It’s always hard to play host. Rush home, start cooking dinner, and try to beat the clock. Then. . . you realize you forgot something. One of you runs off to the store while the other attempts to straighten the house and finish dinner. It’s likely something ends up either burning or not ready – then the doorbell rings! Perfect timing… Once your guests arrive, you both feel worn out, never wanting to have company again!
Encountering this myself several times, I had to take notes from someone experienced at entertaining. We have had the privilege to be guests in the home of Bruce and Tana, and for all of the large dinners we have shared, they entertain perfectly. The set up, planning, cooking, and enjoyment are always well executed. Here are all of Tana’s secrets that she shared with me for married couples to enjoy hosting company together:
1. Think through every part of the night.
- Food service – Will you set up a buffet line or have sit down serving? Separate area for drinks?
- Food allergies – ask ahead and have allergy-friendly options on hand.
- Fix the bathroom – Leave disposable guest towels in the bathroom, and place extra toilet paper and air freshener in a conspicuous place.
- For large parties, consider placing a sign at the door to come in instead of answering the door each time someone new arrives.
2. Lighten the load.
Do as much preparation before as possible. Work throughout the week chopping, freezing, or doing anything before that you can. Spread it out over a few days. Finish all of the cooking before you are expecting guests, then use a warming drawer, low setting on the oven, or a chafing dish to keep your food ready.
Make less dishes. Allow time to do some of the dishes before your guests arrive so you can relax during and after entertaining. Bake in disposable pans, and buy disposable plates and cups. However, you may want to still use real flatware, depending on what you are serving.
Offer fewer choices. The fewer choices you have, the quicker guests can serve themselves. In addition, it will take less prep and cooking time for you.
Do what you love! Choose which parts of the meal you want to make and simply buy what you don’t like to cook. Pick up a dessert from a cafe or buy frozen rolls. Don’t spend a lot of time working on something you don’t like. Be honest and don’t put needless pressure on yourself to make everything (or anything!) from scratch.
3. Assign each spouse a role for the evening.
To enjoy having guests over, you and your spouse must both be fully engaged and committed to entertaining. Tana suggests splitting the evening into two jobs. Have one serve as the host: greeting, showing the bathroom, showing where purses and coats can be left. If you can show them up front, guests feel comfortable to leave when necessary. The host role should make the guests at ease as soon as they walk in the door.
The spouse in the serving role can finish any food prep (dressing the salad, scooping ice, etc.) and give instructions about the food and help serve drinks. Other duties to think about include refilling dishes, swapping out trash bags, or topping off the ice bucket.
4. Tactfully get your guests to leave.
Some evenings, the biggest task is entertaining after guests overstay their welcome. Talk with your spouse beforehand about expectations for the time frame, and get on the same page about how long you want to hang out. Here are some ways to wrap up the evening:
- Set up a station for left-over packing. This way you can end the night while still extending your hospitality. Show guests containers, plates, and foil for them to pack whatever they would like.
- Give a parting gift or favor. This is one of the easy things about throwing a shower or seasonal party.
- Start cleaning up – a universal way to signal that the night is over.
Idea for a Menu
Appetizer: Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms. Easy to prep the day before and heat that night.
Salad: Use romaine, red onion, pepperoncinis, feta, and a vinaigrette.
Entree: Tana’s Italian Chicken
The next time you have company over, think through these steps and enjoy extending hospitality together!