Best Entertaining Tips- When It’s Time to Gather Again

In a pre-Covid world, Chris and I loved to entertain…

Many of us are known for our specialties. Mine happens to be the cheeseboard. I can whip one up at the drop of a hat if someone unexpectedly drops in. A couple of cheese varieties, fruit, crackers, gorgeous Caspari cocktail napkins and voila! It takes no time to create and makes a beautiful presentation.

My husband, Chris, is always solicitous of our guests. Immediately taking coats, he will invite our visitors into the living room while he mixes their favorite cocktail.

As the vaccine is becoming more readily available and warmer weather is settling in, many people are starting to think about safely entertaining again. It’s been awhile since we’ve gathered so our hosting skills may be a bit rusty.

We turned to some of our Mystical Readers for their top tips to make guests feel welcomed…

“As someone who likes to add a touch of glam to even the simplest or casual parties, I always use a large hammered metal bin full of ice to keep the wine and beer cold instead of a cooler. And I always have a bottle of bubbly on ice so even a casual BBQ can still be fancy.” -Tracy L.

Tracy’s hammered metal drink tub

“My best suggestion for successful entertaining is making everyone feel welcomed and at ease. I believe it’s important to greet each person at the door as they arrive and thank them for coming… letting them know how much it means to me that they came.” -Kiska A.

“I think background music is a key component to a good dinner party. It’s a classier affair if you can eliminate commercials, so don’t rely on the radio.  A Spotify premium subscription or a paid Pandora plan can keep your speakers playing nice music while avoiding the latest ad for Bob’s Discount Furniture. The tricky part is appealing to everyone’s taste…if you care about that. I play my own list and you are welcome to it here:

-Tom L.

“I love a garden salad but I don’t always love some ingredients that people include in their salad. I can recall having to circumvent a lot of black olives that my hostess had included. Unless I know my guests’ preferences, I place the greens on a large platter surrounded by avocado slices, onions, etc. This way guests can avoid certain items if they so choose. The platter looks very attractive surrounded by these various items.” -Eileen M.

“I love collecting unique wine glasses as a useful souvenir when traveling. When serving guests at a dinner party, this has become an excellent way to keep track of glasses without having to use wine tags that slide up and down the stem with each sip. They also are a great conversation piece and brings back memories of fun places I’ve visited!” -Holly H.

Holly’s travel wine glasses

“I tend to invite friends who don’t necessarily know each other! To help make connections and spark conversations, I will use place cards at each table setting with a quote or joke or statement to share (related to dinner theme – i.e. Irish blessings for St Patrick’s day) Always promotes good discussions and lots of laughs.” -Jennifer J.

“The secret to my success is staggering: As a solo hostess, I stagger arrival times for all guests so that I have a chance to greet them, catch up for a few minutes and serve their beverage of choice before the next guests arrive. They all feel special!” -Mary Lou J.

“Treat your guests as family and be sure to include everyone in conversation, especially those that are a little less gregarious.” -Rob P.

“Whenever I have guests over, I love to use my grandmothers English Strafford “Forget Me Not” dishes. The beautiful heirloom pieces add a delicate pop of color and I can use them in addition to my everyday white dishes. I always grab some fresh flowers from the market as a final touch around the house.” -Brylye D.

Brylye’s Grandmother’s china

“Don’t make the time of arrival be the time you are serving dinner or lunch. Let your guests arrive and get comfortable, make conversation, and have a nibble of an appetizer. This way, your guests don’t feel rushed and you aren’t worried about food not being hot at a certain time if they are late.” -Nancy G.

“Presentation is as important as the quality and preparation of the meal. It will make your guests know that you going above and beyond to make their evening enjoyable.” -Robert S.

“Set your expectations for the evening the same way you would going to your favorite restaurant. Check if everyone’s needs are being met. Offer fresh glasses of water, so your guests don’t have to ask, and—above all else—constantly freshen up the restroom.” -Thomas D.

“Regarding entertaining etiquette, I try to anticipate the needs of our guests and, if planning a dinner party, I never place couples to sit next to each other, but place them with different people. It creates interest and an opportunity to make connections, whether for business or personal. For the host and hostess, always try to have everything in place 30 minutes before guests arrive. This gives you time to relax, have a beverage, and address that last minute detail that may have forgotten.” -Anne S.

“Because I have a busy work schedule, I always start my planning far in advance. I am known for pasting sticky notes to myself as reminders. I find this invaluable. For me, time management is the key as I never know when I might get called into work. Also, I always check with my guests to see if they have any food restrictions and shop as early as possible. This reduces any last-minute stress and makes entertaining more enjoyable.” -Kathy A.

“In my opinion, entertaining should be fun and not something to be taken too seriously! My advice is to try to do things to avoid stress. For example, if you aren’t a big cook, the day of an event is not the day to try a new recipe. Stick with what you’re comfortable with or even buy some frozen/pre-made apps at your local market. Have food and drinks handy and easy to replenish so you can do what’s most important, enjoy everyone’s company!” -Megan J.

Courtesy of Cait Wroblewski

“I love feeling organized when entertaining in my home. I make lists when planning to have over friends and family. I start with a headcount, what I have in mind for a theme or menu, and, from there, I create my shopping lists. I shop a day or two before the party for the flowers, appetizers, dinner and dessert items, as well as the beverages. Then I collect the platters, dinnerware, and glasses to begin my set-up. Waking up the morning of, I feel confident that I have everything I need to methodically go through the day, creating my dishes and making my home a warm and inviting place to be. I try to keep to a schedule so that everything is done at least an hour before guests arrive so that I can get myself ready to welcome them!” -Joanie J.





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