I love being the hostess, when Monica from Friends worked for 24 hours to get everyone to hang out in her apartment I totally got that! However feeling the love for your guests who are arriving imminently and working full time don’t necessarily go hand in hand so here is my guide to hosting a get-together without turning into a ball of stress, shouting at your spouse, burning the food and creating an atmosphere that will make your guests want to run for the hills.
1.Timing is everything
If you have invited people to come around on a weekend for brunch then you may just need to forgo your weekend sleep in! Work out a plan of what you want to achieve for your guests and then work out your timing. If I have guests coming around on a weekend for 11am, the latest I want to start prepping is 0930. I also prioritise the things I want to do so that if I don’t get the last two things on my list done then I’m not upset, which leads me to….
2. Make a list!
My husband rolls his eyes every time I start another list but it does mean I don’t forget to pack things or that everything will (eventually) get done. When I am playing hostess I always start a list a couple of days before once I know what I am offering in terms of food etc. This means that if I am baking I have all the ingredients and I’ve also remembered to pick up some fresh flowers before the day of, which means that the time I have before guests arrive isn’t spent racing into town with a last minute list of ingredients.
3. Enroll help.
You know the eye rolling about the list? Well it just means that my husband now gets to help I joke, he’s already great at getting involved without me asking, I’ll be busy in the kitchen and then turn around to find the sofas tidied and a fire on – great, two jobs off the list and I didn’t need to do them myself. So always ask for help, you don’t need to do it all by yourself – your hostess crown won’t slip because of it.
4. Expectations management
I am big on managing the expectations of what I will be putting on for my guests. In other words don’t invite people around for lunch and just put out some crisps… if you know you will only have time to do snacks ask people to “pop over after lunch for some snacks” or my favourite “tea and biscuits”. It’s always great to see friends but they’re not going to be comfortable if you look stressed at their presence! This also applies to budgeting cash as well as time, if it’s the week before pay day I am unlikely to host a big lunch – always check your budget before committing to hosting a big meal. Splitting one chicken breast 6 ways isn’t going to fill up anybody!
5. Set the scene
I always like to take the bigger picture approach to hosting, the house has to pull its weight too. I like there to be a vase of fresh flowers as my guests come in (this is especially budget friendly in spring when you get huge bunches of daffodils for £1) and I always make sure to hoover the hall as one of my last tasks so it smells fresh and is mud free! The other must is that the bathroom has to be sparkling but this is easily achievable without scrubbing away for hours, I always light a candle too so that it casts a nice glow, have a clean hand towel and plenty of loo roll! The house should also smell lovely too so one of my first tasks will be to light a scented candle or at Christmas spray a festive room spray (this one just before guests arrive). Finally I de-clutter, I move any papers, DVDs etc and tidy them away – even if it is gathering everything and putting it another room that will do I just don’t like stuff lying around!
I can almost feel the eye rolls at this one and the “who has the time?” comments but I do really like to push the boat out and have made something myself. It might be a batch of cupcakes or it might be a bowl of warm nuts but I like to have something that isn’t store bought to make guests feel special. One of my favourites is a Nigella recipe for these bar nuts. I made this recently and it was so easy and they got wolfed down.
7.Do your research!
There’s nothing worse than going somewhere and realising you don’t like anything on offer, I’m not at all fussy and would eat (almost) anything but there have been times when, no kidding, the 3 things I hate have been the only food options. I try to remember to ask my guests (if I don’t already know them) if there’s particular things they don’t eat and if I do forget I always aim for a spread that isn’t, for example, exclusively meaty or gluten heavy.
I like to have a selection of bowls, glasses, plates etc to put food out in. If your spread looks visually appealing then you are half the way there. For example I like to put grissini out in a nice glass and I like to make Shirley Temples for non-alcohol drinkers as they look so pretty and when something looks that good you don’t mind being the designated driver!
Don’t forget to leave time to get yourself ready, shove some perfume on, brush your hair, change the top that you just spilled juice etc all over… I also try to build in at least ten minutes down time before people arrive so I can be chilled and not too manic! Doesn’t always happen but it’s nice when it does.
10. A warm welcome.
Lastly it’s good to have a warm welcome ready for your guests, always take coats, make introductions (if hosting people together who have never met) and immediately offer drinks of choice. Don’t go so type A that your guests are uncomfortable but try to pre-empt guest needs in such a relaxed way that they don’t even know you’re doing it!
Is there anything you would add or do you have a time saving hostess tip? Let me know in the comments below!