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Monday, November 21, 2016

8 Holiday Hostsessing Tips for the Anti-Crafter

There was a time when hosting parties sent me into a whirlwind fit of PTSD. 

Recovering former waitresses, such as myself, will tell you stories about busy kitchens, misfired entrees, tray and champagne flute spills and nightmares where the distance between the expediting station and the guests at their tables was miles long.

Furthermore, I hate glue. I mean hate glue. And crafting. Of any kind, with very few exceptions (like knitting). The mess, the Popsicle sticks, the feathers. I know I'm a mom-to-be and having these sort of items at the ready is supposed to be in my wheelhouse...

Maybe I'll just encourage my children to read/go outside.

At any rate, since I've never earned a Girl Scout badge (Awana, anyone?), and Pinterest makes me grumble angry nothings about patriarchy, boring homemaker expectations, etc., I was never one to play hostess. Who was I kidding? I didn't even own a glue gun.

But, as it always does, my extroversion won out in the end. I started reading books like Bread and   Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes and White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming-of-Age Story that celebrated the importance of community, food and a life shared with people. In your home.

Then the extrovert married a man who loves his friends and his kitchen appliances as equals. And together we began the fearful and wonderful task of opening our home and inviting people in. If our marriage was a song, hospitality is one of our goal baselines.

Last night we had about twenty people in our home for a Friendsgiving potluck, and our little two-bedroom condo felt like it would burst in the best possible way.

So, for you, my fellow anti-crafter, here are a few tips to hosting your own holiday gathering. No glue-gunning required!

Bake the night before

Let me begin by saying: I am not a Rockefeller and don't pretend to be one. Gordon and I invite groups over for potlucks, meaning we all share the financial and cooking strain. So, as the leaders of the soiree, we typically tackle the main course (in our case, it was a delicious pork and gravy dish), and dessert.

All of my desserts I do most of the prep/bake-work the night before. This saves me from crowding the kitchen the day of for the hot dishes, and a lot of stress. Aside from having to restrain yourself/littles/husbands from indulging before the party, it's a fool-proof plan.

Set the table beforehand

The night before the party I had a fresh tablecloth, a flower arrangement constructed with mason jars, scotch tape and Harris Teeter flowers and our plastic cutlery, paper plates and cocktail napkins. I picked up Thanksgiving-themed plates from Tusesday Morning. Not environmentally friendly, but so pretty.

We're fortunate enough to have a lovely set of serving dishes and utensils; if you have it, now's a great time to break out the fancy occasion items.

Make space

Before any party I aim for a clear dishwasher, fridge and trash. This way there's no scrambling at the last minute to make room for leftover foods and any dishware you use throughout the evening. Your guests don't have to play "mash the trash" when they're tossing their used items.

It's just good manners.

Pre-draft text messages

I'll be honest, this is a stressful hurdle I'm still practicing overcoming: about half an hour into a party is where your home reaches "critical mass." Meaning, mostly everyone who will be there has arrived. If they come bearing food and delightful beverages, you'll likely get overlapping questions from guests about where to set up and the best place to put their items.

Then your phone buzzes because someone needs directions.

We live in a gated community and have limited guest parking. I have a set of instructions saved in my notes application on my phone for these moments. If anyone gets lost, needs the code for our gate, or assistance on knowing where it's safe to park on the street, blamo! I copy and paste the draft into the messages and can return my full attention to my guests without having to bury my head into my phone.

Accept help when it's offered

It's as simple as that. I don't want to be stomping around the kitchen in a sweaty fog of rushing to do things at the last second.

Assign tasks (kindly) when help isn't offered

This is a big one: so many people want to give the illusion that you're in control, but the fact is that if you're hosting a party, your job is to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. The fact is that most people, especially new friends, might be more comfortable helping with setting up and feeling like they're contributing, rather than sitting on their hands waiting for people they know to arrive.


A "would you mind refilling the ice bucket?" or "would you please take this into the dining room?"
is fair game in my book.

Relaxing music playlists

At least, before the party begins. I like to make last-minute prep and cleaning as calming as cleaning can be. You can crank up the jams once guests arrive, but something about slapping the bass in the final countdown of what can be both a lot of fun and a lot of pressure seems to raise the non-existent stakes.

Pray

Last night before my guests arrived, I prayed over our home. That people would feel welcome. That there would be community, laughter and meaningful conversations.That people would remember how they felt, rather than what they ate. And I think it makes all the difference.


Tell me, did I miss any? Do you have any tips for hosting? Let me know in the comments!
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