Quick Recipes and Easy

Master the Art of Stress Free Entertaining

When I reckon back on my childhood, I don’t have any memories of my parents hosting a party other than the occasional holiday. I don’t even remember them having any friends over for dinner. In my adult life, I have come to learn that the thought of playing hostess is very stressful for my mother. I have also learned that she is not alone in feeling this way.

When I got married and set up my own home, I found that I loved entertaining friends and family, but with no motherly advice to work with, I didn’t have a clue whether or not I was “doing it right.” What I figured out through trial and error is that there really is no right or incorrect way to entertain, but there are a few things I have learned that can turn entertaining from a stress-inducing nightmare into an enjoyable event.

The single most vital thing I have learned is that the comfort of your guests is key. At a party, the guests take their cues from the host or hostess. If the host is frantic and obviously stressed, you can bet that their guests will not feel comfortable. Therefore, you must remain cool, cool and collected in order to make your guests feel at ease. How can you do that and still attend to all of the necessary details? The answer is prior plotting. Here is how you can plot the perfect party every time.
The first step is to plot the type of party you want to have: Do you want a cocktail party or a dinner party? Do you want the meal to be formal or casual? Will the food be served at the table or will you offer a buffet? The answers to these types of questions will help you determine the number of people to invite, as well as who those people should be. For example, you wouldn’t want to invite acquaintances that do not get along well if the party will be more intimate and there will not be many other people there for them to interact with. The answers to these questions will also help you choose upon the menu later. Start a party journal and write the answers to these questions in it.

The next step is to plot the guest list. Invitations should be mailed approximately three weeks prior to the date of the party. Write down the names of all invitees in your party journal, leaving a space for their RSVP. This way you will know at a glance how many guests you are expecting. Choose your RSVP deadline carefully, making sure to allow enough time to properly plot the menu. Keep in mind that many people overlook RSVP deadlines. If your deadline passes and there are people you have not heard from, consider your situation in deciding what to do. If your party is a more casual open-house type event, simply plot for everyone to attend to make sure you have enough for all who show up. But, if your party is a more formal affair and you need to know how many places to set at the table, you may want to consider following up with a telephone call. If you choose to call, keep the conversation casual and upbeat. Do not offend your guests by pointing out that they missed the deadline to respond. Simply try to ascertain the answer to your question through casual conversation.

Once you know how many guests you are expecting, the next thing you want to do is plot the menu. When plotting the menu, try to choose as many dishes that can be prepared ahead of time as possible. Choose dishes that fit well with the theme of your party. If you are having a cocktail party you will only need appetizers and you will want to choose foods that do not require a plate or utensils to eat. This will allow your guests the ability to mingle easily without trying to juggle a plate in one hand and a drink in the other. If you are offering a sit down meal you may opt for more elegant dishes. Keep in mind that you can still achieve elegance without spending days in the kitchen. Many of these dishes can be prepared in advance and some are really better that way. Write down your menu selections in your party journal and make note of any preparation instructions that will help you determine when to get started on each dish.

Now that you have your menu established you can start plotting the set up for the party. Will you need to set the table and, if so, for how many? Which tablecloth, napkins, dishes and centerpiece would you like to use? Do you need to buy disposable cocktail plates and napkins? Write all of this information in your journal so that all of the thinking is done ahead of time.

The final step is the party calendar. Start one week prior to the event and write down any tasks that can be accomplished each day leading up to the day of the event. The thought is to leave as small as possible for the day of the party, allowing yourself time to relax, get dressed and get excited for your guests to arrive without running around trying to get everything done at the last minute. The calendar should include things such as shopping for paper goods and decorations, grocery shopping, house cleaning, setting the table, and menu preparations. If you do a small bit each day you will be ready for your party before you know it.

All of this plotting and list making may seem like a lot of work, but once you realize how much fun it can be to really attend your own parties, rather than slaving away in the kitchen while all of your guests are enjoying themselves you will never throw a party any other way. Start plotting your next party today.

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