Planning on entertaining for the upcoming holidays? You can absolutely pull it off and create a truly beautiful and memorable event by following my 7 essential tips for entertaining with style below.
Just this past weekend I hosted a sit-down bridal luncheon for 21 lovely ladies at my home in honor of my dear friend and Clean Cuisine’s brainy and beautiful, “Ask Erin” columnist, Erin Lodeesen (the photo to the left, courtesy of Big Red Zeus, Inc. photography, is of our bride-to-be sitting on the right of her sister, Ashley Lodeesen.) Click HERE to see one of the most popular dishes I served at the event—a Gluten-Free Artichoke & Spinach Quiche.
The shower turned out every bit as lovely as the bride-to-be, BUT we did have a few very big and totally unplanned glitches in the few days —and hours!!—leading up to the luncheon. There is absolutely no way we could have pulled it all off smoothly if it weren’t for having been incredibly organized in the weeks leading up to the big event. And yes! Having a sit-down-luncheon for 21 ladies in your home is a pretty big event.
Effortless Elegance with Help from Colin Cowie
In addition to my 7 tips for entertaining in style, I also highly recommend the first book I ever bought (which is still my favorite!) on entertaining titled Effortless Elegance with Colin Cowie . It is an older book published in 1996, but it is truly a great one! I think because it was published in an era when the book world was still a bit more traditional, the quality is better than some of the books that are rushed to market these days.
With enthusiasm, taste and style, Cowie teaches you how to entertain with ease and comfort AND—most importantly, how to enjoy your own parties.
He also provides a number of different menus (with over 200 recipes!) for all sorts of occasions, such as:
- An Open House
- An Afternoon Tea
- An Early Evening Dinner
- The Ultimate Dinner Party
- A Cozy Winter Supper
- A Northern Italian Buffet
- A Rustic Luncheon
- An Impromptu Dinner
- And so much more!
And no, the menus and recipes are definitely not all “Clean Cuisine,” but a number of them are and in many instances you can just make simple ingredient swaps such as using cashew or pine nut “cream” instead of heavy dairy cream.
I also LOVE Cowie’s table decor ideas.
One impressive yet easy menu, “Dinner When Time Is Short,” takes just one hour, including shopping and preparation, leaving you plenty of time to relax and clean up before your guests arrive. The recipes for this particular menu can all easily be adapted to be “Clean Cuisine” friendly too (note: for the mayo called for in the artichoke canapes on page 144 simply use our Clean Cuisine Mayo Recipe.)
Cowie’s philosophy is based on enhancing the materials at hand. He tells you how to create a lasting impact with just one element — a type of flower or a single color — and use it to the greatest effect, which is exactly what we did with our table decor for Erin’s shower.
My 7 Tips for Entertaining in Style with Effortless Ease
Well, I should say almost effortless ease, actually (wink.) But truly, these tips will help you enjoy any upcoming holiday event you decide to host…
1. Get the table set at least a week before the event
2. Pick up (or make) flower arrangements at least 2 days before the event (not to worry, the flowers will keep just fine!) Also, if you are making your own flowers, try to stick to just one single flower along with some greenery, it’s your best bet for having a nice, clean and elegant look if you are not a professional at making flower arrangements.
3. Make sure you account for ALL of the guests with extra chairs, fold-up tables, table cloths, napkins, silverware, stemware, chargers, etc. If you don’t have everything you need on hand you can always rent it! I also like to visit thrift shops for great steals on great quality entertaining pieces. You would be amazed at what some people consider “junk” to throw away! You really can find some incredible pieces at thrift shops, especially in Palm Beach. Keep in mind that everything does not necessarily need to be matchy-matchy as long as you stick to having mostly the same shape, size, color, etc.
4. Make the favors a week in advance (if it is a bridal luncheon, baby shower, etc.)
5. Make as many recipes as you can in advance.
6. Don’t try to be Superwoman; ask for help from friends and family members! There is absolutely NO way I could have pulled off Erin’s bridal luncheon without help from my mom, Erin’s mom, Erin’s sister and my husband (a HUGE thank you to all of you!! xoxo)
7. Give yourself a great big gift…hire help. And make sure you hire enough help for the number of people coming (note: one hired helper who hurts her arm just before the event is NOT enough when 21 people are coming to your house.)