Tips for relaxed hosting

Jan 15, 2012 at 4:17 a.m. ET

Did you ever have a party and forget to have fun? Entertaining should be a time to enjoy your friends and family -- and you just can't do that if you're freaking out about matching stemware and overcooked prime rib. Home entertaining expert Cheryl Najafi, author of You're So Invited: Panic Less, Play More, and Get Your Party On! shares her tips on stress-free entertaining.

Relaxed party host chatting with friend

Say yes to the guests

When your guests ask if they can bring anything, your immediate reaction might be to decline their offer. Resist that urge, and get your guests involved. "If you are hosting a potluck dinner, ask your guests what DISH they want to bring – and what TASK they will do that evening," says Cheryl Najafi of CherylStyle. She suggests assigning tasks like setting the table or being in charge of the flowers. "These assignments will allow the host to actually enjoy the gathering."

5 Party tips for stress-free entertaining >>

Get eclectic

Stop striving for perfection, and go for eclectic style. "No need to stress about buying new or matchy- match dinnerware," says Najafi. "Try re-purposing your grandma's china with your everyday dishes." A trip to the thrift store will score you all the extra plates and serving dishes you need. Embracing imperfection takes away the pressure of having everything "just so."

Holiday entertaining made easy >>

Choose a signature drink

Instead of worrying about mixing up drinks at the bar, choose one signature cocktail. Fill a pitcher or drink dispenser with your selected drink, and set out glasses or plastic cups for guests to help themselves. Have the recipe available for guests who are smitten with your signature spirit.

Festive cocktail recipes for the holidays >>

Keep it simple

If you're hosting a sit-down dinner, keep the menu simple with easy to prepare, make-ahead dishes. Or for truly stress-free entertaining, go with the trend of serving mini tapas-style food. Make it an all appetizer menu, offering a variety of bite-sized nibbles and letting guests serve themselves.


Be realistic about what you can do yourself and where you could use some help. "Embrace your best, and resource the rest," says Najafi. "Prepare only what you enjoy preparing and outsource the rest!" If you want to serve milkshakes, nobody has to know that you ran out to the local hamburger stand, ordered some extra large shakes and divvied them up into mini shot glasses in the kitchen.

How to host a holiday open house party >>

Watch: How to host a big party

Hosting a party for more than 20 people? CherylStyle interviews event planner Joy Johnson about what it takes to plan a big party. Hint: don't forget to let the neighbors know you're expecting a crowd!


More entertaining ideas

How to make a great appetizer menu
Party-size snack recipes
Best party dip recipes