Cecilia Vaughn of Fairview, Texas wrote the following question to me:
We are members of a supper club and it is our turn to host for 6 couples. This is our only our second time to host and I have to admit that our first attempt was very stressful and I did not feel like I had time to enjoy the company of my guests. Any suggestions on theme or menu?
I am so sad that you were stressed out during your first Supper Club but I am thrilled that you are sticking with it and giving it another shot. Here are a few of my suggestions for taking the stress out of entertaining.
-Simplify the menu. Don't try to create the fanciest and most complicated dinner. Keep it simple and consider serving some old classic comfort foods instead of formal haute cuisine.
-Never attempt a recipe for the first time while entertaining. If you are determined to serve a certain recipe, schedule a trial run for your family dinner.
-Set your table several days before your event. Check that off your list early so that you don't need to worry about it the day of your dinner party. Everything should be out on the table including candles and a matchbook! Think through all of the different things you will need so that you don't need to rush to find things while the party is taking place.
-Set out a self serve bar tray so that, as your guests arrive, you can direct them to the area where they can pour their own drink. If you want to have a lot of fun with it, you could set up a wine station and share descriptions of the various wines you are offering or create a signature drink and place all of the ingredients on a tray. Frame the recipe for the drink next to the tray and invite your guests to make one!
-Make a seating plan and set out place cards. I know it sounds like it might be more work but it will actually give you one less thing to think about while the guests are there. The trick to stress free entertaining is doing most of the work before the guests arrive!
-Accept that not everything thing will be perfect. Try to take a few minutes for yourself before the party to sit, have a few moments with your spouse, and unwind before your first guest rings the door bell.
-Accept help when offered. Don't be afraid to assign a small and simple task to any guest who asks how they can help.