I serve a lot of dinners for just the fam (of 6), and I often entertain in small dinner parties for 6-12 people, but 4 times a year it’s a literal big group free-for-all in my home. Open invitation to family, friends who think they’re family, and friends who don’t have family locally (typical in bigger cities) – even friends who bring THEIR whole family!
I like to know everyone has at least ONE option for Easter/Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and end-of-Summer, even if that means they have to hang out w me!
Some of these started pretty humble and small – and many ‘original’ guests from 15 yrs ago yearn for those quieter days back – but adding new people also keeps things interesting and lively! Since we see some of the same people consistently throughout the year, it’s nice a few times a year to really MIX IT UP with a crazy crew of humans we call friends.
These lovely humans range from newborn to 90; from Designers to non-Designers (haha – yes there IS a such species – who knew?! But I’m sure they all WISH they were Designers…); from single to married or divorced or widowed; to kids or no kids; from straight or gay; Christian or athiest; and to anyone and everyone in between.
The crew has grown up to 65 people – so far. For the record, I do NOT have a big, or luxurious – or even clean – home. I guess people like food and wine in tight knit spaces, so they cram in anyhow haha. At least sometimes w Easter and always for Summer, we can expand or set up outdoors, but Thanksgiving and Winter is ALL INSIDE. And it gets hoooooot inside, Baby.
As you can imagine, I’ve learned a FEW things over the past 15 years of entertaining to a larger scale in a pretty small space (my Kitchen/Dining/Living is only about 700 sf total (thanks to hellish VANCOUVER REAL ESTATE prices!!), so here goes!
10 Tips for Entertaining
Big Groups in Small Spaces
Push all the major furniture to the edges of the room. It gives you the most flexibility with walking through, standing room, seating, etc. Also, extra tip here, if you use a long table cloth you can push all your loose crap under a table pushed against the wall and no one will know. Not even me.
Once all the big tables and sofas have been pushed, fill the nooks and crannies back in with small 2-3 seat vignettes for people to sit and chat. It helps disperse the crowd, rather than have 30 people in one spot.
Prepare at least one big, fat, main protein (whether meat or not – a main course that’s warm and sustainable) and a couple of sides to feed the whole group at ONE helping – then you don’t have to stress over what the guests bring (unless it’s ALL dessert LOL).
Serve only dishes that can be served at room temperature, like Turkey that, once sliced, can be used for mini-sandwiches. Then you can be done and out of the kitchen before guests even arrive, glass of wine in hand as you float about the room!
Let your guests bring everything else. At our big parties, no guest arrives without a meal item and bottle of wine to share. Takes alllllllll the pressure off the Host(ess) – me -, and now everyone can socialize – even me. Guests are usually happy to contribute, and if not, they’ll still do it if you ask – and if they want to be invited back!
LET THE PEOPLE DO THE THINGS. Let go of control. 90% of the people who are coming know us well enough to just walk in, meaning I don’t have to rush to the door every time the bell rings. If someone needs a ladle or a platter, I tell them where to find it so they know their way around my Kitchen, vs me always getting up to do it. Not only does it relieve my stress, people actually feel more ‘at home’ knowing their way around.
Feel free to keep decorations and flowers at a minimum. With crowds this big, no one will really notice, and room for plates / wine / food / WINE etc will be of utmost importance. I limit it to one small display on the main food table. That’s it.
Encourage guests to take lots of photos – and send them to you! Even with all the pressure off your plate, simply going around to say HI to everyone will fill your evening and you won’t do it.
ASK FOR HELP! I’ve gotten pretty good at nailing down early-comers with a “can you put out the cutlery?”, “grab some boxwood sprigs please!”, or “can you run for ICE?!” (every time! when will I learn to keep ice on hand?!).
Don’t bother w the good china. This is not the time. Paper plates (albeit PRETTY ONES) are just fine this round, unless you want to do dishes for 65 people. I don’t. Keep your stress down, even after the party!
Got a full house this Holiday Season?
What tips / tricks do you use to entertain with ease??
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