for as long as i can remember, i’ve loved entertaining. i like to think it’s part of who i am. when i’m preparing for a party, i always go back to the good old days of watching my mom prep for guests; entertaining always involved her shining up every piece of silver, making some sort of flambé (it was the 80’s/90’s!) and stocking the bar full of every kind of liquor you can imagine, especially brandy (again, it was the 80’s/90’s!). the closer the guests were to arriving, the more frantic she would get, maybe letting a curse word or two slip out.
having friends over to my home is such a pleasure, but it can also require a lot of prep, time and work. i believe that when hosting a party, it’s important for the host (you!) to have as great a time as your guests. to me, throwing a great party and being a gracious host shows a persons character and it’s fun to get creative and let your personality shine. my personal motto of minimum effort for maximum results also applies to entertaining; these are my tips for creating a fun, stress free evening that will have your guests asking when they can come back!
delight with the invite: facebook invites are the norm these days, but i like to give my guests a little sparkle with a special invite from paperless post. it’s a customizable and powerful invite system that is very affordable and makes guests feel special, which really is your goal at the end of the day. send out a reminder the day before the party with your phone number and parking information to avoid any mix-ups.
don’t be a size queen: i prefer smaller groups for the kinds of parties i host – anything over 15 guests is crowd control and loses an intimate feel. think quality over quantity.
let your guests be guests: to me, asking your guests to bring their own food is poor etiquette. unless it’s a potluck (which is also a great idea!), specify on the invite that they don’t need to bring anything. most guests know that the etiquette is to bring a bottle for themselves, and even one for the host.
prepare ahead: this is the most important tip i can give you. there’s nothing worse than working from early morning on the day of your party (because you’ll be exhausted and not feeling so social by the end of it!).
- in the days leading up to your soiree, make a list of what you’ll be serving. there’s no need for a sit down dinner if you don’t have the space or resources. cocktail parties are informal and i love creating a thoughtful and diverse selection of tapas that are party friendly. finger foods are great crowd pleasers; i love using skewers for meats and veggies along with assorted items you think your guests will enjoy. 5-6 different dishes and a dessert will be sufficient.
- make any items you can the day before; this cuts the work in half the day of.
- stock your bar with wine and beer at the very minimum (again, most will bring their own drink, but some may not).
- if you don’t have enough glasses, plates or serving dishes, consider renting some – just make sure you give the rental company a few days notice.
timing is everything: if you’re hosting a cocktail party, schedule it after dinner hours so guests don’t come famished. give yourself enough time to get glammed up and don’t forget to eat something before your guests arrive! no one likes a cranky host.
special touches: i always want my guests to feel special and spoiled – it’s always the little things that set the tone!
- creating a house cocktail for the night is a fun icebreaker and conversation starter. for our last party, my boyfriend created a special key lime pie martini and our guests loved it.
- non-drinkers are people too. have sparkling and still water along with assorted pops and juice on hand.
- consider sending your guests home with a little memento or party favour. our guests left our last party with a personal jar of homemade salted caramel sauce and it was really fun to see them delighted with the little gift.
set the mood: create a playlist for the night. if it’s a holiday party, load up your ipod with festive tunes, and if it’s not, i love the chill vibe of hotel costes but whatever you like is just fine. a dimly lit room full of clusters of candles is key to setting the atmosphere – tealights work really well for this, just make sure they are in individual holders and are unscented. having fresh flowers around the room also adds a touch of luxury.
two hours before showtime: throw the wines and beer in the fridge and make sure you have plenty of ice – you can always buy some if your trays can’t keep up. if your fridge is too full and if you have a patio, use it as a walk out fridge (i’ve done this many times when it’s cold enough out!). lastly, pour yourself a drink, not only will it help you relax, but you deserve it!