Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Entertaining 101: The Large Groups and how not to sweat through your shirt


I have been writing a series of posts like this in my head for quite some time and have finally come to put finger to computer and throw my ten cents into the bowl about entertaining tips.
Tis the season and all that.

There are many articles in many magazines and many blogs about the tips to entertaining. From large groups to intimate gatherings of 4, there are always things we can do as a host(ess) to prepare and throughout our events to make things go smoothly. 

In this post we are going to deal with entertaining the large sit down group.
The large open house crowd and intimate dinner are to follow.

Trevor and I do quite a bit of entertaining especially this time of year.
We recently had a gathering of 18 at our home and are coming up on another of double that. I shot some photos of our home arrangement prior to the guests arriving.

As bloggers we are so used to snooping in gorgeously decorated homes and appreciating the effort that goes into our decor, and food and have to remember that not everyone lives like that. When we first started to have people over at the beginning of our life together, I can remember some looking around and asking if they could sit on the sofa.
As if thinking we didn't actually live in our space. Making people comfortable is half the battle.

Bringing me to some of my first party prep points

1) Plan the Menu
 

at least a few days ahead. this is much easier with small gatherings. when you are entertaining large groups it is really hard and stressful to pull together in 1 night.

give yourself time to do the groceries, figure out allergies that need to be minded. have at least a few items on your menu that can be made ahead and frozen, or made ahead and just whipped in the oven for warming. 

2) Make a Playlist

 you do not need a massive stereo system to have background music. most people have the simplest of music right in their tvs. if you have satellite, find the music channels and pick a lighter one for the background or even the party channel for lively bunches. getting more advanced put together a list on your phone, computer and stream to your stereo. remember the crowd you are entertaining and keep it slightly upbeat so the yawning doesn't start at 8:00. set it on repeat and forget it for the night. 

3) Lighten the load

i am a self confessed pillow addict. i love them, sit on them, squish them under my feet and head. they are decorative and functional in our home but not everyone wants to move them to sit down. to save yourself aggravation during your soiree, wander around your home before hand and remove any excessive pillows ( i remove 11 just in our living room and left only 3 on the sofa), and table decor that will not allow your guests to sit comfortably without putting everything on the floor. find a closet that won't be opened all night and stuff em in.
coffee tables and end tables should all have comfortable room to set drinks. lose the coasters unless absolutely necessary. people will get paranoid about not using them, or the coasters stick to glasses and smash on the floor and then people start leaving their drinks in random places instead. i don't mean throw all your decor in the closet, i mean seriously look who's writing this but give space for elbows, drinks and swinging hand talkers.

remove any spare parts in the bathroom that your guests will be using. put the hair dryers, straighteners, cords and toothbrushes away. you aren't hiding your day to day life but you also aren't asking for anyone to get caught in your toothpaste when they reach for the soap or hand towels.

try to sneak into the bathroom a few times a night to refresh the hand towel, especially in the winter when germs are plentiful. a clean dry towel every few hours will minimize the spread.

4) Rearrange the furniture

we have a sectional in the middle of our living room that can't be moved but i drag the large comfy chairs from our dining room into the room, move the coffee table out a bit, add  sitting stools and pull the occasional chairs from the walls into the room. put footstools away so they aren't tripped over when people are shuffling around





5) Set up a drink zone

our kitchen is not large enough to support people moving in and out for drinks and for me to shuffle food out and not dump the cheese sauce down someones pants.
we are able to remove the doors from our laundry room and turn our washer and dryer into a bar. we have all of the glassware, ice buckets, ice machine, buckets of drinks, openers etc laid out and easily accessible for people to be served and help themselves. a simple table against a wall can achieve this just as well.

speaking of drinks. when you are making out your guest list, go through your memory rolodex and try to remember what most of your guests drink. although you cannot hope to please everyone, you do want to try to remember most, as drinking water the whole night from lack of option is something people will remember. stock up on pop/soda when it goes on sale. choose if you are serving mixed drinks, beer, wine or maybe a signature cocktail.

  



  
6) The Food Lines

this dinner was being served buffet style which i am generally not a huge fan of but, it is necessary in many instances to keep the food from being frigid and allows people to choose their portions and selections.

plates and cutlery were setup in one zone and the line moved around to the dining room. i used my cutlery holders with folded up napkins to make it easier to pickup your utensils and not try to balance plates, forks and knives etc.

everyday items were taken off the counter such as blenders and tea kettles to leave more room for food platters

7) Light it up

is your get together at night or during the day? are there timers on your lights? wander around prior to people coming and turn on the lights and timers you will want on during your event. you don't want to be asking people to move when it is getting dark or leaning over people to get to outlets especially when you are also trying to prep a dinner

TURN OFF THE OVERHEAD FLUORESCENTS IF YOU HAVE THEM!
many people get headaches from cfl and fluorescent lights and they also cast a horrible glare on peoples skin.

LIGHT THE CANDLES
nothing sets an intimate mood like candles at a gathering. try to light candles that will last the length of your party. pillars in sturdy hurricanes, 8 hour tealights in holders or votives.
keep the scent to one only. choose what you are aiming for with smell that isn't overpowering and go for it. multiple strong scents (no matter how much you love them) can cause sensory overload and again headaches for guests.
if flames aren't your thing, almost all stores that sell any kind of decor ie. Target sell great battery operated candles which give simulated ambiance without the threat of combustion, especially if little people are around.

the scent rule ends in the dining room. unscented only, NO EXCEPTIONS. you worked hard on your food, don't let it have competition

taper candles can be a not so smart idea with large gatherings as the aforementioned people that aren't exposed to a lot of decor can now pose a fire hazed with regards to tippy candles or perhaps you just have a klutzy guest. either way, nothing kills the mood like a fire.




8) SET THE TABLE, remove the frills

our table needed to seat at least 11 people and then others were scattered around the main floor. not ideal but we don't have a spare dining table for the once a year huge sit down meal. in the dining room i removed our regular antique grainsack table runner to prevent ruin and added a fancy paper runner by kitchen papers. it looks great and can just go in the recycling when done. i removed our regular large table arrangement and made a skinny ornament chain to run down the center of the table. it lacks height allowing conversation flow and isn't too wide allowing people to pass and share food.
short tealights candles were added in vintage teacups, trophies and creamers to add a subtle glow. be creative.






9) Make Space

this one probably should have been at the top but who wants this to be the first photo on a post. make space in a main closet prior to guest arrival with plenty of hangers for coats. move some of your own coats to a bedroom closet for the day and allow guests to hang their items and retrieve them at the end of the party without hunting through a huge pile of coats and dumping others garments on the floor in the process

  


10) Most Important Tips

 you made it to the end and hopefully your shirt is not covered in sweat from running around like a moron because you were so organized prior to even opening the door. pat yourself on the back

go put on your lipstick on and remember the most important things when entertaining any group big or small

PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY, people whom you do not regularly see are not there to see the top of your head no matter how well styled. it can wait. enjoy your company and answer the messages at 3 am just for fun. take your instagram photos and upload them later.

BE PRESENT. Although this runs along the line of put your phone away. As a hostess there is so much to be done when there are people invading your home. Get yourself a wingman or two. I am fortunate to have a wonderfully helpful husband and an amazing tag team mom at family gatherings. My brother and father can also man a bar like nobodies business. Have someone that can help get food out and make drinks. People want to meet and greet with the hostess and not have to hunt you down in front of the stove the whole night.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY. Wearing a form fitting dress or too many layers of clothing can make standing in front of the oven and running to the door feel like a bad day on the elliptical. Be comfortable in your clothes, wear your hair up if that is called for to keep it out of your face and food. Sticky hair, sweaty faces and stripping may not make the memory you want people to take home with them.

It seems like a lot of prep work but, keep in mind the more you prep the more you enjoy your evening full of conversation, laughter and hopefully great non-burnt food. Expecting yourself to pull off a huge shindig in one day and little prep with work, family, kids, and extracurricular activities is unreasonable and adds too much stress to shoulders already sagging from day to day life.



Go grab a glass of wine and party hard, and hope no one finds the closet with the pillows lol.

Stay tuned for the extra tips on running an open house




Meg




joining
french country cottage
common ground 
craftberry bush 
jennifer rizzo 
a stroll thru life 

9 comments:

  1. Ah - OMG I so needed this today! We are having our first party in our new, still semi-under-construction (yes, we're crazy) house over the holidays and I'm freaked! Everyone we invited is coming (how does that happen?!) and I have been looking for tips on hosting big parties. Thank you for all the info - especially the tip of having the washer/dryer double as a bar - that is brilliant!

    Thanks again
    ~Amy
    www.lifeonhillst.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hi amy
      i wish you the best of luck. everyone is probably coming because they want to spend time with you and celebrate your new home. they will remember the wonderful time they had and not so much the little extra dust from construction. have a great holiday

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  2. Great tips and most important of all, have fun!

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  3. Very lovely instruction manual for success! So many practical tips and pretty touches.

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  4. Wonderful tips! Love your blog and following along now. Happy Holidays!

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  5. This is my first visit to your blog. Excellent suggestions. We are hosting a Christmas Eve buffet. My table is decorated. The plates and silverware are ready, as is the food. My motto is: If it can't be done ahead of time, you won't have it at my house :) Monday, I'm cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming. Tuesday I'm celebrating my daughter's 39th birthday and waiting for my guests to arrive.

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  6. These are great tips, and I'm pinning to my entertaining board. There are some terrific new-to-me ideas here. Thanks!

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  7. Wonderful tips and post! I get so nervous when hosting a large gathering, I'm going to have to pin this one. :) I think your home and style is so amazing BTW. Thanks for sharing, and have a Merry Christmas!
    Kimberlee

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  8. Great ideas.

    We live in a tiny cottage and often host parties for 60. I have to do a lot of thinking about where people will "stand". Thankfully we live in a temperate climate and can have a lot of people outside.

    It will just be my husband and out 2 kids on Christmas morning, but with all the presents to unwrap, even before reading your tips, I had decided to take the coffee table/bench into our bedroom for Christmas morning.

    Have yourself a Merry little Christmas

    ReplyDelete

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