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entertaining tips

Tips for Entertaining

or How to be the Hostess with the Mostess


Theme: The jumping-off point for all my entertaining begins with choosing a theme. Some are built-in; holidays, birthdays, and seasonal gatherings. Even then, selecting a color palette helps the event have a cohesive feel and flow and makes planning so much easier. Make a list of what you already own that works with the theme or palette, and then buy or borrow pieces that you want to incorporate.


Make a list of everything you need to get done and set deadlines. Put big, time-consuming projects, such as cleaning the house or tracking down tables and chairs, at the top of your list.

Build menus around dishes you already know how to make and are comfortable with, and then add one or two new recipes.


Prepare as much as possible ahead of time, so you’re able to relax and enjoy your party! Many recipes have “do ahead” notes. But even if the recipe you’re using doesn’t, get into the habit of thinking about what can be prepared ahead. If you’re not sure, search online for a similar recipe and see if it has “do ahead” notes.

If you’re still at a loss, drop me a line and I’ll help you figure it out.

Do not be afraid to take short-cuts with store-bought items.

I do it. All. The. Time.

I am not a baker, so I’ll buy dessert from a bakery or I’ll just pick up a variety of little sweets from Trader Joe’s. Trust me, your guests will remember how much fun they had, not if you made your own pie crust or used a store-bought crust.

Vanilla Pomegranate Sangria

Have a Signature Cocktail. It sets the tone for the evening. It lets your guests know you went to a bit of extra effort. Even if it’s just a glass of champagne with a splash of juice and a berry added, it makes a statement. Have the drinks set on a tray at the entry? Add a little sign, such as: “Welcome, please enjoy our Signature Cocktail – Rojo Sangria”


Speaking of drinks: With all the drinks, it may be worth setting up a bar or drink station. If you haven’t hired a bartender, let people serve themselves, mix their own cocktails and refill their own drinks. Have the bar ready with water, ice, wine, mixers, garnishes, glasses, etc.


Buffets: If you’re offering a variety of food, scatter the buffets/food stations a distance from each other. And keep the food a good distance from the drinks. This keeps your guests from grouping in one location and prevents a line from forming at a large buffet.


When styling the stations, I find it most aesthetically pleasing to incorporate height into an otherwise flat surface. It gives dimension and texture, which is especially pleasing to the eye.


Label Food on a buffet. It will eliminate the endless question, “What is this” and “Does this have nuts in it?” On that point, be sure to label the dishes well. If a dish has peanuts or other ingredients that are common allergens, be sure the sign says so.

Music! A party is not a party without music. Make that playlist in advance and start playing it before the guests arrive … to get yourself in the party mood!


Candles, candles, and more candles! Candles are the harbinger of light and happiness. So, use as many candles as possible.┬áRemember that everyone looks prettier by candlelight! (It’s a fact, Jack!) So, use as many as possible.

napkins with flowers tucked in

Flowers and Tablescaping: Flowers – keep them low at a dinner party. If you use a large tall and elaborate arrangement, it will inevitably be moved off the table by someone who wants to have a conversation with the person across from them. And the conversation is way more important than flowers! Don’t limit yourself to flowers; fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, and even hard goods that fit the theme (think clocks on NYE) all add so much more to the table. Incorporate those same elements to a buffet table.

Have an Entertaining Pantry: Not pantry food items but serving pieces and such. It can contain such things as candles, votives, linens, platters, your favorite silver serving pieces, and even a notebook with your favorite music playlists for various occasions.


If you are just beginning to build or rebuild your entertaining pantry, the go-to for any party is white serving trays, bowls, and china. If you have these in your pantry, you can easily create a theme by adding colored and patterned pieces. Or using fabric, scrapbook paper, or even gift wrap to line white trays.

Healthy Options: So many people are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. Others have allergies. Make sure you offer options for them. For example, at Thanksgiving, you can use cornmeal stuffing instead of traditional bread stuffing. Potatoes and quinoa are also gluten-free. When serving Mexican food, be sure to have corn tortillas along with flour tortillas.

smore bar

Activities: Anything you can do that’s interactive for guests is always fun-you can do a coffee or hot cocoa station with different mix-ins. Or, if you have an outdoor fireplace/fire-pit – a S’mores bar. And in the summer, there is nothing better than an ice cream sundae station!

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1 comment

1 Peggy { 11.27.13 at 7:55 AM }

I like all these tips. Thanks!

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