entertaining area of your home only. As for cleaning, it’s important to remember that entertaining hacks are all about saving time and effort. Instead of feeling like you need to deep clean your entire home, focus on cleaning only the areas where you’ll entertain your guests. This typically includes the kitchen, living areas, and one or two bathrooms. Unless your home is always spotless, it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to clean every nook and cranny before hosting an event.
Food and Drink Hacks
- Ask about allergies in advance. Remember to ask your guests about any allergies they may have to avoid serving food that they can’t eat. You can request this information when they RSVP.
- 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. Make dishes with familiar foods that most people enjoy, and that you are comfortable making. And don’t get upset if someone skips a dish they don’t like.
- Choose food that you can prepare ahead of time. Preparing food ahead of time is one of the best entertaining hacks to save you time and stress. Plan a menu that can be prepared ahead of time, like casseroles and desserts, so you can enjoy the day of the event without racing against the clock.
- Ask everyone to bring a side to share. Another entertaining hack is to ask everyone to contribute to the meal by bringing a side dish or dessert. This will make your life easier, and you’ll have an answer for those who ask what they can bring.
- Plan a simple menu. No one comes to your home to get stuffed. Choose dishes that can be made ahead of time or that require minimal preparation. Consider using a slow cooker or instant pot to save time. Remember, you don’t need more than one item for each food category. You can get away with having only 3-4 foods (the main dish, a side dish, salad, and snack/dessert). Of course, you’ll need something to drink, but water and one or two other beverages should work for most cases.
- 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 acceptable. Just try to find a few items that will feel special. And if you want to save time, having one homemade dish and some store-bought foods is always an option. This is about doing what works with the time and energy you currently have.
- Don’t do all of the work. Set up a self-serve bar. Setting up a bar area with drinks and glasses or a buffet for food so guests can help themselves saves you time and effort. Just prep the ingredients, and your guests can assemble their food or beverages as they like.
- 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!
- Use simple decorations: The simpler, the better. Too many decorations create clutter and distract your guests. Opt for simple decorations such as candles, flowers, or greenery to add a festive touch without overwhelming the space.
- 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 perhaps 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.
- 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 converse with the people across from them.
- Play background music: Choose a playlist to set the mood and create a relaxed atmosphere.
- Focus on enjoying time with your guests. It’s easy to get distracted by what needs to be done next. However, the most essential part of entertaining is spending time with friends and family, so don’t stress the details too much. Be present and stay in the moment. Your guests will be most comfortable when you are relaxed and not running around. Let it go, have some good conversations, and laugh a little.
- 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 perfection…that’s not what your guests will remember, so you shouldn’t either.
- Start the gathering with an empty dishwasher. Sometimes we fail to plan ahead when 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. Starting with an empty dishwasher saves time at the end of the party, so you can quickly fill it and start it after the guests leave or here and there as the evening passes..
- 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 will only take you away from your party, leave it alone.
- Enlist help. Don’t be afraid to ask close guests to help serve food or drinks or clean up. Let your guests help if they offer to. It’s normal for some people to want to clear the table, wash some dishes, or sweep the floor. The key is not to be away from your guests cleaning up alone. Cleaning with your guests is still valuable time with them.
- Opt for disposable cups, plates, napkins, and utensils. Consider using high-quality paper plates, cups, napkins, and plastic utensils to save time on clean-up.
- Use a machine-washable tablecloth and place settings. If you aren’t going disposable, ensure the table linens are machine washable. That way, you can throw everything into the washing machine when the night ends!
Keep It Simple and Enjoy the Party
We tend to overcomplicate so many areas of life, which is crazy to me. In the age of convenience and digital, it doesn’t need to be this way! There are so many ways that you can simplify your life.
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)!