Easy ideas for entertaining at home
Sometimes it just seems easier to go out, but our homes provide a relaxing and intimate atmosphere for hosting friends and family. However, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for the “same old” entertaining ideas or spend more time on the preparation, cooking and clean-up than you do with your guests.
Looking for something new? Here are some ideas to try for your next gathering:
You’ve seen the studies: laughter is good for you and it’s definitely contagious. Why not share the joy with a game night or tournament? Haul out the board games or a few decks of cards and let everyone unwind. Games give everyone something to talk about and takes the pressure off making small talk — especially if you’re bringing together new people. You can make it an one-off event, or organize a monthly club with rotating hosting duties.
How much planning you need will depend on the size of your party. A few board games or some cards will work for groups of four to six, but you’ll need more seating and a plan for larger groups. For instance, how will players partner and rotate? How will you keep score and determine when games end? To prompt some competition, have prizes for the end of the night — including a gag gift for the person who comes in last.
The prep work doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Think veggies and dip, fruit platters, savoury appetizers and signature dessert to serve at the end of the evening. Soda pop, club soda and blended drinks help keep the alcohol quotient low too. (See Games galore for inspiration.)
Movie night or TV marathon
Few entertaining ideas let you don your comfortable clothes and put your feet up. Besides, favourite movies and TV shows are a hit with guests of all ages. Pick a theme like action movies, animated hits or “chick flicks” — or have your own commercial-free marathon of your favourite TV shows. Have guests bring some of their favourites, or save a little cash by looking for deals at your local movie rental place or through online services like Netflix.
Try to keep the refreshments as self-serve as possible so you can relax and enjoy the evening too. For instance, organize a bar with drinks, plenty of ice and garnishes in one area of the room and keep the munchies within reach. Think party platters and finger foods, or go with a classic bowl of popcorn dressed up with a seasoning blend. (See Host a New Year’s movie night for full details.)
If you think dessert is the best part of the meal, why not skip ahead? Take some of the stress off by inviting people over for dessert and drinks rather than dinner. Enjoy mingling and games while guests help themselves to an assortment of goodies from a sweet buffet.
When choosing tempting choices, aim for balance and variety. For instance, have some lighter choices like meringue cookies or chocolate dipped fruit to complement richer fare. Look for items that slice up neatly into smaller servings or can be made into “bit sized” portions like mini-tarts and cakes. If you must serve that twelve layer cake, make it the star of the show and round your offerings with fruit or cheese.
You can add some extra “wow” to your buffet with a few simple touches. For instance, dress up a warm plate of cookies with fresh herbs, edible flowers or a sprig of holly, and add a little height to the centre of the table by placing items on overturned bowls — you don’t see them under the table clothe. (See ‘Tis the season for sweets, treats and wine pairing for more ideas.)