Starting Small with Home Entertaining

(OR Realizing Your Friends Aren’t So Scary After All)

Today’s post starts off part four of the Modern Simple Homemaking series: Hospitality & Entertaining. *gulp* No biggie, right? It’s not like inviting people over and feeding/entertaining them is a multi-million dollar industry with poster-women so adept they would hardly be fazed by a surprise visit from international dignitaries? Oh wait....
martha / ina / nigella
Don’t get me wrong, throwing a fabulous turn-of-the-century garden party may flirt at the edges of my entertaining dreams (during which Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and myself will become absolute besties, naturally). BUT THE TRUTH IS...grandiose events whose main focus is on table decor and canapés, well, they miss the heart of what hospitality and entertaining are really all about, which, as with so many areas of our homes, is really...love.

You may not have silver platters or cut-crystal vases, but I bet you have some chairs. Chairs and people are really all it takes to be a great entertainer. Note: Food certainly doesn’t hurt either!

Okay, now that we’ve banished the tv-star-inferiority-complex, it’s time to have some fun! And maybe, you'll realize that inviting friends over isn't so scary or overwhelming after all!

A few general tid-bits to remember:
- Clean Up: A tidy (not spotless) home is welcoming and helps you feel more confident when opening your door.
- Use Your Noggin: Think through your “event” in advance and get a concept together, no matter how simple. 
  Special event? Is there a theme? Vegetarian friends coming? Food allergies?
- Be Realistic: Consider your space, time, and skills. Don’t plan food too elaborate to prepare or invite more 
  people than can fit in your living room. Even basic planning will save a lot of stress later.
- Be Real: Don’t overly apologize for clutter or not-quite-finished projects—it makes guests uncomfortable. Plus, it’s 
  not a secret that actual humans live in your home!
- Be Relaxed: The hostess sets the tone for the environment, not the state of the house. If you are comfortable, so 
  will your guests be.
- Golden Rule: Welcome guests and treat them the way you’d want to be treated.
- Flex & Stretch: Flexibility and adaptability are key. If things go awry or plans change at the last minute, take a 
  deep breath, and go with it. Meals can fall apart, drinks can spill, guests bring unexpected friends. Remember...
  it’s about love and friendship, not seating charts.
- Keep It Simple: Some of the most beautiful touches are the simplest ones.
- Accept Help: Don’t shy away from letting your family chip in if they offer. If a guest wants to contribute, suggest 
  they light candles, toss the salad, or take drink orders. (They love you too, ya know!)
- Lead Sensational Conversation: No one likes awkward silence, so brush up on current events or jot down some 
  ideas for interesting topics. Ideas include: geography, entertainment, nature, work, family, fun memories, or 
  even random, silly questions. 

Lastly, don’t forget that the first people you usually invite (family, friends, coworkers, etc.) already know you (at least a little bit). These are people who like you alreadythey’ll be happy just to be asked to spend time in your home! Not so scary, really.

Fun story time: Not long ago, I invited a group of girls over for snacks and casual hanging out. Although I was a bit nervous, I was really looking forward to it. I set out cheese and crackers, fresh fruit and dip, pretzels, and a homemade chocolate pie (my one hostessing splurge). Strider and I also spent some time that day writing down silly questions to put in a bowl as conversation starters. Of course, everyone was relaxed and had no trouble snacking and talking the hours away, but a bit of planning made me feel more confident going into it. And the bowl questions? Well, the ladies said it was crazy but we answered them anyways and had a great time. Not fancy but definitely fun!

Starting to plan a simple event like this, ask yourself:
- How many people/whom will I invite?
- What’s the purpose: a meal, conversation, a movie/sports game, board games, etc?
- Based on those two questions, what food/drinks will I serve?
- What will I need to pull it all together? (Groceries, movie rental, borrowing games, extra chairs)
Tip: If you’re worried about cooking a whole meal, try doing a potluck or progressive meal instead!

Make a list and make it happen! Easy peasy, or at least maybe more so than you thought.

Last personal note: I once read an article about how the extra planning and detail put into a gathering can be a reflection of love for the guests, rather than a desire to impress or seek compliments. Not that a quickly thrown-together pizza night means dislike, but that when something special is planned, the extra mile details demonstrate that the host values guests enough to put forth the extra effort. This idea really resonates with me and is usually reflected in silly touches like handwritten food labels or coordinating napkins. So, the next time someone goes “above & beyond” in planning a meal or setting the table, consider that maybe they’re less interested in hostessing praise than wanting you to feel really loved! 

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.


  1. These are great tips!!! The conversation part is hardest for me! #introvertlife So brushing up on current events is a great tip! :)

    1. Thanks, Robyn. The silly bowl questions actually worked really well for us too since sometimes I feel out of my depth with political/financial current events. We tried to think of all the weird interview questions we've ever been asked "What kind of candy bar would you be and why?" "What is your spirit animal?" that sort of thing. They were actually really fun convo starters. :)

  2. great ideas...once again and fun to read also!!!! I love you!


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