Can you feel the stress rising just thinking about all the entertaining you have to do this holiday season? We get it. Entertaining has its difficult moments, even for people who love doing it. With a few adjustments, you can make entertaining a bit simpler and less stressful. Here are a few ideas.
1. Set Your Priorities
There’s a difference between entertaining and hospitality. Entertaining is something you do. Hospitality is something you offer. Hospitality takes entertaining one step further. It puts a very personal touch on entertaining. This is probably why entertaining is so stressful for you—you try to put the personal touch on everything. So it’s time to sort out your priorities and focus on what’s most important to you.
Determine the things that you really love doing for your guests. Which parts of entertaining are your favorites? Which do you spend the most time lovingly preparing? Now find a way to make this your priority and let the other things go.
Some pour their whole souls into the food and hire a maid to do the cleaning. Others create a beautiful table with a handmade centerpiece and throw a potluck. Still others create a detailed lineup of fun for the evening and are just happy there are clean towels in the bathroom. Figure out what you want to devote your time and energy to and give the rest to someone else.
2. Get Ahead
Getting ready ahead of time will allow you to enjoy time with your guests instead of rushing about last minute.
Spreading things out over a week or two makes it much less stressful. There are always a few last minute things to be done, but getting most of the work out of the way beforehand allows you to focus on your guests.
Find recipes that you can freeze so it’s a game of reheating instead of cooking. Once a room is clean, make it off limits so no one messes it up again. Set aside clean (and ironed if you must) linens so they are ready to set out the day of your event. A little planning goes a long way.
3. Plan Like There’s No Tomorrow
The holidays are a very busy time and finding a day to hold your party can be difficult. Start planning early and be flexible. Some of the best and most well-attended parties and dinners are held after the hullaballoo of the big day settles.
If you are not a list person, now’s the time to change your tune. Planning takes lots of lists: guest list, menu, things to do . . . Keep all the information organized so you can easily access it and you’ll find the planning will go much smoother.
Map out the floor plan for your party. Figure out what will go where and who will do what so you’re not trying to dig your card table out of the garage in your best party dress. It also helps to think about guest flow. Everything from where you’ll store coats, to where everyone will sit after dinner is worth thinking through now so you can ensure your guests’ comfort.
Plan for un-plannable. Ok, so un-plannable isn’t a word, but the point is to prepare for mishaps and the unexpected. Have extras on hand in case someone unexpected shows up. Get an accident kit ready for when the red wine ends up on your carpet. Have a backup white elephant gift. Just expect that some things won’t work the way you want them to and when they do happen, you’ll be able to handle them with grace.
4. Don’t Helicopter Host
You’ve probably heard about the evils of helicopter parenting. Same thing here only with your guests. We know that playing hostess is a very busy job, but you have to step out of those shoes once the party begins.
Fluffing the pillows and picking things up is for before the party, not during. It makes guests uncomfortable.
It’s great to make sure everyone’s glasses are full, but if you are too busy to actually interact with your friends and family, you’ve lost sight of what entertaining is all about. Don’t forget that holiday entertaining is about being together more than it’s about food, wine, or games.
Conquer the difficult moments that come with entertaining. Simplify your approach and both you and your guests will be able to enjoy your holiday party this season.