There are a few things over the years I've learnt about hosting that have definitely prepared me for the last-minute gatherings as well as the more intentional soirées.
1. Keep the guest list manageable
Be realistic about how much space you have and what type of event you're hosting. If you're having a drinks party you can expect that people will be happy to stand, they'll want to mingle with other guests so having enough seating for each person is not essential. However, if you're having a traditional dinner party it’s important that everyone has a seat and can fit around the table. It's not important that all the seating match, mix and matching furniture is always fun and creates a relaxed environment. You’ll want everyone to comfortably be able to sit around the table for an intimate feel without knocking elbows every time they take a bite. It’s equally important knowing that not everyone can be invited to everything. Hosting fewer, smaller events means you are able to spend more quality time with each guest instead of trying to say a few words to everyone at a bigger event.
2. Send your invites in good time
Giving your guests enough notice is important so if they need to plan they have time to adjust their schedule. The further in advance they know of your event, the more likely they'll be able to attend and you will know how many to cater for.
3. Assess inventory
The week of your event, make sure you have everything you need. Have you got enough glasses, plates and cutlery? If you’re serving food on platters, are they clean and ready to be used? Having plenty of ice and napkins are essentials, so write a checklist. If you are missing something, you've given yourself plenty of time to pick up extra bits in advance.
4. Don't feel ashamed outsourcing
Just because you're the host it doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the party. Giving yourself less to do before or on the night is a simple way to leave the stress behind, particularly if the kitchen is not your happy place. Could someone make your canapés? Could you ask a family member to pour drinks? Or could a friend bring dessert? A joint effort can take the pressure off.
5. Prepare ahead of time
If you're hosting a dinner party I'd pick a menu where aspects of it can be prepared ahead of time. Whether it's a one-pot main course which can be slow cooking whilst your guests are arriving, or a simple dessert of strawberries and ice-cream which needs little prep work. Not just the food can be done in advance, why not set your table the night before your event? It's one less thing to do on the day and it will make you feel like everything is coming together.
6. Don't forget the ambience
Candles are the most flattering lighting and can create that hygge atmosphere we all swoon over. Use classic dinner candles, scatter tea lights or place pillar candles in lanterns. Music is really important too. If you're struggling with the playlist, there are endless options on Spotify. I'm a big fan of greenery as well as florals - introducing greenery or fresh herbs on your tablescape is an easy, organic way to lift a space.
7. Let your guests serve themselves
There's nothing wrong with serving a meal family style, in fact, I prefer it. Everyone can decide how much they want, they can help themselves to seconds and it helps create a less formal environment.
8. Keep the drinks flowing
There's nothing worse than a dry bar so make sure there are plenty of bottles for your guests. A drink on arrival will ease anxiety and warm up the party - make a welcome cocktail or have champagne on ice. It's important to keep non-alcoholic drinks for those who don't drink or are driving. Try homemade lemonade or put some cucumber and mint in water for an easy twist that everyone will love.