When you live in the sunshine state, you can count on three things: Amazing weather, weird news stories, and lots of northern visitors. Over time, I have figured out a few things about successful hosting – things that leave me sane, and the guests wanting to come back (which is usually a win)!
I should begin with the fact that I LOVE to host people. It feels great to see people enjoying your space, your food, and the plans you’ve made for them! But, as we all know, it can also be pretty depleting to entertain a group for several days. So, after a few dozen visits, I’ve found some go-tos that have worked well, and left happy guests and a mom that doesn’t need to nap for a week after they’ve left. So, here’s how to host a crowd and live to tell about it.
I know – it’s obvious. But, taking a few minutes to rough out a mix-and-match schedule of activities and meals is a HUGE help. Vacation plans are usually pretty fluid – that’s part of what makes them special! But, having a quick list of favorite meals, restaurants or activities on-hand is a huge help. A little research on what time things open/close, as well as pricing for outings, can make planning for a group go smoothly. Definitely, don’t live-and-die by the list, but use it as an idea starter, meal planner and grocery list as-needed. I also love to send a note to incoming guests to ask questions about food preferences, kids’ naptimes, and trip priorities. Knowing just a few details ahead of time and help tremendously, and allows a host to set accurate expectations.
Meals + Snacks – keep ‘em easy and accessible
Now, there are some events where you want to roll up your sleeves in the kitchen and show off a little. In my experience, a week with a house full of guests is more the “what can I make while holding a glass of wine, keep up with conversation and not run to the store AGAIN variety”. So, instead of using this time for experimentation, I have a few go-tos that are ALWAYS a hit.
Basket-o-snacks: Exactly what it sounds like. A basket full of grab-and-go snacks (Trader Joe’s has some of my favorites!) gives guests some between-meal autonomy and gives peace of mind that no one is going hungry.
Make-ahead soups: Add a sandwich and warm up a bowl in a snap for quick lunches!
- Detox Immune-Boosting Chicken Soup (Don’t let the crunchy name fool you – it’s delish!)
- Italian Tortellini Chicken Soup (Hack: Use Rotisserie chicken!)
- Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Crowd-Pleasing, no-fuss dinners:
- Wedding Pasta – Penne with grilled chicken + sun-dried tomato (My mama’s recipe- served at my wedding!)
- Asian Lettuce Wraps (A crock-pot meal that feels ~fancy~)
- Grilled flank steak + roasted sheet pan veggies (Grab a multi-pack of steak or chicken from Cosco! My favorite marinade: Eyeball an easy mix of Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard, soy, Worcestershire, garlic, maple syrup, and orange juice – you can even marinate and freeze to grill later!)
More favs: Egg bakes and brioche french toast with sheet-pan bacon for breakfasts, baked ciabatta sandwiches for lunch, and burgers for dinner! Other tips: Take turns making dinner – this works especially well with large family gatherings! Also, mix in some fun local restaurants to give that dishwasher a break 🙂
Make your space peaceful + fun
Don’t go crazy. It doesn’t matter if your home is big or small, or if everyone has their own room or they’re draped over couches and on the floor – everyone will have a great time spending time with you! However, I have found a few things that make our house feel cozy for visitors:
- A vase or two of fresh flowers (treat yo self and your visitors at the same time!)
- Special toys for littles + kid-proofing if needed (having a few age-appropriate toys or crafts available for little ones is a welcome sight for travel-weary parents)
- Jazz-up extra bedding (Ikea duvets over old comforters (We love this one) + pretty sheets make makeshift beds look fun!)
Hostess bill of rights – Set boundaries, and take care of yourself!
It’s easy to sacrifice “tomorrow-(or next week) Rachael” for “tonight-Rachael”, especially when I want to hang out with family and friends! But, after a few tough rebounds, or zombie-like end-of-the-vacation days, I realized I should write down some goals for myself as a reminder to stay on track.
My list includes:
Eat right, and eat on-time (that vacation-induced hangry thing is reallllll), make wise sleep choices (and remember how grouchy and overwhelmed I get when I’m tired), make time for real exercise at least once during the visit, set a few moments away from the group for “quiet time” of some form, and, (because I am a major worrier, and stress about guests being happy with their time) “Let people advocate for themselves when they need something” instead of trying to anticipate everyone’s desires.
Guys, this was a game-changer. I ran this list by my (very extroverted) husband before a big gathering, and with us on the same page, it made things so much easier! I got the breaks I needed, and it didn’t put a cramp in anyone’s vacation fun! Remember to review at least once or twice as a refresher. It’s easy to forget a line or two in the middle of all of the
chaos fun 🙂
The number one thing to remember? Your guests are here to enjoy being with YOU – snacks and flowers or not – but, if these ideas help you breathe a little easier with summer vacationers and last-minute get-away-ers – my job here is done! (Final tip: Totally have the pizza man on speed-dial).
What are YOUR stress-free, crowd-pleasing, go-tos for entertaining? I’d love to hear them!