Everything I Know About Entertaining in Five Bullet Points

So the house is still pretty clean. That’s because we’ve had people over the last few weekends, including the book club for nine people.

I once had a friend tell me that the fastest way to get your house clean, top to bottom, is to invite people over. She was right.

I really like to entertain. That’s probably a weird statement coming from an introvert like me, but I do.

My house is super small and doesn’t hold a whole lot of people, so we don’t entertain big. But we like having small dinner parties, like 10-12 max. I can seat about 8 at my dining table. If the crowd’s bigger than that, we do a buffet.

But I really enjoy it.

I didn’t always. It used to make me nervous. But once I started the Book Club 13 years ago with my friend Barbara, I was kind of thrust into the realm of entertaining. In fact, the very first Book Club was at my house, for six almost-strangers. And I pretty much “practiced” on those poor women for 13 years. Before them, I’d only entertained my family, but the Book Club brought strangers, then friends, then guests of friends, in all varieties, and I had to get up to speed. 

I bought a coffee maker. (Chris and I didn’t drink coffee then.) I bought a creamer/sugar bowl. Over the years, I bought multiple sets of wine glasses, several sets of salad plates, two sets of soup bowls, and I’ve been slowly adding to my dessert dishes. I learned to set the table the night before. I learned to do simple, low centerpieces. I learned I needed cheese knives and weird things like that, which I bought along the way as I needed them. Superman and I experimented with various menus for Christmas Eve parties, and he learned to make fab drinks – one specialty a year. We built up our bar with ice buckets, martini shakers, glass pitchers, etc.

And over the years, with all this practice, I’ve found it to be really fun. Maybe because we keep entertaining the same people, and they’re all really forgiving. (Book Club friends – I thank you.)

Here are the most important things I’ve learned about entertaining over the years:

  • Don’t waste time cleaning your floors beforehand. I learned this one from my friend Parvaneh. She told me that if you have 8 or more people over, no one ever looks at your floors anyway. And you have to clean your floor after the party, so why do it twice? She’s absolutely right.
  • Make sure everyone has a drink in their hand within the first five minutes. I learned this one from my old editor Dixie. (Wise woman. She taught me lots of things, like this life tip, too.) If you get a drink into someone’s hand within the first five minutes, they feel welcome, comfortable, and it gives them something to do with their hands, which almost everyone appreciates at a party. I remember going to a great Christmas party at one of the judge’s homes (from Chris’ courtroom where he worked), and she was married to a professional baseball player named Steve, and he greeted us at the party by taking our coats and taking our drink orders within two minutes, no lie. I think I fell a little for Steve right then and there, amazed that he knew his etiquette.
  • Keep plastic forks and knives on hand. By the time we get to dessert, I always run out of regular forks.
  • Serve dessert on paper plates if you want. This might not be in the Emily Post books, but I’ve done this a few times. By the time you get to dessert – after a full meal, salad, drinks, appetizers, etc. on your “good plates” – no one is going to mind if you serve cake and cookies on paper. Make ‘em thematic and have a ball. Bonus? Fewer dishes at the end of the night.
  • Never let your guests do the dishes. Sometimes a few guests slip past me and try washing forks. (Anne, I’m looking at you.) But I really try to push everyone out of the kitchen and make sure guests don’t go to work at the end of the party. Once the last person has left, I pour a last glass of wine, turn the music up, and get into Zen mode, rinsing all the dishes and thinking back over the entire night and how much fun I had. Maybe because I’m an introvert, this trip back into my own head for a half hour doing something as mundane as rinsing dishes becomes super therapeutic , and I kind of look forward to it.

How about you? Do you like to entertain? Have any great tips to share?

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4 thoughts on “Everything I Know About Entertaining in Five Bullet Points

  1. I enjoy these dinner parties and we all follow Laurie’s direction on cleaning and prepping.
    We basically do what we’re told and if its a book club gathering I follow the age old rule that husbands are not be seen and not to be heard, so I make myself scarce.
    Just kidding on that; the book club ladies have always been very welcoming and inclusive. They’ve developed a great little group.
    And Dixie, Laurie has always told of your great tip on when guests enter and it is really a fine one. I make that my obsession when we have people over. Plus, after seeing Laurie’s googlie eyes at Steve that night, I figure it doesn’t hurt my stature in her eyes.

  2. You are an excellent entertainer, Laurie! I love attending Book Club at your house – it’s always so comfortable and inviting. I totally agree with you on the “don’t bother cleaning the floors” tip! My other entertaining tips (and I know you do these, too!) are to light candles and start some background music playing before guests arrive. The other “tip” that I’m learning is that my house doesn’t have to be perfect – and the food doesn’t have to be gourmet. The important thing is that people are gathered and they are sharing and laughing and talking and building a community of friends.
    Carrie´s last blog post ..There’s No Place Like Home

  3. Thanks, Carrie! You’re a great entertainer, too, in your GORGEOUS new house! 🙂 And you’re so very right about the last point. That’s another thing Dixie always tried to tell me — people don’t notice the little details, they only remember having a great time, talking and laughing with new or old friends.

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