Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Art of Entertaining


It occurred to me the other day that I learned all I need to know about entertaining from my mom. I'm sure I picked up a few things from other sources here and there, but mostly, I learned what I know from watching and helping my mom entertain. These are the main points I've taken away that I think are really valuable:

1. Communicate to your guests well. This means to make sure that the invitation has ALL the information your guests will need including time, place, dress, contact info, special instructions and possibly even a map. And proof-read it before you send it out. Very important. And taking this even further, I like to make sure that the look and feel of the invitations set the tone for the party/event right out of the envelope...before the guests set foot in the door.

2. Set the stage. This includes not only cleaning the house and making sure things are put away, but several other things: Have a place for people to put their bags and/or coats. Think through the flow of the party and set out food and drinks accordingly. Have your outdoor lights on if it is in the evening. Make sure a bathroom is stocked and ready to be used by your guests.

3. Plan ahead. Although this encompasses part of #2, it needs to be listed separately. Think through what you will need for the party. Plates, cups, forks, napkins, etc. Have them in easily accessible places. Set the table well before your party, if you're having a dinner pary. And by golly, know how to set the table (where all the pieces go). Have everything out and ready. Nothing says unprepared like searching for an essential item right when everyone needs it.

4. Plan the food well. Again, this may sound similar to #3, but food is so important that it bears listing separately. First of all, this means making a thorough menu, keeping in mind the type of party. Then, take time to make a "cooking schedule:" know when you need to start cooking things so that they will be hot and ready when you need them. Make a plan for keeping things warm, if necessary. If you can make something the day before, do it. A cooking schedule helps with cold things too; it ensures that your cold drinks will be cold and that you are not surprised that your ice cream pie needs to freeze for 6 hours.

5. Be a hostess. Open the door for your guests and personally greet them, if possible - or at least designate someone to do that. Take their coats and purses. Offer them a drink and show them where the food is. At a shower or something similar...pick up their plates and cups when they are done with them and keep trash where it a trash can. Be generally aware of what is going on and be sensitive to and anticipate the needs of your guests.

I feel like some of this sounds like it's straight out of a home economics book from the 1950's. Hey, it probably is. But you don't have to twirl around in a vintage apron (but why not, they're cute!) with perfectly coiffed hair to master the subtleties of making your guests feel like guests. These things may be becoming a lost art as we get more casual (or lazy), but I still really appreciate the art of entertaining. I think it just makes for a good experience for all parties.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Makes me want to have a fun, formal party with you! Let's plan one!