Entertaining 101*

*Disclaimer: I am a “Beginner” Hostess, so take all tips with a grain of salt.

I grew up in the home of the ultimate hostess. My mom is gracious, hospitable, and knows how to throw a party. I remember from my earliest years birthday parties, holiday celebrations, even work functions being held in our home and going off without a hitch. I will never forget all of the time, effort, attention to detail and consideration she put in to planning Brian and I’s wedding and all of the surrounding events. She did an amazing job and I will always cherish the memories of that planning process with her!

And now, it’s my turn to begin opening my home to others. As with so many things in life, there is a learning curve; this one, to me, being particularly unpredictable. But, alas, I am learning. And here are my “Rules for Entertaining” so far:

1. The first thing I have learned: Let it go. There will be hiccups throughout the planning process and definitely during the event, but you just have to shake it off and move on. No one is perfect, and no guest expects perfection. For example, last week when we hosted an engagement party for our friends, I was literally pulling the Bruschetta out of the oven (with hair still soaking wet!!) as our first guests walked through the door. Um, yeah. Less than perfection, if you ask me.

2.  Secondly, be willing to adapt the “plan”. Another example from last week: I knew I was running late and would be unable to do everything I needed to get done (which included cleaning, cooking, baking, and showering) prior to the party so I had to make a last-minute decision; something had to give. In the case of last week, it was the Chocolate Dipped Clementines I had planned on adding to the menu. But you know what? No one missed them…except me, ha. A hostess simply must go with the flow.

3. Number three is a tough one, for me, anyway. A hostess must never be above asking for help; and always gracious enough to accept it. As you know, Brian and I hosted our first Thanksgiving this year. Prior to my in-laws arriving in town for the holiday, I told Brian I wanted everything to go perfectly, and for Pete and Denise to not have to lift a finger to help (after all, this was their vacation). He laughed, told me to be realistic, and to accept help because people like to offer it. And boy oh boy, were his parents helpful! It was a great hosting experience and I believe the reason is because I did not stress or worry about accepting help. It turned in to a family event (both the cooking and the cleaning) and a memory I will always love. I was so beyond appreciative of their willingness to help, and so very glad that I accepted it. I needed it; I was not above help…and definitely not perfect.

4. Lastly (and most importantly), a hostess must always remember; the guests are the most important part of entertaining. If a hostess is stressed, overwhelmed, scurrying about without engaging the people in her home; the guests will feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. Hosting is all about creating a warm and inviting environment. It’s about celebrating; whether a birthday, engagement, holiday or the weekend (we have lots of those celebrations!), it should be fun. Once the event starts, a hostess should not worry about the mistakes, problems, hiccups, and really focus on her guests, and enjoying the event herself.

Hosting is a lot of work, and I have a very long way to go in learning how to be a gracious and hospitable hostess. But I am excited to keep learning; to keep hosting. I am thankful for the friends and family in my life that provide me the opportunity to host, as well as  the abundance of reasons for celebration. Next up? A girl’s night this coming Monday!

Becca Tochman

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