In-House Entertainment

There are hundreds of venues in Northern Virginia for hosting parties and celebrations. Would you like to know which one ranks the best? Your home! Why? It’s a warm, inviting space and tastefully decorated, too – after all, it’s yours!

Before you object to hosting a party at home, citing too much effort, limited space – or even fear – let’s explore the advantages: no rental fees, minimal decorations, ample setup time and, again, it’s a really comfortable place. Isn’t it ironic that many people search high and low for alternate venues that feel “just like home”? To alleviate your concerns – which are all very valid – here are five simple strategies for entertaining in your home with confidence and ease.

No time? Think Three.
According to time management experts, three is a manageable number; anything more is too overwhelming. Therefore, plan your party in groups of three – as in three drinks, three foods and three design elements for a three-hour party. For example, if hosting a dinner party, plan for beer, wine and soda; first course, main course and dessert; and linens, flowers and candles. Limiting the number of items equals fewer to-dos and more time to do them!

Too small? Create space.
Interior designers know the best tricks to make a small room bigger – white paint, natural light, mirrors and (my favorite) no clutter! Clutter takes up space. Move stacks of papers and books, as well as remote controls and other knick-knacks off coffee tables, consoles and countertops. Put throws in the guest room and, unless pillows might be used for floor seating, put them away, too. A tidy and organized room will provide ample room for all of your guests.

Afraid? Keep it simple.
Many people are afraid of failing – running out of food, making bad plans, boring guests or, worse, wasting money. To overcome these fears, keep party plans simple. Host an intimate cocktail party instead of an elaborate late-night bash. A shorter party with fewer food items and drinks allows you to focus on the reason for celebrating.

Home improvements? Don’t bother.
Planning a party while painting the house, renovating the kitchen and or replacing the carpet is super stressful. Inevitably, it takes longer to complete these projects; they’re rarely finished on time. Unless there’s a risk of a guest getting hurt, save home improvement projects until after the party. Remember, it’s a two- to three-hour party, and most guests will be too engaged in conversation to notice slight repair or renovation needs.

Too much effort? Co-hostess!
When celebrating seems like too much work, consider collaborating with neighbors. Host a progressive dinner party. Guests enjoy appetizers and cocktails in one home, dinner in another home and, finally, dessert (and dancing) in a third home. This concept is really interactive and works well if the hosts have many friends in common. If not, no worries – it’s an opportunity to introduce new friends, which is always a benefit of parties. I’ve seen this format utilized successfully for neighborhood holiday parties and community fundraising events. The one disadvantage is constant movement, which may be challenging for older or special needs guests.

A few more tips about entertaining at home:
Invite the right people. People make the party. Therefore, give thoughtful consideration to the guest list. Invite guests from various corners of your life but try to balance gender, marital status, occupation and, most importantly, personality. Parties are great opportunities to meet new people, so be sure to introduce your guests to each other.

Create zones. Avoid congestion by creating separate areas for the bar, food displays, and seating.

Create a playlist. Download your favorite tunes and hit shuffle once. The trick is to over-program. If your party is two hours long, download enough music for three to four hours.

Enlist help. Ask for help or accept requests to help if you need it. Have a short list handy of minor tasks that guests can help with when they arrive such as opening wine, replenishing ice or passing the hors d’oeuvre tray.

Clean what can be seen. Focus on the entrance, powder room and kitchen as well as the seating and dining areas. Wipe down tables and run the vacuum, but save heavy duty cleaning for after the party.

Less is more. Instead of a wide assortment of food, drinks and decorations, streamline your selections and strive for complementary items. The result will seem abundant!

Host smaller gatherings more frequently. Over time, you will develop a mental checklist for planning a party and entertaining will become second nature.

Ashleigh Dorfman, CSEP

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