Clarification of Answer by
10 Jan 2004 18:05 PST
All right, curiously, let's try this again! :)
There are tons of resources out there for easy and enjoyable hosting,
and I've sifted out some of the more interesting and creative
suggestions I came across. Since a plethora of articles on effective
party hosting are published around the holidays, some of my search
strategies involved the term "holiday" in an effort to find tips which
are also applicable to year-round celebrations.
As Nina Simonds writes in "No-labour party" at Waitrose.com,
"Successful entertaining needn't be traumatic...It's not just about
sure your guests have a wonderful time; it's equally important for the
host to relax and join the party." Without further ado, then, here are
some tips and resources for easy entertaining (note that some apply
specifically to dinner parties).
I'll begin with a succinct piece of advice from the above-mentioned article:
"Always invite at least one guest who enjoys doing the dishes."
Simple stated, don't be afraid to accept help or delegate tasks.
Here's more on delegation from "30 Food & Entertaining Tips to Help
You Make It Through the Holidays":
"If friends or relatives offer help, by all means let them. At a
recent dinner party, I realized at the last minute that I?d forgotten
to make the dressing for the salad so I enlisted one of the male
guests who was soon happily showing off his prowess with a chef?s
knife as he minced shallots, garlic, and fresh herbs from my garden
for a dynamite dressing for which he was still receiving raves on as
he and the other guests departed at the end of the evening."
Still on the theme of delegation, Vickie McCorkendale has this to say
in her article "Relaxed Thanksgiving":
"Assign tasks to guests according to their ability and talents ('Your
uncle is a florist isn?t he?' 'Do you bake?' 'You know wines, don?t
Now that you've memorized lesson one - delagation :) - here are a
number of great resources for you to check out; I've highlighted the
best tips offered by each and provided the URLs should you wish to
investigate these sites further.
Christmas Party Ideas by Lillian Vernon
A tip to help take pressure off the hostess: "Ask guests with special
talents to entertain. An aspiring magician can perform magic, someone
who has a great voice can read "A Christmas Carol," and someone who
likes to sing can lead the caroling." (Of course these sideshows can
be modified for non-Christmas celebrations).
Bonnie Stern's entertaining basics
Signature tip: "Play music that soothes people. I recommend that
people put their music on while they?re cooking, as well as while
because it?s something that calms you down a little bit."
"Whole Foods Market: Holiday Entertaining Guide" offers another note
on pre-party relaxation:
"Take a moment to relax - aromatherapy candles and lotions can lend a
calming note to your kitchen atmosphere."
Entertaining with Ease: Throwing a convenient party
Signature tip: "Have a baked potato or ice cream bar. Your guests will
have a great time putting together a favorite concoction and all you
have to do is put out the options."
Timesaving tips and tricks to help you save energy for celebrating
Signature tips from contributors:
"I try to get all the serving out of the way in the first hour of the
party and then allow myself to relax and enjoy. I love to entertain,
but if I don?t use this strategy then I don't enjoy the gathering as
"I hire help. I usually have several holiday parties with over 50
guests at each one. I have them catered by a local woman and hire two
of my babysitters to serve and clean up."
"I get guests their first drink and after that, they help themselves
from a self-serve bar area."
Last-minute party cleaning - Pillsbury Kitchen basics
"Pick up only the big things.
"Place fresh flowers in a few spots to add color and detract from the
'light' cleaning effort.
"Really clean only the bathroom.
"Take a 'big picture' look at the party locale and spruce it up
accordingly--vacuum the rug, dust, mow the grass, sweep the patio.
"Arrange to put your pets in rooms away from your guests.
"Clean and refill ice cube trays with fresh water."
More on priority cleaning from Sloan Adams at perfectentertaining.com:
"Light some candles or set our some potpourri. Adding some gentle
scent to the room will make everything seem cleaner, and hide any mild
smells you might have. If you have stronger smells to address, like
your wet and smelly dog or last night's onion rings, use a
neutralizing air freshener sparingly.
"Isolate those areas you will not be using. If you are not going to be
using a room, or even a section of a room, forget about it. Close any
doors that you can to prevent viewing of unwanted areas.
"Remove clutter. Grab a laundry basket, bag, or other large container
and just toss (gently if items are breakable) everything that does not
belong in any room your guests will enter or pass through into the
container. You can sort it all out later, but right now the important
thing to do is to remove it. Hide the basket in a blocked off room.
"Once you know what area(s) you will be doing the major part of the
entertaining in, give a good, but quick cleaning of the areas your
guests will be in direct contact with. Wash down all the table
surfaces, dust any chairs, clean any especially dirty surfaces, and
tackle any problem areas. In my house tackling the problem areas in my
living room would definitely mean straightening my slipcovers and
removing the cat hair from my cat's favorite chair.
"Attack the bathroom. There is nothing worse than subjecting a guest
to a dirty bathroom. Put away all cosmetics, toothbrushes, and any
other clutter that builds up on a day to day basis. Take a damp towel
and wipe over all of the surfaces, including the floor if necessary,
to remove any stray hairs, dust, and dirt. Quickly spray the sink and
sponge clean to remove toothpaste residue or other grime. Make sure
the bathroom is well equipped with extra toilet paper, hand towels,
"Pick up and spot clean areas your guests might enter or pass through.
This should include the foyer, kitchen, or rooms you cannot block off
from the main area you will be entertaining in. Hide as much as you
can, and just take a quick look for areas or things that are
noticeably dirty. Smudged mirrors, fingerprinted walls, muddy spots,
or dog sized dust bunnies should be taken care of.
"Dim the lighting. This might seem like and odd thing to include on a
list of cleaning steps, but closing the blinds or drapes, or making
sure the lighting is not over bright will actually help you hide a
multitude of sins. Bright sunlight shows dust and grime like a
spotlight and is a slightly dirty room's worst enemy.
"Assemble your food and drink. Get your food ready and on your serving
plates. Lay out your dishes and other service items. If possible,
transport everything to the main entertaining area so that your
kitchen can remain hidden."
The author justifies her approach:
"It seems horrible at the time to be doing such a haphazard job, but
this list will make sure you cover the most important things that your
guests would have noticed the most. A little dust here or there has
never killed anyone, so just relax and enjoy your company once they
arrive. Lively conversation and good company is actually the best way
to prevent anyone from noticing any gaps in your quick clean up."
Style at Home: Ten tips for the holiday hostess
"Set the table before your guests? arrival ? it will make them feel
expected and welcome and saves you last-minute stress. If you can?t
set the table ahead of time, use a large plastic storage bin to
assemble the things you plan to use. Even inspect and iron the linen
then place it in the bin so that, if need be, someone else can set up
without much direction."
"To minimize mess and allow more time to mingle, prepare any garnishes
ahead of time and wash up whatever you can as you go. Foods that keep
well can be made beforehand, placed in serving containers and then
reheated, if necessary, in the microwave when needed."
"Make sure the dishwasher, garbage can and recycle bin are empty
before company arrives."
"Prioritize. If you enjoy making pies but hate making salad dressing,
buy a bottle of dressing and devote your time to pastry. The party
will still be a success and you?ll have more fun."
"Cheat if you like. Buy the dessert, buy frozen appetizers, buy it all
? just be sure it tastes great. If some or all of the food is bought
it should at least be as good as homemade. And remember; don?t
apologize for buying the food."
"To make serving the food a little easier, display platters of cold
foods on tables or counters where guests can help themselves as they
chat. Every 20 or 30 minutes, prepare a platter of hot snacks and
serve them around so that the food can be enjoyed while it?s fresh."
Style at home - Do Come In
"Mix and match. Buy some prepared foods like dips, which can be easily
replenished throughout the evening.
"Set up the night before. Arrange your table in advance, so the only
thing left to do on the day of the event is set out food."
A number of sites suggest going with a potluck party, minimizing the
amount of time you'll spend slaving over a hot stove. I'd also suggest
a strategy that works well for me - invite a close friend to come over
a few hours early to help you prepare the party/dinner party food. The
company, conversation and a shared bottle of wine will help you stay
relaxed in those final critical hours. I also use the personal creed
of "Compromise, prioritize, delegate, eliminate" when overwhelmed:
Lower my unrealistic expectations, tackle the big stuff first, ask for
help and just forget about the things that have become more burdensome
"shoulds" than genuine "wants."
Finally, here's a real common-sense lesson from Vivian Rindik-Wiener's
"If I was going to feel relaxed, I needed to be in a situation that I
could relax in. That meant, for me, only inviting people that I felt
comfortable being around. Why invite people into my home that put me
on edge? It just didn't make sense. So, my criteria for an invite
became, 'How would I feel if this person just happened to drop by one
day? Would I be embarrassed, or angry, or feel the need to make
excuses about my appearance, or my home?' If I answered yes to this
initial question, obviously, this person made me feel ill at ease. If
I was going to have a good time with my guests, they had to be people
that I could be myself around."
Here are a few more resources which offer more run-of-the-mill tips,
but which you might nonetheless find useful:
Holiday Hospitality: Four Steps to Easy Entertaining
Summer tips for fun and easy entertaining
Take the pressure out of entertaining
I used the following search strings in my quest:
holiday party stress
fun holiday entertaining
low no stress entertaining
fun party hosting
radical party hosting tips
party hosting advice
Please let me know if you need further clarification - happy hosting!