The Best Entertaining Tips for First-Time Easter Hostesses
Hosting Easter can feel overwhelming if you've never done it before, since—sans the football and parades that fill Thanksgiving and the presents that distract come Christmas—the focus is all on your event. Planner Kiersten Rooney of LB Events and Design, and an experienced Easter hostess for her own family, shares four simple steps for making your spring celebration a foolproof success.
Plan for a midday meal.
Most Easter celebrations take place in the late morning or at lunchtime, so if that has worked for your guests in the past, stick with tradition. "Many people attend church or a neighborhood Easter egg hunt in the morning, so the timing lends itself well to brunch," says Rooney. You can push the meal off until early or mid-afternoon, but stay away from a later dinner: "I think it's a good idea to consider earlier meals for Easter, since it's on a Sunday," says Rooney. "That way you can nearly guarantee your guests that they'll be home at a reasonable hour and therefore ready for Monday."
As for your guest list, you have plenty of flexibility: "Easter is one of those holidays that falls somewhere between Thanksgiving and Memorial Day—usually it is a family occasion, but it can be opened up to close friends and neighbors depending on how formal or casual you want to be," says Rooney. If your vision includes a formal table with detailed place settings and an elaborate, plated meal, Rooney recommends capping your guest list at eight.
Minimize your kitchen tasks.
Hosting a late morning or early afternoon meal works best with recipes that don't require much day-of attention, especially if you'll be at an egg hunt or religious service in the morning. "I have two big pieces of advice when it comes to a successful menu," says Rooney. "Plan ahead and make it simple!" She suggests anchoring your meal with overnight French toast casserole and an easy frittata, and adding fruit salad, deviled eggs, and a store-bought ham to minimize your Easter morning to-do list. If your family expects its annual must-haves—lamb, green beans, carrot cake— include them, but don't hesitate to update the menu with new options, too. "I do think there is something nostalgic about serving the food you remember from growing up," says Rooney. "However, make it reflect you and what you love and think of during spring. A local farmers' market is the perfect place to be inspired by what produce is in season and what will make a delicious entrée, as well as side dish."
Not everyone likes cooking for a crowd, so it's fine to outsource the meal if you're more comfortable with that. "If you are anxious about all the cooking and would prefer to leave it to the professionals, feel free to have the meal catered," says Rooney. "I recommend ordering dishes that can be picked up in advanced and heated in the morning so everything stays fresh and your schedule can stay flexible." Set up a mimosa bar with Champagne and several different juices, add flavored syrups at your coffee station, and put out fresh mint leaves and lemon slices with iced tea for DIY drinks your guests can serve themselves.
Decide on your décor.
Easter decorations often lean more cutesy than sophisticated, but vintage patterns, contemporary colors, and natural elements let you put your own style spin on the standards. "While I think the classic Easter icons, like chicks, eggs, and bunnies, are continually reinvented and will never fully go out of style," says Rooney, "I play off the spring/reborn theme. Fresh blooming flowers, bright spring colors, and fruits and veggies in a centerpiece are great ways to relay the idea of spring."
Decorate with a consistent color palette, too—whether it's shimmering pinks and golds; natural cream, gray, and robin's egg blue; or vibrant neon patterns—for a cohesive, uncomplicated table. As an extra touch, Rooney makes individual favor baskets for each place setting. "My favorite table décor detail each year is a unique Easter basket that is simple, cost-effective, and on-theme with the table," she says. One example: "A small wood berry basket with a personal-sized Champagne, small linen pouch of chocolate eggs, and a mini-bouquet of garden herbs."
Work in special activities for little ones.
Generally, beautiful weather, an endless supply of jellybeans, and the excitement of egg hunts and chocolate bunnies makes Easter an especially fun day for kids. Entertain the pint-sized guests at your party with hands-on activities, crafts, and just-for-them treats and drinks. "In terms of the menu, most kids will eat simple versions of brunch items—like scrambled eggs and plain bacon. Serve raspberry sorbet party punch to your miniature guests—it's colorful and delicious!" she says. "And when it comes to the kids on Easter, there are so many crafts ideas to keep the little hands busy. Order some wood eggs, some glue, supplies, or stickers, and let the kids craft away!"