How many times have you planned a party, pulled it together, and experienced it as nothing but a blur of cooking, plating, serving, and cleaning? Is that fun? While your guests may have enjoyed the event, they more likely would have appreciated your company even more. So why is it that we feel the compulsion to put on an affair that requires so much work? Why not serve easy appetizers in a simply elegant setting?
OK, I know that may sound easier said than done, but you can achieve a wonderful party without driving yourself over the edge. Let's break this down into the planning, the cooking, and the entertaining stages and see where we can save some time and some stress, shall we?
It's great to have dreams and visions of a fabulous soiree where everyone is delicately nibbling on beautiful food. You see yourself gliding through the room easily refreshing drinks as guests marvel at your calm. Let's get real. Does it ever really turn out just the way you hoped? Most often it doesn't, which is why we make this first recommendation:
- Set realistic expectations: Don't over-plan your next dinner or cocktail party. Come up with a simple overall ambiance you want to create and go from there.
- Create an atmosphere of casual, yet elegant: Don't stress over whether you have a full matched set of dishes and servers for your easy appetizers, dinner recipes or desserts. You don't want to look like a caterer, so embrace using mismatched items.
- Don't overdecorate: A few easy items like tea lights (the more the merrier) or small flower arrangements are enough to give your dinner table or serving table life. No need to create an extravagant display. Most people only notice the food anyhow!
- Make it easier to serve: Consider setting up a buffet for larger parties or serving family style dishes for dinners.
- Take care of as much as possible the day before: It may not take a lot of time to set a table, or to chop something, but it's the quantity of small tasks that could throw you for a loop just before a gathering. Eliminate stress by working ahead.
- Most people who entertain a lot do so because they enjoy cooking. Don't lose that spirit by overdoing it and then resenting the menu.
- Plan to serve easy appetizers and finger foods. There are so many recipes out there that are simple to prepare, easy to serve, and require very little effort to eat, especially while standing in a crowded room.
- Cook as much as you can ahead of time so you can cool the kitchen. Clean up prep dishes before guests arrive. You will feel more relaxed and guests will be impressed.
- You've planned well and cooked simple, easy appetizers, finger foods, and easy-to-eat items, now it's time to play the host. Be available to your guests. This is not when you want to still be cooking in the kitchen or scrambling for utensils.
- Pass appetizers around on trays to keep people mingling, not hovering around the food table. This also gives you a chance to chat with everyone.
- Stop worrying about whether everything is perfect. Smile, relax and enjoy yourself. Nothing much can really go wrong at this point, and even if it does, most people won't notice. If you're having fun, they will have fun. Beware – stress can be contagious.
Sometimes we need to have reminders to take things in stride, keep it simple and relax and enjoy. Here's a thought; put out a vase of roses, you can stop and smell them if the hosting begins to feel like too much.