Thursday, January 14, 2010

H3: Entertaining Is Easier Than You Think

I hear the same myths about entertaining over and over again. It's expensive. It's a lot of work. I'm just not very good at it. I don't have a big enough kitchen. If you've ever thought any of those things I have one word to say to you: hogwash!

I'm lazy, bad at smalltalk, have almost no money, a small apartment and a tiny kitchen and I have people over anyway. I want to debunk some common myths about "entertaining" and encourage you to do it more.

It's expensive. You might find it hard to believe, but having people over saves me money. You're going to see your friends one way or another and your choices are pretty much go out and see them or have them over. (You could go to their place, but if you do that every time, you're just becoming a mooch. Consult Miss Manners about reciprocating hospitality.) I can't think of a single scenario when entertaining at home is more expensive than hosting an even of a similar caliber away from home. I can host a movie night for six for $5. That's less than the cost of a small popcorn at the theater. I can throw a dinner party for four for the cost of an appetizer at Olive Garden. The cost goes down even further if you have a potluck.

It's a lot of work. As I've stated many, many times I'm pretty much the laziest person who ever existed. If I can do it, you can do it. Besides, it's really not that much work. Clean up your home; text your friends; turn on the radio; and open a bag of chips and a jar of salsa. Voila! You've just had a party in four easy steps.

Yes, sometimes (oftentimes) I add more steps or make the steps more complicated, but honestly, you don't have to. Do you really want to be friends with someone who is going to judge you for not dusting the tops of your picture frames or because you didn't make a centerpiece? No, you don't. And guess what, they're not going to judge you for those things because they think you're awesome and want to hang out with you. Also, because you're giving them free beer. (If you're going to add steps, that's a good one to add.)

Make it even easier by enlisting the help of your significant other. Single? Co-host with a friend. Plus, there are tons of great resources out there to take some of the stress away from planning an event. Personally, I love Evite (they have a great beverage calculator too), Martha Stewart (for inspiration, not emulation), Miss Manners, Food Network (for recipes), and other bloggers.

I'm not very good at it. Start small until you build your confidence. Invite your best friend over to watch a movie. Next time, invite your parents over for dinner. Then invite three friends over to play a game and make sandwiches for them. Before you know it you're "entertaining", but really, you're just doing what you normally do and calling it a different name.

I think it's the word "entertaining" that's what throws people off. It's intimidating. It implies that you have to do something to entertain people, when really you don't. I think certain TV shows set too high a standard. Remember the people on those shows are extraordinary (and I mean that in the sense that they're not ordinary). Ordinary people have limited time, patience and money. So stop comparing yourself to others. Think of entertaining as a synonym of hanging out and you'll be alright.

I don't have a big enough kitchen/apartment/dining room. The solution to this is simple: don't invite so many people over. You can still have all of your friends over, just not all at once. There's no rule that says you have to have fifty people over for it to count as "entertaining".

When Chuk and I moved in together we made the trade-off to have a smaller kitchen/dining room/living room space in order to get an extra bedroom/office. It was a major downsizing of public space for both of us, especially Chuk. It was initially a concern for us, but we've adapted and we can still have people over, even in our small apartment.

We gave away Chuk's rectangular dining table and kept my round dining table for four...we can squeeze six people around it for dinner parties. We can squeeze more people into our apartment by encouraging people to circulate, which utilizes all the space. We do this by keeping drinks on one table and food on another table across the room. If you do want to have a lot of people over and they're going to need to sit (like for a movie or a football game), think about alternative seating. Can you use floor cushions? Pull chairs from other rooms? Heck, we've even used our camping chairs to seat guests before. It felt ghetto at the time, but our guests thought it was cool.

I often hear it said, "I need a kitchen big enough for entertaining. People always hang out in the kitchen at a party." That's a bunch of baloney. People hang out in the kitchen for one of two reasons: 1. That's where the food is or 2. That's where you are. Get the food and drinks out of the kitchen. I promise, it will change everything about the mood of your parties. As for #2, make sure you're done preparing for the party BEFORE your guests arrive. That sounds like such a no-brainer, but nobody is ever ready when their guests arrive. This puts the guests in an awkward position of feeling like they need to help you or else they have to hang out alone in another room. Build a thirty minute cushion into your prep time. That way, you have time to resolve any problems that arise before guests get there. If no problems arise, then you have thirty minutes to relax; if you're at ease, your guests will be relaxed and at ease.

How do you entertain? What's your best tip for having guests over?

5 comments:

  1. That is so true about people congregating in the kitchen - but if you move the food, you could solve that problem! Thanks for the kick in the butt. I need to get to "entertaining"!

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  2. I totally agree with you. We host people at our house at least 2-3 times a week due to the nature of our job. Put the food out in the open, and people stay near it. Plus, if you have it at your house, you don't go out which means you're not buying food at a restaurant and paying too much. Also, you can have way more fun in a house than you can at a restaurant! You can't play a game, or talk really loudly when you're out! Plus, the comfort of a home is just special. Enjoy entertaining!! :)

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  3. I love to entertain! I think your tips are really great. I do actually allow/invite guests to help in the kitchen. It seems to break the ice and help them be invested in the party.
    My biggest focus for entertaining is being welcoming by being relaxed and tuned in to my guests. I never apologize for my house or my food. I do try to plan easy food though.

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  4. Thank you for inspiring me to have a brunch the other day!
    I will be posting about it soon and linking to you!!!

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