13 Entertaining Essentials

This list is finally here! I’ve been wanting to share my picks for entertaining essentials with y’all. Sean and I entertain a lot around here. Couple that with living in the South and it’s safe to say we’ve got this down to a science at this point.

Here are all my must-haves for seamless entertaining. The best part? All of these essentials are inexpensive.

the secret to successful entertaining is not having the fanciest, finest china – it’s having a collected look where everything looks amazing together.

And I’ll show you how to do just that in this post – and you DON’T have to spend a fortune doing it. Presentation is everything.

cloth napkins in a drawer

1. Dinnerware

This is an obvious one but it needs to be mentioned. My trick with dinnerware and serveware? Buy all your pieces in ONE color. For me, it’s white (or some call it whiteware). I chose a set of white dishes and various sets of white serveware. This way, the table looks totally coordinated, and it works no matter the holiday or season.

You might be thinking; but that’s so boring! And I can tell you it’s really not. You can dress up the table with candles and centerpieces and patterned cloth napkins depending on your mood.

I also love to throw in a festive plate or two to the mix, such as pretty transferware. Or, use some interesting seasonal mugs to hold party straws, cutlery or coffee stirrers. Even better if this item is something thrifted or passed down to you. I love incorporating that kind of stuff as it can be conversation starter.

Santa Mugs in a Cupboard for Entertaining

Walmart and Target have fantastic dinnerware sets for 12 for not a lot of money.

2. Platters, Serveware, Casseroles

These are essential for serving food or setting up a buffet style dinner. I’m talking about large platters for a turkey or large entrees and big bowls when serving a big salad or pasta dish (or a ton of chips for Cinco de Mayo or Football Games).

Also having one nice, large 13×9 casserole dish is helpful for serving lasagnas and yes, casseroles, and can go from oven to table without any fuss.

White serving dishes on a shelf in a cupboard

You will get so much use out of these items. I have a collection of white serveware that I keep in my sideboard. I pull them out even for casual dinners with just the four of us. And as I stated before – everything matches and looks coordinated because it’s all the same color dishware.

3. Cloth Napkins

Yes, you can buy the really nice paper napkins. But cloth napkins are so much more elegant and they are better for the environment. There is something about using a cloth napkin that makes you feel extra special.

Cloth Napkins for Entertaining

Homegoods, Walmart and Target are my go-to stores for pretty cloth napkins. But you can also make your own napkins (no sew) if you are up to it.

4. Chargers

I prefer chargers over placemats anymore. Placemats get crumbled and shrink and look dingy after a while. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me. I love a charger though. You only need to invest in one set. These versatile galvanized or woven ones go with any holiday or season and can really dress up your table.

5. Salt and Pepper Shakers

It’s best not to assume our food is absolute perfection and guests don’t need salt and pepper. Unless you are a professional chef. Keep a lovely set out on the table and your guests will feel right at home.

6. Small Pitcher or Gravy Boat

I have a confession. I hate gravy. The color is off putting and I just can’t. But I won’t deny my guests. Sean said gravy is almost his favorite thing at Thanksgiving, behind the turkey itself.

Here’s the thing though. You only need one gravy boat or even a small pitcher will do. You can think outside the box on this one. Either one can hold not only gravy, but salad dressings, creamer and the like. It’s a nice item to have around and makes things feel a little more elegant than throwing down an ugly bottle of Wishbone Italian dressing. Try to keep this in the same color family as everything else.

7. CheeseBoard

Cheeseboards are not just for cheese. They can hold dessert, make a suitable tray for cutlery or small bowls of things and they bring a warmth to your table like no other. Again – homegoods is chock full of these!

In fact, I’m a big fan of a semi-homemade approach to entertaining. I don’t want to spend the whole time behind the stove. So I love to create a large dessert board filled with small pastries, cookies, fruit and candies on a cheeseboard. Trust me, your guests won’t miss a thing.

8. Tiered Server

This was never even on my radar until I got one of these three tiered servers. I love it. And now it’s essential. Especially when you are having a buffet style meal or serving dessert. It’s that ooohhh, ahhhh moment your guests will look forward to. It makes desserts and appetizers look dang good. Great for brunches!

9. Large Pitcher

I use our pitcher regularly for two things; water and sangria (when I make it). A lovely pitcher of water with fresh lemon slices on the table is beautiful and you will use this again and again.

10. Candles

Some say scented, others say unscented. Whatever your choice, candles are essential and help set the mood and provide ambiance. You can also try a Pura diffuser for a welcoming scent. Keep the intensity on low so you don’t give anyone a headache or cause an allergic reaction.

11. drink ware

I feel like I’m adding “ware” to every word in this post lol. Anyways, whether you drink alcohol or you don’t, you still need something for people to drink out of.

Entertaining Essentials - barware

I fell in love with these stemmed goblets from IKEA and I always pick up a few more when I go. They are great for water, wine or whatever you want to put in them and they are cheap as heck. You can dishwash them (they are short and fit in the top rack!) and they even stack in your cabinets to save space.

Coming from an Italian family, I will also note that you don’t *need* wine glasses. Yes, they are nice but they are not essential. My Italian grandmother drank wine out of basic water glasses, and frankly that just feels so much cooler and less fussy to me. Please don’t ask me how many traditional wine glasses I’ve broken in the dishwasher.

Entertaining Essentials - barware

Drinkware is a bit of personal choice of the host, because I’ll drink out of whatever the host or hostess wants to give me. If you are a big whiskey drinker, you might want a set of whiskey tumblers. If you drink a lot of sweet tea, maybe taller glasses are what you want. We also love these impressions glasses – they have the little thumb indents on the sides for easy holding.

12. Music

Is there anything worse than showing up at a party and sitting in silence? Well, I’m sure there is. But nontheless music is a must-have for me. Grab your favorite playlist and an inexpensive bluetooth speaker and you are set.

13. Powder Room Essentials

First, let me just say that a clean bathroom/powder room is ESSENTIAL. It should have extra toilet paper at the ready (a cute wicker basket can hold these), lovely hand towels (more than 1) and some nicely scented hand soap. Bonus points for a small vase of flowers or greenery.

A fresh hand towel and bar soap on the sink

I also like to put a stack of pretty wrapped bars of soap (Homegoods has them) on a tank tray behind the toilet or even on the sink area. They are just for show, but their scent escapes the wrappers so the powder room always smells nice without the fire hazard of an unattended candle. (We all know Aunt Debbie can’t hold her wine.)

If you are having a large party with lots of guests, you might want to invest in disposable hand towels. There is nothing like washing your hands and then drying them on a incredibly damp hand towel that’s been used dozens of times before. Ick! I can’t be the only one who has had this lovely experience.

So that about wraps up this post. You will feel that much more relaxed having these entertaining essentials on hand and ready to go for your next get together. And if you are going to a party, don’t show up empty handed. We all know the effort it takes to host a party!

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13 Entertaining Essentials

xo Karen