As I look around my immaculate house (cleaned from top to bottom this week in preparation for Friday's low-key Easter dinner), it dawns on me how phenomenally motivating entertaining is for whipping one's home into shape. I definitely enjoy having a tidy household (it's so lovely and refreshing! yay!!) but there's just something so enticing about showing off a clean, beautiful space to friends and family that kicks my butt into gear a whole lot sooner than if I were just here enjoying it alone.
You only need a few key elements to have a lovely party:
1. A beautiful space. It can be beautiful by nature alone, or a blank space beautified by a lovely tablescape and some mood lighting (hello candles or string lights!)... most times I'm a big advocate for entertaining in the home. All you need in that case is a smart dose of spring cleaning and your own keen sense of interior design! Instant party venue!
2. Something to snack on and sip. This is one of those golden areas of Southern hospitality: No one need ever go hungry or thirsty on your watch! You certainly don't have to produce a full meal (unless it's a classic dinner party... more on those later!), but a little something salty and sweet never hurt anyone. And as far as libations are concerned, you can go big (a modified open bar, composed of whatever you've got in stock) or go "homey": a pitcher of sweet tea or lemonade or peppermint punch will do the trick just as well! Always have some bottled or filtered water on hand and when in doubt, make a pot of coffee!!!!!
3. Adequate seating. Nothing will drive a person to leave early quite like tired legs. Cocktail tables are perfectly acceptable (and aesthetically pleasing) for setting down drinks and chatting with friends, but have SOME seating available for most guests, especially if you anticipate the party going on for an extended period of time. (This is quadruply important when inviting elderly or pregnant guests!) Lounge area, anyone?
4. Background music. A warm, inviting soundtrack puts guests at ease and leaves no early arrivers feeling obligated to break up the awkward silence. Keep the volume low enough to still carry on a conversation without shouting, but not so low as to have people questioning, "Am I hearing things or is Mumford & Sons trapped inside your coat closet?"
5. MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: The perfect conglomeration of party guests. Make sure to fit your invite list to the occasion (Intimate dinner party? Invite a few great conversationalists who mesh well with others! You'll be spending quite long hours in a confined space with them! Casual barbecue on the bay? Request the company of a rousing group of friends, many whom could play volleyball into the wee hours of the evening!). You can usually invite a few more guests than would fit perfectly in the space because odds are some RSVPs will come back as regrets, but if you're notorious for throwing fabulous parties (and people ditch their previous plans to attend your shindigs), might as well stick to the fire marshal regs.
Other little things for bonus points:
A cake! (What brings more festivity than cake, besides cake AND champagne? Those two things are one of the most classic combinations in history. Throw away the rest of the rules if you have these two, because they're all you need for a good party!)
Beautiful linens. Linens give such a personalized, detailed little touch. They can really dress up a table, disguise an unsightly hunk of furniture, and make any old party seem luxe and formal! (A white furry throw can act as a delightful luxurious linen at a winter wonderland party!)
Real china or crystal! Everyone knows you mean business when you whip out the fine china. And how much more glamorous do you feel holding a crystal champagne flute than a plastic 8-oz cup? Exactly.
A THEME! I will always have an ineffable fondness for themed parties... There is just something so whimsical and fun about decorating with a particular big-picture-concept in mind, dressing up in something out of the ordinary, and having something interwoven in every little facet of the party. It's like revealing a secret! Divine.
There you have my no-nonsense rules for entertaining! It's really all just complete common sense, but I also think of it as a perfect science. My very favorite science of all!