(I’m joining in the “Works for Me Wednesday” at We are That Family- come along and check out some fabulous bloggers!)
As a family of 9, we tend to host fairly often when it comes to gatherings with friends and family. It’s been easier to adjust to the needs of nappers and highchairs and lots of bodies in one space by stretching out what we have to include others.
Saying that, this has not been an easy journey for me. I used to find having people over intimidating and overwhelming. The main reason? I was basically getting stuck in a mindset of perfectionism. I still have to fight the desire to rush around at the last minute, tidying and vaccuuming and wishing I had more photos on the walls and a master bedroom that didn’t need the door shut and and kid’s bedrooms that are decorated and organized and clean. (Anyone know what I am talking about?)
I had to ask myself- have I ever NOT appreciated being invited over for a meal? At what times have I felt the most welcomed and had the most enjoyable time? Was the food full of fairly-traded & organic ingredients, and creatively assembled? Was the decor stunning, were all the stops pulled out so I could sit back and be “entertained”?
The answer of course, is a big NO! I think I’ve always appreciated being hosted for a meal or a visit! At times, I have experienced one or more of these situations when invited out- amazing food, beautiful ambience, with an effort made to really serve and bless. And it was such a treat! But I have come to realize that true hospitality is much different than “entertaining”. And the times I appreciate the most are being around others who have not been racing around, striving to get it all “right”. The ones who feel good in their own skin and in their own surroundings and love sharing their contentment with others.
All this being said: if you are in a season of hospitality that involves hosting meals for large gatherings, here are my top 5 tips:
1) Ask yourself: why am I doing this? If it is to impress someone, or because you feel obligated to reciprocate in a certain way, can I recommend you lay those reasons aside? It’s just not fun to be stressed. Love must be the motivation. Love for your own family and love for those coming together. If stress or anger towards others is the ironic (but common) result of your efforts to bless others, it’s too much.
2) Make it easy & keep it simple. Start small- with comfortable friends. Host a potluck, or prepare a simple meal of soup, bread and salad. Make as much as you can ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy the company. Don’t worry about serving the same meal to different friends- go with what works! Keep it all simple.
3) Enlist help! Whether it’s your kids, your spouse, or your guests, organize some simple tasks that are easy to delegate. I find people always offer to help, so I try and leave some jobs available to hand off: filling water jugs, washing lettuce, setting cutlery or folding and putting out napkins. (Then you don’t have to ask them to clean the bathroom- unless they’re a really good friend. And I’ve done this too!)
4) Get ready! So obvious, but this is the one thing that will make hosting gatherings oh-so-much easier. Make sure the dishwasher has been run and is empty. Resist the urge to put off doing the needed prep until the final hour (I have done this and it’s not fun.) Have some extras ready: plates, cutlery, napkins, salt & pepper, condiments, salad dressings. Make sure you have your basics in order like plenty of dishsoap, clean dish cloths & towels! Clear space in the fridge if others are bringing food. Prepare for buffet style, or have the table mostly set.
4) Avoid last-minute decision-making. This is my number one source of stress, and something I have learned to minimize as much as possible! Know how many are coming, how many plates you will need, where people might sit. Again- this all sounds so simple. Yet when not done, my brain swims with details and noise and questions. I usually jot down some numbers on a sticky note and have it close by, along with any other reminders. Don’t change plans, unless it’s absolutely necessary. And if something does require a change, roll with it!
5) Eat! Sit back and enjoy the time with friends! Once the food is out, it’s time to enjoy yourself and the company around you. I try to not think too far ahead to the next tasks- so to be present and enjoy the moments and the people I’m with. (Still learning here too!)
I look forward to your comments, as this can go in so many directions! Do you have favorite meals for serving big groups? Tips on keeping costs down? Any other practical suggestions to practice hospitality?