Entertaining guests can be really enjoyable…and really stressful. Most hosts spend half their night running around trying to make sure everyone else is having a great time and miss out on all the fun stuff themselves.
Opt for grazeable nibbles
Guests love to graze, so create a buffet that can be picked for hours on end without needing reheating or refrigeration. It can still be very elegant while also being low maintenance.
Great options include cheese, crackers, fancy flavoured popcorns, candied nuts, and lots of fruit. Dips and spreads should be served chilled if you think they’ll last more than an hour and any hot foods can be served in a slow cooker to keep them at a safe temperature without you having to fuss.
Encourage guests to just walk in
Put a little sign on the door that reminds guests there’s no need to knock and they can come right in so you’re not spending the first half of your evening running to the door. Make sure to clearly label the entry way so they know where to put coats, shoes, etc.
Bonus: If they’re welcome to leave their shoes on, often expected at a more formal affair, say so with a sign.
This helps guests make their own decisions about what to try and what to skip. You don’t want to be answering endless questions about the evening’s menu all night.
Keep the décor simple
Edible decor makes your life easier and doesn’t require any extra work or money on your part. Try a Holiday Herb arrangements instead of flowers.
Create a DIY cocktail bar
Bartending is a full-time job so instead of getting stuck at the bar yourself, empower guests to mix up their own delicious drink. Choose one signature cocktail and simply put out the ingredients with a framed recipe for inspiration. Then they can just mix away.
Tip: Keep your ice in a colander so the excess water can melt into the bowl below.
Empower guests to help themselves
It’s normal for guests to bring their own wine, beer, and mixed drinks. Avoid trips to the kitchen by foreseeing their needs … a corkscrew, wine opener, and cocktail garnishes should all be made easily available.
Keep everyone hydrated
Fill pretty pitchers with water and set them out around the party with glasses so you’re not constantly being asked to top people up.
Be your first party guest
This may sound strange, but a great way to instantly put your guests at ease is to have a drink in hand and dip into the food first, when they first arrive. This somehow gives them ‘permission’ to enjoy and also ensures that you as the host are fed and ‘watered’ since you have a big night ahead of you.
Encourage guests to clean up after themselves
Avoid chasing after cocktail plates and empty glasses by putting out a pretty dish bin and adding a subtle sign nudging guests to drop their used items inside.
Consider trash collection
It’s not glamorous but trash solutions are almost always an afterthought at a big event. Be sure to put out a bin in a conspicuous spot to help guests clean up after themselves. Also, consider a small decorative box on the corner of your buffet table where guests can dispose of small items like napkins, toothpicks, and cocktail forks.
Spread the love and the leftovers
No one wants to get stuck cleaning up and putting away mountains of food at the end of the evening. When things start winding down, put out some takeout containers and allow guests to take a bite for the road.
Remind guests to get home safely
Sometimes it’s awkward to talk to guests about their plans for getting home safely but it’s your responsibility to ensure everyone does. Put out an ‘arrive alive’ sign with a taxi number on it by the bar.