I love entertaining friends. Whether it’s a group before a night out or a dinner at home with girlfriends, there is nothing that makes me happier than the whole hosting shindig—cleaning the apartment, setting the scene and cooking up a yummy meal. It’s easy, however, for entertaining to quickly go from delightful to stressful. Here are a few things you should make, have on hand or do to ensure a stress-free, enjoyable evening (for everyone…including you!).
HAVE: Pretty Serving Platters
A gorgeous serving plate or platter can do half of the work for you in the event of a dinner party. It makes any dish an instant stand out and helps your guests think you spent all day planning and prepping in the kitchen—even if you’re just plating up delivery (hey, no judgements here!). I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a few basic white options in their cabinets (I love platters with gorgeous edges, like this one or this one from Anthropologie)—but for a more special vibe, I’m really into the watercolor-inspired pink and navy platters for Suite One Studio. I’m dying for them to come back in stock to snatch one up!
CREATE: A Good Playlist
Every dinner, party or pre-game needs a good playlist. There’s always a different vibe you’re gaming for depending on the occasion, but I love Spotify to help me craft the perfect playlist. I’ll either throw on my “cooking” playlist (lots of french, italian and mo-town music…It’s a weird mix, but it works!) or play an artist’s radio, like The Black Keys, Ray Lamontagne or The National. Eventually someone always wants to play DJ, so it’s good to have options on hand.
FIND: A Way for Guests to Help
Your guests are always going to want to help out (at least, it’s likely if they are polite, grateful people), but having a lot of cooks in the kitchen—literally—can get a bit hectic. Find a task or two to delegate to guests inquiring for ways to help—whether that’s manning the bar, lining up appetizers or washing the dishes. Everyone will feel like they’re lending a hand and pulling their weight.
LIGHT: A Few Unscented Candles
Candles set such a wonderful ambiance that I can’t imagine a party (or even a night in) without them. If you’re looking to scent your home, light a lightly scented candle a few hours before guests arrive, but once people start coming in, it’s time for strictly unscented candles and tea lights only. You don’t want to give any scent-sensitive guests a headache (Trust me, I’m very scent-sensitive and it’s the worst) or light anything that it going to compete with the smell of any delicious meal you’re making.
ENSURE: Extra Seating in a Pinch
If you live in a small apartment, like me, chances are you have seating for oh…about 6 people total. Because we don’t even have a kitchen table, seating is often in short supply when we’re hosting a crowd. Once the couches have filled up, we usually pull out extra chairs that we have at our desk or in our rooms. Another great option? Flour poufs and pillows. I love the large and pouf-y striped styles from Hedgehouse—their perfect for company to perch on when they’re over, and they stash easily away when your home returns to normal.
BUY: A Made-Ahead Dessert
In my opinion, dessert is one place where it’s OK to skimp a bit when you’re hosting a big dinner party. Don’t get me wrong, I love making a good dessert, but I find that people are in general a bit over it once the time for dessert rolls around. They’re getting antsy at the table, are really full or just want to get back to socializing. Do yourself a favor and stick to something pre-made or store bought from a delicious bakery. You won’t feel bad if people are less-than-interested in it, and your guests probably won’t know the difference.
STASH: An Extra Dish Drying Rack
This is a must have party hack for anyone in an apartment without a dish washer (like me!). Have an extra dish drying rack on hand to keep the dishes from piling up in the sink. No one wants to spend their party up to their elbows in suds scrubbing leftover dinner from dishes, right? So scrape them off, put them onto a rack and stash them in another room (heck, even a bathroom) until you have time to wash them later.