No9 | If possible, it's nice to include some type of activity during your get together, or revolve your party around some type of activity. For big parties, I think it takes the pressure off people to socialize when the event is planned around some type of activity - the Kentucky Derby, a Panther's Football game, an Oyster Roast - just anything to give guests who may not know people well something to do and talk about during an event. (Don't mistake this for me thinking that every party needs a crazy over the top, everything matches theme - I don't think that has to be the case, but I think it's nice if a big party has something that pulls people together, even if that something is as simple as a margarita machine!)
For smaller dinner parties, one of the more common (super fun!) activities may be something as simple as a game of cards. At our two most recent Steak Clubs, the hosts have included really fun games as we sat around the dinner table. I'll share in case anyone is interested: One evening, each guest wrote something random down on a tiny sheet of paper. The host collected everyone's phrase and then tucked one phrase under each dinner plate. As we sat down to dinner, we each read to ourselves the phrase we needed to work into the conversation that evening. It leads to some hilarious (and stressful if you're not funny like me!) conversation. Our penalty for being caught saying your phrase unsuccessfully (or calling someone out successfully) was either a swig of bourbon or a round of push ups. We each woke up with headaches and sore arms the next day.
The second game we played this past weekend was also super fun. The host passed around little sheets of paper - two sheets included the word "lie." He then presented a question to the group, in this case "What's the most embarrassing thing your parents ever caught you doing" and we each went around with our response. Only two people were lying! It obviously made for full, interesting conversations, and of course penalties were involved for guessing incorrectly. It was super simple and really fun. We all agreed that we hope our Steak Club is still getting together 20 years from now laughing about the embarrassing things we caught our children doing.
No10 | If you're a somewhat relaxed host, I think it's really fun to plan a menu where you involve the guests in the cooking. (One of my mom's best friends is so relaxed she can comfortably involve friends to cook lobster while steak is on the grill. I'm not this relaxed! That would stress me out!) But I try to be relaxed enough to set up a big platter of food and let people "assemble" their own dinner - a platter of toppings for grilled cheese sandwiches, a make your own pizza bar, even something as simple as a ton of toppings for people to top their bowl or chili or ice cream for dessert. I just think people like doing a little bit of something to contribute to their dinner every now and then. I think the trick here is to have all of your toppings/ingredients prepped in advance and ready to be used. Otherwise, it just turns into a last minute mess that adds stress.
Past Entertaining Tricks | No1 Make Ahead | No2 Music On, No3 Candles Lit, No4 Drink in Hand | No5 Clean "Enough" House, No6 Empty Dishwasher | No7 Host Parties in a Row, No8 Only "Cook" one thing - Assemble the Rest
Any tricks you swear by that we need to add to the list? I'd love for this to be a running list of friends and readers tried and true secrets!
p.s. do we overthink entertaining?
image via Camille Styles