Even the style-challenged amongst us like to have friends over occasionally. Not too frequently, you understand, as our houses cannot remain entertaining-ready indefinitely, but once in a while it feels good to play host and open the front door.
In this case, BH (Beloved Husband) wants to have a spring party and, weather permitting, barbecue. I resisted the urge to flee the domestic nest and book into a hotel for the day, and gamely agreed that this would be a Good Thing.
Here, then, a few thoughts for how to cheat at party-throwing.
- Clean your house, but not too carefully. I usually steel myself and don’t even vacuum the area the party will be held in. Why? Because it’s going to need doing again, right afterwards. But do clean your bathroom or powder room – you owe that at least to your guests. In her book, The House Always Wins, Marni Jameson reminds us they have private time in there to look closely for cobwebs and will most likely peek in your medicine cabinet. Eek! Putting out some posh towels is an easy win in this room. I also have some (expensive) liquid soap which only appears when guests are imminent – BH doesn’t care, so why waste the good stuff on him?
- Consider asking your guests to bring something. If you’re providing the venue, time and momentum, it’s reasonable that they can manage a plate of cookies or bottle of wine. Evite has a nice feature where you make the bringing wishlist and guests pick from it. My upbringing frowned on arriving at a party empty-handed, so it makes sense to bring something more useful than yet another scented candle.
- Get ahead of the game. As soon as you decide it’s party time, you can think about things like table coverings, napkins, plates and basics like sodas and even beer/wine. Taking care of that in advance frees you up to do the food and hide your meds on the day of the party (see above).
- Nothing adds instant style like fresh flowers in your home. But lets face it, the party’s already costing an arm and a leg, right? If you go the flower route, consider having just one vase as the centerpiece on your food table, and steal a few small stems from that to place in the bathroom. If you have a yard, raid it for the greenery which will make a skimpy bunch of bought flowers stretch much further – but remember to inspect for bugs and spiders before you plunk it in the middle of your food display.
- Cheat with your tablecloth. For a recent New Years Eve party (where I wanted the house to look stylish and sultry without spending anything) I pulled out a richly colored comforter cover and used that as a cloth. A sturdy box inside the matching pillow case made an elevated centerpiece, on which I placed the flowers (minus the bugs) and some tealights.
- Bizarre but true, it seems, the more relaxed you are, the more your guests enjoy themselves. So, unless you like to spend all morning in the kitchen, (in which case you should be reading a different blog), keep it really simple and buy some crowd-pleasers that fit your budget. My wonderful father is a huge believer in the art of the garnish and I’m beginning to see the charm in a platter of (purchased) cookies and brownies, artfully accented by fresh strawberries. Even tearing up some herbs (cilantro’s my favorite) and scattering them on top of store-bought potato salad seems to work.
Above all else, remember BH’s mantra, if they don’t like it, they don’t have to come again.