We all know the classic scenario – guests are coming and we fly into that frantic mode of cleaning, overthinking and worrying! I saw a sign somewhere that said “I’m sorry for what I said when company was coming.” Yup – that’s pretty much me. I worry about having enough food, drinks – I overthink what to serve and where. I clean too much, or maybe not enough to make me confident? I don’t know! Guests can be a real stressor and we’ve certainly had a lot of them this past summer and will continue to since we live on the other side of the country from everyone. I’ve learned some great tips along the way for how to get ready for company and also scoured the internet for even more! Here’s some pointers to keep in mind in general. First, a relaxed host means relaxed guests. When you’re relaxed and having fun, so are your guests. If you’re in a crazy state of mind and frantic and running around, then your guests are going to feel weird. So cool it. Second, start prepping for the party as far in advance as you can (more on that below). Basically, the more prepared you are, the less stressed you will be. So, if you want to keep your sanity, be prepared and also be the ultimate host then read on for these tips.
Clean the Bathroom First
If you are having a dinner party where guests will primarily mingle in your main living areas, then clean the bathroom they will be using first. It’s always the one area that we want to make sure is extra clean. There’s nothing like worrying whether one of your kids flushed the toilet in there after guests have already arrived. LOL. Set out fresh towels, a cute basket of extra toilet paper rolls (don’t make guests ask), fresh flowers or greens and light a candle. Done!
Create a Welcoming Entrance
I like to light lanterns near the front door and make sure that the planters are in good shape with pretty seasonal plants. Turn on the porch lights, do a quick sweep and swab of the porch area for cobwebs and you’re set.
Right inside the entrance, it’s nice to have fresh fragrant flowers, a nice scented candle going and some good music too.
Set the Mood
Music should be playing. It lets people know it’s a party. Dim the lights and turn on the lamps to create an intimate vibe. Light candles. Turn on the fireplace if it’s weather appropriate. Make people feel at home!
Fresh Flowers and Greenery are a Must
If there is one thing I keep reiterating here it’s fresh flowers. Nothing makes a home feel more alive and fresh. It’s easy to pick up a bunch while you’re out at the grocery store but also your own backyard is a great place to pick up some greens! Cut the stems long and throw them in a tall vase so they fan out a bit. It creates a beautiful statement and gives you height where you need it. A bowl of fresh fruit, like clementines or apples also work well.
Keep Dinner Semi-Homemade, Buffet Style, or Order out
Unless you are a professional chef, cooking a meal for folks might be the biggest stressor of them all. The risk of burning the dinner, whether it will taste good, whether you are satisfying everyone’s dietary restrictions, etc etc. I have a few go to meals that I’ve practiced and they cook up pretty flawlessly, like my roast chicken. So if you have time, practicing a couple dinners like this might help. Even then, I only cook one entree and I’ll grab a few sides from the store to heat up or throw together a simple salad. Or, put together a large antipasto platter where people can make their own sandwiches and self serve. Even easier – order takeout and re-plate it into your nice serving dishes. As far as appetizers and nibbles with drinks, I’ve learned this little trick from Ina Garten. Make one thing and keep the rest store bought and don’t go overboard. So, make a dip and then the rest is stuff you throw in a dish or assemble (olives, cheese board, crackers, fruit platter etc). You usually need less than you think.
Set a Drink Station or Two
A drink station can be a lifesaver. You take yourself out of the mix for having to get everyone drinks, guests don’t feel awkward opening your refrigerator themselves and you can actually sit there and mingle yourself – drink in hand! Keep it simple though. You don’t need all the ingredients for cosmos, whiskey sours, and dirty martinis – just keep it simple. If you want to serve a signature cocktail or sangria, whip up a pitcher or two in advance or put out those ingredients so that guests can make their own. The rest can be wine, beer and non alcoholic beverages. And depending on the set up it might be helpful to have two drink stations – if you anticipate a line forming. Don’t forget the glasses!
Plan Ahead to Reduce Stress
Make a list of everything you need and prep as far in advance as possible. You can stock up on the beverages way in advance. A few days before you can make a grocery run and pick up the flowers. The day before you can set out all serving dishes and utensils and you can prep the dinner depending on what you’re making (then you just throw it in the oven when it’s time to do so). The hour before you can start putting everything out, lighting the candles, turn on the lamps and lanterns, pillow fluff, and do a quick vacuum or bathroom sweep. Now, grab a drink.
Get your Guest Room Ready
If you have guests staying overnight, then you need to get that guest room ready. First, the room should be clean and sheets washed with the bed made (duh.) Little touches go a long way for your guests. Fresh flowers and bottled water on the nightstand, a throw at the end of the bed, a note with the wi-fi password, and a luggage rack can really help guests settle in (and prevent a million questions for you to answer!) Of course, make sure they have fresh towels and toiletries for showering. Also – keep empty hangers in the closet in case they need to hang anything. Stash a few extra pillows in there too. It sucks to stay somewhere and hate your pillow – am I right? If you live somewhere touristy, it never hurts to set out a few area guides that they can peruse. If you can reach them ahead of time, ask them for their favorite snacks, breakfast foods and beverages. It’s nice to have these familiar things on hand for guests. And last but not least, make them fresh coffee in the morning! Unless you have a Keurig. 🙂 In which case set out kcups and all the fixings so guests can help themselves.
Now that we all know how to get ready for company, we can focus more on having fun! These tips will have you hosting the best parties and guests won’t want to leave!