My Top 10 Tips For Entertaining At Home

Entertaining at home is a lot of fun but it also can be a little overwhelming, especially for first timers. Even just thinking about what you'll serve while keeping with your fingers crossed that everything tastes delicious is enough for anyone to start sweating. But done right, and your friends will be talking about your hosting skills for years to come. And inviting themselves over at any chance they get!

Long lunches and dinner parties are a great excuse to spend quality time with friends. They are also a very cost-effective way to have fun at home. Depending on where you are in the world, you may only be able to host a few close friends. Or maybe you can invite them all! Whichever your situation, it's time to make long lunches and dinner parties easy, yet fancy AF.

So, whether you're planning a long lunch with a few close friends, or a more formal dinner party with place settings and multiple courses, with a bit of planning and my tips below, you'll be armed with everything you need to host a successful, stress-free event at home. 

 

My Top 10 Tips For Entertaining At Home 

 

Create the guest list

The first thing you need to do is think about who you will invite. Are you wanting to host a long ladies lunch with your best gal pals, or a couples dinner so you can have some adult time - without the kids? Perhaps you want a mixed bag and invite different friends to come together, or maybe you want to invite your work colleagues. Entertaining at home don't necessarily have to be for your BFFs only. Mixing new friends with old friends gives everyone the chance to meet each other and make long lasting connections. 

 

Set a date

Once you have your guest list, it's time to set a date. Check the calendar and see if there are any important dates in the pipeline, such as public holidays, weddings, parties, baby showers or other events. If you're inviting a group of friends who know each other, it's a great idea to initially send a group "save the date" text message and to offer a couple of dates for them to choose from. If you're inviting a mixed bag of friends, it's best to contact your guests individually to see what their calendars are looking like for the upcoming month. No matter who you're inviting, it's always best to give your guests at least one months notice. If some of your guests are parents, it allows them plenty of time to organise a babysitter or to call in the grandparents for extra support. It's a bit of minefield finding a date that suits everyone, but once the groundwork is done, it'll feel amazing on the day. Also, it's ok if not everyone can come - there will be plenty of more wonderful opportunities to entertain at home. 

 

Send invitations

Once you have a date locked in, it's time to send a formal invitation. These days, this looks like a group text message with all the event details such as date, time, location, dietary requirements, what to wear and what to bring. Or perhaps you might like to get a little creative and old school by sending a printed invite - go you! Whichever you choose, make sure you let your guests know you'll check in again a week before the event to confirm their RSVPs. This also helps you cater accordingly.

  

Find out dietary requirements

When you send your invitation, it is always prudent to find out if any of your guests have dietary requirements, such as allergies and preferences. There is nothing worse than having a meaty BBQ when one of your friends is a vegetarian or a pescatarian - no one wants that to happen. It's best to find out as early as possible because between the time the invites are sent and the time you collect the RSVPs, you'll be busy planning a beautiful menu and you don't want to have to change it a week out from the event...if you can help it.

 

Plan your menu 

This is my favourite part! I absolutely LOVE choosing a menu and I love choosing a theme. By choosing a theme, it means you can really hone in on the cuisine you want to cook. Will you be cooking Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Scandinavian or modern Australian? You can choose one or many, but I find it keeps things simple for you if you choose one (maybe two).

A couple of weeks before your event, start to planning your menu. Look at your favourite cookbooks for inspiration and jump on Pinterest to get a feel for the cuisine you have chosen. From my experience, choosing simple recipes that are packed with flavour reigns supreme. Even better, choose recipes that can be made in advance so you're not having to cook everything on the day. You do want to be able to enjoy yourself too, you know.

For the mains, I always make sure I have a meat dish, a fish dish and a vegetable dish. If you there are any non-dairy and non-gluten guests, I absolutely make sure these main dishes are taking this into account. When you plan each dish, note down the cost of ingredients and how long it will take you to prepare and manage on the day. Avoid overspending and spending too much time in the kitchen - you want to make sure you have plenty of quality time with your guests. As a sample, this is how I usually plan my menu:

 

On Arrival:

  • I always serve an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic beverage on arrival.
  • I love serving margaritas, or a glass of champagne or wine.
  • For the non-alcoholic drink, I love to serve sparkling water in a champagne glass, to make it a little bit special for those who aren't drinking alcohol.
  • I love to create a beautiful Cheese Platter or Charcuterie with a variety of cheeses, dips, crackers, cold meat, fruit, nuts, and lots more for my guests on arrival. Nothing looks more spectacular than a gorgeous cheese plater for guests to nibble on when they arrive. For inspiration, check out this stunning Charcuterie I made last Christmas.

 

Starters:

  • For a traditional sit down Starter, there are a huge range of options. Sometimes you'll find me making Homemade Focaccia with various dips, infused oils, dried herbs and salty butter. For inspiration, take a look at this delicious Potato, Rosemary & Garlic Oil Focaccia I made a little while ago. 
  • In summer, I love to serve something light like this fresh Citrus Cured Smoked Salmon. I love serving raw fish because you can prep this the day before and garnish it just before serving. 
  • In winter, I love to serve a comforting soup like this rustic French Onion Soup I made recently - it's like a big hug in a deep bowl. I also made a cosy Thai Curry Coconut & Pumpkin Soup last week, and I will be sharing this recipe very soon! 

 

Mains:

  • I always like to serve at last a meat dish or a fish dish, depending on everyone's dietary requirements. If there are a few people (more than 6) I will always serve both.
  • I love getting creative with vegetables, so I always serve one to two vegetable dishes (either hot or cold depending on the time of the year). I recently had friends over for a Middle Eastern feast and made a gorgeous Butter Spiced Carrots with Yoghurt, Coriander Oil, Toasted Hazelnuts & Jewelled Pomegranate Seeds. This recipe is coming, promise! 
  • I always make a simple green salad for freshness no matter the time of the year, and I love to make a simple pasta salad or a rice based dish for that comforting carbohydrate hit, like this gorgeous Jewelled Persian Rice Pilaf I recently made.

 

Dessert: 

  • For dessert, I always make something the day before. When the meal is coming to an end, the last thing you want to be doing is baking in the kitchen when you're (probably) a few drinks deep and your friends are laughing and enjoying themselves around the table. 
  • I like to make something simple that I can make the day before like this silky smoothTiramisu I made a little while ago, or something I can throw together in a few minutes like an Eton mess, or a dessert I can pop in the oven when we're enjoying our mains like this comforting Bread & Butter Pudding I made over Easter and you can easily replace the hot cross buns with thick slices of bread.
  • Making a cake the day before your long lunch or dinner party is also a clever no-fuss dessert, and this gluten free Fudgy Flourless Chocolate Cake was a big hit with you guys earlier this year! 

 

Create a beautiful table setting 

When you know your menu, it's time to start thinking about the table setting. I know I said creating the menu is my favourite part, but truly, I think it's creating a beautiful table setting! The first thing you need to consider if your colour palette. This should be guided by the dishes you are serving for maximum impact, but is also guided by what ceramics, kitchenware and centrepieces you have at home.  I always recommend raiding your cupboards first, and if you need anything extra, visit your local charity shops and secondhand stores. Invest in pieces you know you'll use for years to come and that will look stunning across a multitude of differently styled table settings. 

  • Tablecloth: To get started, I find it's best to think about dressing the table. I love tablecloths and table runners, so think about the colours in your food and what colour tablecloth would compliment the dishes beautifully. I have always gone for a minimalist block colour, but recently have been diving into what truly makes me, and that's prints and colour. I recently bought this table cloth and I am so excited to use it! The fabric is also important and I love linen for a that little extra texture, but I also love cotton (it's also a lot cheaper than linen). A quick note on tablecloths: they can be expensive! I have always used my own linen duvet covers and honestly, I cannot tell you how many bed sheets I've used in my day as a tablecloth. I also recommend visiting Spotlight and buying a large sheet of fabric to use as a tablecloth. I also love The Fabric Store for beautiful colours, prints and patterns. If you are on a budget, check out the haberdashery section in your local secondhand stores. They always have a huge variety of bed sheets (and placemats, and napkins) that make stunning tablecloths. 
  • Ceramics: Whether you choose a plain or printed table cloth, it's time to start thinking about the ceramics. If you have been following along here for a while now, then you'll know I have an absolute obsession with thrifting secondhand ceramics and kitchenware from my local charity stores and vintage markets. Take a look at my little "how to" video where I share all my tips and tricks for sourcing beautiful secondhand ceramics and kitchenware for your home. I love looking for interesting plates, bowls, candle holders, jugs, serving platters and jars in different colours and interesting shapes an sizes, as well as patterned rims. It's such an inexpensive way to take your table setting from drab to fab in a few mere seconds! Typically if you have a busy tablecloth, you might want to keep your ceramics minimalist, and vice versa. But lately I have been experiments with "more is more" and using busy, printed tablecloths with fun and colourful plates and bowls. For inspiration, I recently bought this plate and this plate in a set of 4 and I am so in love with them! Pink and green are very much my favourite colours (just look at my website wink wink) so I tend to gravitate towards these colours. I also love layering different secondhand and vintage plates on plates, as well as bowls on plates in opposing colours, patterns and shapes. This adds such a lovely textural element to the table.
  • Napkins and Placemats: I am a big fan of mixing and matching napkins and placemats against the backdrop of the tablecloth. There really are no rules but it's important to make sure the tones in the napkins and placemats sit well with the tones in the tablecloth. When choosing napkins and placements, you need to factor in is size, texture, material, colour and shape. I recently bought these and I am madly in love with the wavy edges.
  • Cutlery and Glassware: You can't go wrong with a gold/brass cutlery set, and a silver cutlery set with a little patina - and that's all you need. I do tend to find myself looking for sets at vintage markets and recently bought a beautiful set, but that's a big treat. When it comes to glassware, I like minimal styles but I also love reeded glassware. I am also a huge lover of champagne coupe glasses and love serving all manner of drinks in them. For styling, I like to keep minimalist glassware together and reeded/decorative glassware together. 
  • Centrepieces: There is a lot to be said about centrepieces and I like to strike a balance between style and function. Huge standout centrepieces look incredible on arrival for that essential "wow" factor, but it makes me sad when these huge centrepieces (often stunning vases of flowers and foraged greenery) have to leave the table to make way for the food. I think a centrepiece should be more practical and have a purpose, and should stay on the table during the meal, while also complimenting the dishes and the experience of gathering with your loved ones. Some of the items I like to use for centrepieces are candles in unique candle holders (if you don't have any candle holders, use tea cups or saucers, or even a hollowed out capsicum I saw on Pinterest!), lower bouquets of flowers, table styled foraged greenery, native wreaths, jugs, timber boards, fabric, bottles of oil, salt and pepper ramekins, and low vases. Pro tip: flowers and greenery can get expensive if you're buying from a florist, so have a look around in your backyard, the trees in your street, or ask your neighbour if you can cut some flowers or olive branches. You'll save a lot of money if you get creative!

  

Get those RSVPs

You've set a date, you've invited your guests, you've chosen a theme and menu, and you're table setting compliments your dishes - what next? A week before your event, check in with your guests and confirm their RSVPs. Let them know how excited you are, remind them of the start time, and let them know if they need to bring anything, like BYO booze. RSVPs are obviously essential so you know who's coming, but it's vital for knowing how much food you need to buy and prep, which is ultra important. I also find this is a great time to create a Spotify playlist to enjoy on the day. If you don't have one, see if one of your friends do - it'll save you a tonne of time using theirs.

 

It's time to go shopping

When you know who's officially coming, it's time to make your grocery list and check it twice. Even three times. I have been SO guilty of overbuying in the past but over the last few years, I have become a bit of a drill sergeant with my grocery list. The best place to start is by looking at each dish and the ingredients against how many guests are coming. Look at what you already have in your pantry and fridge, see if any ingredients double up, get savvy with measurements, and write a final grocery list divided into two segments - "the week of" and "day before". Some items you can buy a week ahead, but other items need to be super fresh and you'll need to grab them the day before. This little extra step helps manage your timeline throughout the week of your event.

 

The day before 

The day before your event is crucial. Block out the entire day if you can (get a babysitter if you have kids or call in the grandparents to help), and get your final groceries in the morning, then spend the rest of the day prepping and making what you can. It really helps having a spare fridge in the garage (I cannot tell you what a lifesaver ours has been), but if you don't have a spare fridge, get creative with how you pack and store items in your kitchen fridge. If something doesn't really need to go in the fridge the day before (like capsicums), leave them out on your bench. I also use the day before to assemble my table setting elements, and I like to group ingredients by their dishes on the kitchen bench for extra organisation. I like to lay out the serving dishes too so I know what dishes will be served on what plates, platters and bowls. Another thing I do the day before is check the weather. Unless we're eating by the fire pit, our two entertaining areas are under cover. Whatever the weather is looking like, make sure you have a back up plan because you may need to move your event inside if you're planning on having it outside. 

 

On the day

Get up early, get that table set and start on the food prep, baking and cooking. Send your guests a text letting them know you're excited to see them at the time your event is commencing. Make sure your beverages are cold and that you leave about an hour before your guests arrive to have a shower, get ready and make any final adjustments. Light those candles and remember, have fun! There are bound to be a couple if hiccups on the day, but that's only normal. Enjoy yourself and the company you share. Don't worry about the washing up either until after your guests have left - just give everything a quick rinse and deal with it the following day. But if you're lucky, your guests may rally in the kitchen and help you clean everything up. And those are the friends you keep forever :) 

 

 My Top 10 Tips For Entertaining At Home My Top 10 Tips For Entertaining At Home

My Top 10 Tips For Entertaining At Home My Top 10 Tips For Entertaining At Home

 

 


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