Make gathering with loved ones a priority.

By Jenn Sinrich
December 10, 2019

In our increasingly busy and burdened lives, it can feel challenging to get a home-cooked meal on the table a handful of nights during the week, let alone prepare one for a group of family and friends. There's so much involved—you have to clean your home, go shopping for groceries, create a suitable menu that everyone will like, cook for a crowd, set the table, entertain, and clean up. Cumulatively, that makes a relaxing night on the couch sound far more preferable. "As a host, it can feel like all of the responsibility is on your shoulders—you've got to make sure your space is presentable, that everyone is well-fed and watered, and that you're playing the role of cheerful host," says Leah Weinberg, director and owner of Color Pop Events. "It can be really exhausting to handle everything behind the scenes and then also be 'on' to make sure everyone feels welcome and well-attended to."

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The good news is that it's possible to entertain family and friends more regularly without feeling even the slightest bit stressed. Here, event planners share their go-to tips.

Related: Essential Entertaining Tips Every Host Should Know

Prepare as much ahead of time as possible. 

This way, the important things rise to the top of your to-do list, like conversing, laughing, and enjoying your guests. "At the end of the long evening, you'll be questioning whether or not it is worth it, and if you are able to relax with your friends and family, it certainly will be," notes Oleta Collins, event producer, party planner, and florist at Flourishing Art.

Don't do dinner. 

"If the only way you entertain is by cooking an entire meal, you're going to have a hard time fitting it into your schedule," says Colleen Jeffers of the Good Drink. She recommends inviting friends over for pizza and wine, or takeout and board games, instead. "Make a compromise if you need to—you can still bake a great dessert or mix a killer cocktail to add that personal touch," she adds.

Outsource when you need to. 

Your guests aren't going to judge you if you didn't make the food yourself, so long as it tastes good! "Having help in the kitchen will not only spare the host some blood, sweat, and tears, but guests will also love being treated to a professionally catered meal," says Weinberg. "Also, if you don't have the best design sense, get one of your stylish friends to come in and help you do some decorating before guests arrive."

Stick to two-ingredient cocktails.

"There are plenty of cocktails out there that look and taste more sophisticated than a rum and coke, for about the same amount of effort," says Jeffers. "Champagne as an ingredient is particularly suited to the two-ingredient cocktail category, because it brings acidity to the table in the form of tartaric and lactic acid, as well as the sharp, nearly-but-not-quite acidic flavor of carbonation."

Related: Last-Minute Party Decorations You Can Make in Minutes

Keep the guest list manageable.

When making your guest list, ensure you can comfortably accommodate all of those you invite. "Look around your place and see how many seats there are between chairs, stools, sofa seating, and standing room," says Jung Lee, event strategist and founder of Fête. "It's very seldom everyone you invite can come, however, so you can invite a few more."

Have go-to décor items handy. 

"If you plan to start entertaining in your home more regularly, you're going to want to have fun and stylish sets of plates, glasses, utensils, and linens for folks to use," says Weinberg. She recommends always being on the lookout for great additions to your collection that will make your parties even more festive and vibrant. "This way, when it comes time for the party, you're not struggling to find matching sets of anything and your space will be easily dressed to the nines," she adds.

Embrace spontaneity.

Your friends aren't going to fault you for being busy and inviting them over last-minute if the mood strikes. "There's a time and a place for planning months in advance, but don't let that stop you from sending a last-minute group text when you have a spur-of-the-moment idea, like, 'Grabbed way too many apples at the farm market. Anyone free for pie tonight?'" Jeffers says. "Sometimes entertaining can simply mean letting people into your real-time fun moments, instead of trying to plan them."

Get guests involved in the kitchen.

Next time your guests ask, "What can I do to help?" take them up on it. Not only does this give them something to do while they socialize, but it minimizes your workload, notes Jeffers, who saves her best wine and conversation for the person who stands next to her at the sink, drying as she washes.

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