Entertaining... is one of my favorite topics. I love everything about it, from the planning, to the list making, to the whole final layout. More often than not though, for friends who are not lovers of entertaining, it can feel daunting; even overwhelming. I am here to tell you that it doesn't have it be that way my friend! This will be a multi- part series, where we go over everything you need to know to make your next event relaxed and enjoyable. Theme, budget, list ( menu ideas), list (date lines)and a list for the list ( to do, up to ushering the first guest in), & 2 tried and true recipes. Here are a few simple tricks to turn basic & boring into bougie and beautiful, even with a small budget.
Budget... it's a dreaded word, but a necessary evil. It's quite easy to go from super simple to over the top quickly. One of the first things I will do when planning an event, whether it's for myself or a client is to set a budget. I typically will take that bottom line number and divide it out into a few categories. I like to follow a simple rule of thumb of 25/50/25. Decoration ( flowers, tableware, etc.), food ( including beverages) & miscellaneous with keeping those ratios in mind work great.
It can be REALLY easy to get carried away with the décor part of this. Like... we won't discuss how many set of Christmas dishes ya girl has.. at least not in the blazing heat and humidity of July. Stick with a few basic staples such as white dishes and consider using some of your food choices as additional décor ( like a beautiful purple cabbage that doubles as a veggie dip holder). I also like to stick with white napkins because bleach and line drying works miracles. If you are going to add candles to the table or buffet area, stick with unscented. I know.. hard to believe I'm saying that, right? but here's the thing... I'm interested in food. I do not want to have to try to decipher what looks and smells good over the blasting smell of your lovely Gardenia scented candle. Trust me on this. Save the scented candles for the entryway and powder room. Now.. get crazy on a table runner, add some gorgeous blooms in vibrant colors, or stick with neutral flowers and pop them into a beautiful piece of pottery. I'm always on the look out for unusual things to put flowers in, even if those flowers are nothing more than herbs from my garden, or boxwood clippings. There's something timeless about just greenery. Those white plates I told you to use? Add a touch of interest with those by choosing a square set. If you are going with a more formal table setting, get your kids involved by having them put out the cutlery. Easy tip to help them know which goes where.... LEFT= FORK ( both 4 letters) RIGHT=KNIFE & SPOON ( both 5 letters) Add to the edible décor portion of your event by drizzling those plates with a balsamic glaze during the salad portion of the meal and a pop of pink from a raspberry drizzle during dessert. After all, your biggest expense of your event and the opportunity to really shine is the food.
Now that you've got your budget allocated out start to pick your menu. Very often, the theme of your party may dictate some of your food choices. I like to look at my guest list and tweak my menu options based on that. One of my favorite things lately is grazing tables and brunches. There is something about both that just make my little heart happy. I can't explain it, only that I love them. Like a lot. A lot a lot. The time of day is also the other big deciding factor on how your menu & food budget will look. I believe that the most budget friendly time frame is 2-4 pm. People have had lunch & it's too early for dinner. Light finger foods and desserts work great here and while the prep work may be more occasionally it can really help tackle somethings such as how to keep food hot, cold, etc. Things such as chicken salad make for a lovely plate when combined with leaf lettuce and bright tomatoes. We will look more at food options is the next post of this series. The other big expense with the food and beverage are is beverages. Years ago, I would damn near go broke trying to have every type of adult beverage and mixer available under the sun, plus any mixer I felt like people would want, including options for guest who weren't indulging or were under age. I even went so far one year as to have multiple types of bourbon, because I knew my dad was a die hard Henry McKenna guy, but my cousin liked Jack Daniels and my son in law leaned towards Three Crosses. The Christmas before covid, I decided to only have Knobb Creek. It was what I liked and is a smooth good all around bourbon. And guess what... everyone enjoyed it just as much. Why? Because for the most part, people aren't in the habit of turning down free liquor. My rule of thumb now a days is I will have a good bourbon, a good vodka, 1-2 beer choices and a decent middle of the road wine. I always have a cranberry champagne punch from fall- late winter and then I switch out the cranberry for pineapple and oj. I also always have punch for a non alcoholic option and it goes QUICK!! Bonus points here, because it doubles as a great mixer for vodka. In recent event I've had bottled water and set up a small water bar with seasonal fruits and other cool options for water.
The final spot to delegate your dollars out is miscellaneous. I consider these things like to go containers, extra Reynolds wrap & cling wrap, invitations, really anything that doesn't fall into food or décor.
So now grasshopper.. you've got a budget. Make your dollars work for you. Stay tuned to more in this series as we look at more tips and tricks for effortless entertaining!