I haven’t even mentioned the food yet..but it doesn’t have to feel that way.
Today is all about easy and how to set the stage for entertaining without going crazy.
If you are like me… you probably obsess with details with anything you do.
And anytime there are people coming over for an afternoon tea, an evening under the stars or a holiday house full of family- the details that come to mind to tend to are plentiful.
We recently hosted a family gathering here at the house in July- we had my family and my husbands family and even with a few last minute change in plans- had about 20 people who joined us for a fun afternoon and had all the guest rooms and little cottage refreshed and ready to be used.
And on top of the usual everyday list of things to get done – I had a party list that felt like it was 3 pages long and several big travel photoshoots for work on the calendar to wrap up.
So basically, wild woman became my middle name.
I have had a lot of questions about the method to my madness when setting up for a table or evening with friends- let alone a bigger party. I hope some of these tips help for your next event – big or small!
#1. Pen & Paper
I am a list maker. I jot deadlines on the calendar. List things for the grocery store. Ideas for my next makeover. etc. And with a pen on paper is what makes the most sense for me.
It is like that pen writing on paper kind of ‘firms’ that list a bit more to memory- and like I remember 10,000 more things than just typing it in. So I start by making a list of things to-do, things you need, etc and a timeframe for when to have them done.
For example- 3 days before the party- Order the cake, wash guest bedroom linens, etc.
It sounds so simple- but grabbing that pen and crossing the items off is key for me.
I tackle any big projects or refreshes for the outdoor areas a week ahead. Trimming, edging, mowing & washing any outdoor slipcovers & pillows so they are fresh and clean.
Another tip is to set those slipcovers aside until the day of or before the party to keep them from getting any of your bird friends artwork on them or anything like that.
The heavy work inside before a party… Paint touch ups, refreshes, etc. all happen in the weeks ahead- but the heavy cleaning just before.
I kind of do a clean… and then a touch up clean. The floors are done the day or 2 before as usual- and then again that morning right before everyone arrives for example.
But those are the basic you know how you like to do it things… what about setting the stage for guests? That is where the fun starts!!
Setting the Stage
Ahhh the all important always favorite thing to create… the Ambiance.
Is it even a party if there aren’t twinkle lights, candles or lanterns? 🙂
This is my thing. And I LOVE to plan (on pen and paper) and get that ambiance ready.
Best tip- set up those string lights and enjoy them every evening- not just for special occasions. And use LED string lights so you don’t have to worry about having that beautiful glow on all the time.
These are my favorites- they are on all.the.time at our house and they have the most beautiful warm glow – unlike some of the other LED bulbs. And they are super long- which means you can get two swags depending on your area.
Run them from the house to the garage, to the barn, to the shed- whatever- or even to a pole. And add several strands for big impact.
See my post about how to string those lights above a table here
Best tip- Don’t set wax (real or faux) candles out until right before your event- the hot summer sun will melt and cover the wick and then all that lovely glow lighting walkways and flickering lanterns will not be happening.
So this is a day of project- and if you are going to be using candles to light areas outdoors- do not use real- use LED candles- Safety first folks!
Tip: This is an easy one to get ready ahead of time. Create your ‘party playlist’ or choose your station and have it ready to go.
I shared recently about our Sonos speaker system– we have 7 speakers inside and out and they all connect and play music together or separately. I love to have them play together- so that when guests move between inside and out- the ambiance continues.
Tip: Clear the ash out of the fire pit or even small bbq area and get it ready for marshmallow roasting. This is a fun one for kids and adults alike- do you know we had all big kids and adults roasting and enjoying marshmallows at our family get together? Something about that camping feeling right in your own backyard.
And those twinkle trees aren’t just for Christmas… I love to include them all year long- makes me feel like I am at a resort. Find them in 3 sizes and LED lights HERE
Tip: Prepare as much food ahead of time as you can & keep it easy.
No need to try out that new fancy schmancy recipe unless you have the energy and extra time. I like to keep it simple. Cheese platters, pasta salad, sandwiches, and finger foods that guest can enjoy without having to sit formally at a table. Especially during summer- when you want to meander and mingle and wander up to the chaise lounges for a bit. Find 21 essentials for a cheese board HERE
Even easier tip: Get those big french bread loaves and make several sandwiches at one time- slice them up and then wrap with paper for easy handling. Or pick them up ready made at your local deli to save more time. Guest favorites every time.
The biggest tip?
RELAX & ENJOY.
Seriously. It sounds simple- but with all the running around, chaos of cooking, cleaning and getting everything ready- and the stress of having everything be PERFECT… it can feel like that party is just too.much.work. But it doesn’t have to be.
Set aside some of the things you know that you can set aside – because you are focusing on them -your guests are not going to focus on them like you are.
I am as guilty as the next person of tackling 27 last minute redecorating, renovations, it HAS TO BE DONE BEFORE THE PARTY type projects. But at some point- you realize 97% of those things you decided had to be ready- were not even on the radar of anyone else.
So tackle what needs tackling- but grab the reins and rein yourself in if you need to.
Parties whether big or small are such wonderful opportunities for memories in the making anytime of the year. And after the guests start to arrive- relax and enjoy yourself and know that even if the counters get dirty or someone tracks mud into the house- the guests aren’t paying attention to that. What they are going to remember are the conversations, fun times, the smiles and the small moments that make up the day. And it is all those laughs and memories that are going to stand out the most.
Like when the sprinklers turned on with gusto when everyone was lounging on the lawn and it felt like slow motion when my husband ran to the water shut off while I helped older relatives move out of the way… and my sister video taped everything and laughed.
Good times- and GREAT memories.
AND…. I am gearing up for some fun fall entertaining next week- a few things HERE inspiring me for sure.
And did you know I just released a NEW BOOK all about Inspired Gatherings?
Happy entertaining all.