How do you entertain elegantly and with style?
The first consideration for creating a successful time together, is to think of your guests’ experience. You will want them to feel comfortable, relaxed and to enjoy themselves. And it will help, if you feel relaxed also so you can enjoy yourself.
Having people visit your home to share a meal can be stressful. There are so many things to think of. Let’s look at some ways to make the whole experience a picture of elegance.
- Forward preparation is the key to success. I would suggest that you make a list in advance of the overall experience you want to create. Not only the food, but the entire experience.
- Would you like to have an inviting doorway?
- How do you want the house to smell when your friends or guests walk in?
- How do you want it to look and feel?
- Are there key topics of interest that they will want to discuss or see.
Although these ideas may seem of little consequence, imagine arriving at your door, and it is clean, tidy and may have welcoming touches, perhaps that reflect the season. Imagine walking in and the house smells fresh and clean, or fragrant? We can all recall walking into a house where we have found it smelling stale and stuffy. Small impressions combine to make an overall impact.
I prefer a warm living environment and when visiting others in their houses, I’m often cold. With this in mind, I try to have my home at an ambient temperature, so others visiting don’t get cold.
When your guests arrive, where will they go first and what will they see? Does your house have an entry area or do they walk straight into the living area? Are these clean, tidy and welcoming? Can you make them look more attractive? What can you clear away and what can you add? Fresh flowers, candles and mirrors are always wonderful additions.
Go through your house, looking at the rooms and areas where your guests are likely to spend time. When we live with clutter and disorder, after a few weeks, those things tend to become invisible to us. Carefully look at the room and see if you have junk piled here and there, that can be moved away. Imagine that you are taller, or shorter and see what perspectives change, and what needs dusting. If you have a trusted friend nearby, ask them for their honest perspective but only if you admire their sense of style.
As well as the dining area and lounge, look also at the guest bathroom and hallway that leads to it. The bathroom needs to be spotlessly clean and to smell good. Once again, look to see if you can make everything tidy and beautiful.
Forward planning and execution of your cleaning regime will enable you to just have a quick ‘once over’ on the day of your entertaining. You don’t want to be having a spring clean hours before the guests arrive.
One of the most important parts of elegant entertaining is the food. Whether it be finger food, a lunch or a full dinner you will need to plan the menu in advance. I look at what food is in season and local along with what I already have available in my garden and pantry. You don’t need to spend a fortune on groceries. With some thought and creativity, you can prepare a delicious meal on a budget. Gather ideas from recipes you find online until you find something that is easy to prepare and that will surprise and delight your guests.
Once you have settled on your menu, write it all down. Write down the course, whether it be the appetizer, the salad, main etc and the food items. Note also the garnishes and what plates you will serve the food on, and the cutlery. You may also want to note what drink will be served. This helps to create a full picture, so there are no last minute panics. Thorough preparation will enable you to relax, talk with your guests and have fun, as well as serve an excellent menu. By writing this all down, it forces you to think through the event clearly. Clarity is very empowering and will build your self-confidence.
From your menu, decide what you need to buy in and what can be made in advance. I prefer to make as much as possible the day before, and on the day there is only reheating and plating up the food.
I would suggest you make an effort with your table décor. A beautifully set table, either when used as a smorgasbord or for sit down dining, sets the theme and adds elegance. Search online for ideas or in magazines. Keep the theme simple but do what you do excellently. Keep the color scheme uniform and simple. It is often said that less is more. Less clutter adds more elegance in this case. You don’t need to use every piece of cutlery you own or use several types of crystal glasses to be elegant. It can be uncomplicated, but everything must be clean and look coordinated.
Prior to the event, you will also want to know what you will wear, right down to the small details so you don’t realize that morning that you should have gone to the hairdressers the week before.
If you want to have background music playing, get this sorted also.
On the day of your entertaining, you want to feel like everything is under control. This way you will be able to keep serene and poised. You can then look your best and offer your home, food and presence as a delightful gift.
What if things go wrong? What if you drop something? What if there is a faux pas in the conversation?
If you have covered as much preparation as possible beforehand, there should be a minimal amount that can go wrong. So when something does go wrong, let it go. Don’t obsess and don’t go on and on about it, bringing it to everyone’s attention. Move on and think of Plan B. Laugh at yourself and know that things go wrong for everyone at some time.
Think of some positive conversation starters in advance. Try to keep away from any topic that is controversial or uncomfortable for someone in the room. Read local newspapers and know what is going on in your community. If your guests know each other through a certain interest, be familiar with latest events.
If you are entertaining guests who don’t know each other well, ensure you spend time with each one individually, so they all enjoy your hospitality in a personal way. Guide your guests to share the conversation and include those who are not so extrovert and talkative.
Be careful to not drink too much alcohol and try to limit intoxication of any guest. It’s one thing to be sociable but excessive drinking is not elegant.
Remember to enjoy yourself. Smile, relax and that will encourage others to feel at ease in your home.