We all set ourselves high expectations occasionally: to be the best we can be, to put our best foot forward, to try our best, etc. But when it comes to a party, that kind of "best"-focused thinking can be counter-productive. In preparation for the holiday season, here are three things that you can Stop Worrying About Now, and three that you might want to focus your energies on.
Things to maybe chill out about:
- Having a picture-perfect setting. We all want to put our best foot forward, but holding your home to shelter mag standards is hardly necessary. So there are some half-built shelves in the living room; string some fairy lights on them and call in a feature! Putting off a party because your house isn't up to par only results in missed opportunities.
Same goes for cleanliness. While I'd never advise having guests over without at least a quick clean, focus on the things that matter: a sparkling bathroom, relatively dust-free surfaces, a clutter-free living room. No one will care if your medicine cabinet or fridge are organized, and no one will notice if the walls in the entryway need a scrub. Low lighting and the distraction of good conversation can work wonders.
- Whether all the food is homemade. As someone who loves to cook and entertain, I've fallen into this trap more than once. Serving an array of finger food while guests arrive? Better make three kinds of flatbreads and homemade hummus, then. Store-bought ice cream with that pie? Not at my dinner party!
This, quite frankly, is exhausting and ridiculous. If you can swing a 100% homemade meal, by all means go for it, but otherwise, cut yourself some slack. Good breads, cheeses and olives always go down a treat as pre-dinner nibbles, as does a bakery-bought dessert if you're not a natural baker. Even consider ordering in the main if that's your thing: as long as it's tasty and abundant, no one will care where it came from.
- The group dynamic. When mixing friend groups, it's easy to worry about whether everybody will hit it off. Equal numbers of guys and girls, whether every guest has a "buddy" other than you: my advice is not to worry about these things, and choose your guests based on their fab and mesh-able personalities. Think about it like this: you're an awesome person with awesome taste in friends. All yours friends are thus, similarly awesome. Everyone will be friends by the time dessert rolls around, anyway.
Instead, focus your energy here:
- Presentation. While I'm not suggesting Martha levels of prep are always necessary, I do think that presentation is the best way to make your guests think they're getting a Michelin-star meal (even if you did buy half of it at the deli around the corner). Toss a simple salad on a beautiful platter, arrange the cheeseboard with care. Don't ignore the table either: flowers, candles, place cards if you're so inclined— all will create the sense of a considered, yet effortless, occasion.
- Abundance. It's always better to have too much food and drink than too little. Offer more dessert, even if everyone is stuffed. Bring out tea and coffee. Heck, send guests home with leftovers for their lunch the next day! I keep cheap plastic take-out containers around for this purpose, and it's a huge compliment when someone eagerly takes me up on the offer.
- Enjoyment. If you're enjoying yourself, so will your guests. Answer the door with a drink in your hand and a smile on your face. If you're stuck in the kitchen for a bit, take up an offer to join you and help. They came to see you, after all.
Re-edited from a post originally published 12.4.14-NT