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5 Tips for Stress-Free, Budget-Friendly Entertaining

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Today: Tiffani Faison, chef and restauranteur, shares some ways to entertain stress-free. 

Throwing parties at home was always a great idea…in my head. The intimacy! The elegance! The deliciousness! The procrastination!

Invariably, I found myself running around my house thirty minutes before my guests arrived. I began to pride myself on my ability to light candles with one hand and vacuum with the other. I have hit the apartment buzzer while still applying makeup (lipstick on a sweaty pig, literally).  These are not skills to which anyone should aspire, including me. It took my wife watching this ritual unfold several times before she asked, “Shouldn’t parities be fun?” 

I was deflated. She was right. I’d made a sport of what ought to be relaxing and fun: sharing my home with friends and family. With a few adjustments, I’ve amended my bad habits so parties are finally as enjoyable for me as they are for my guests. 

Here are my 5 favorite tips for throwing a fabulous party without driving yourself crazy: 

1. Create a timeline and stick to it.
Sit down a week before the party and make yourself a reasonable schedule. For example, if the party is on Sunday evening, plan out the things that you'd normally run around doing at the last minute. Create a playlist on Monday, give the dog a bath on Thursday, buy and arrange flowers on Friday morning (added bonus: You get to enjoy the flowers longer).  Do whatever works for you, but put it in your your calendar, stick to it, and keep yourself on track. 

2. Pick a simple theme that doesn’t feel like a “THEME."  
This will allow you to stay focused on a visual goal without overdoing it. It can be as simple as “comfort”, “snow” or “French." Now keep it to yourself. It’s a guide for editing your décor and your menu, not a children’s birthday party; it should be elegant and not entirely obvious. 

3. Spend and save your money in the right ways.
Invest in good quality napkins that can be used multiple times, buy more votive candles (unscented) than you think you need, buy quality ingredients. Allocating expense in the right areas will allow the details to shine. 

But set limits and use what you have in creative ways. Those seed packets you never planted? That’s your place card. Extra cinnamon sticks or fresh thyme? Those become your napkin ring with the help of a little butcher’s twine and a well-tied bow. Serve your main course in the beautiful pot you never use. 

There’s a sweetness and accessibility your guests will enjoy from personalized touches. 

4. Think like a restaurant.
Cook almost everything the day before. Have chilled water in bottles on the table. Print a menu to place on the table. Light the room well and play great music. 

5. Let your guests do some of the work.
Pick one thing for them to bring, be specific, and keep it small. They will always ask, so be prepared with an answer. If you’re making a delicious cocktail for the party, ask them to bring a new martini glass for a swap gift. Allow them to bring wine that is appropriate for the meal, ensuring you will have more than enough for the evening. Ask one guest to bring their favorite local bread, while another brings their two favorite cheeses. It doesn’t all have to be you; allow your guests to share what they love and contribute to the evening. 


Those of us inclined to throwing parties tend to also be the type of people to pile our proverbial plates full. Inviting friends into your home is about caring for them, but it should not come at the expense of your sanity or your enjoyment. Take your time, plan appropriately, make smart choices, and have fun. If given the choice between spending time with you or eating Beef Rossini with a stressed-out host, your friends will always choose you.

Tell us: What are your tips for stress-free entertaining? 

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Meal Plan, Burnt Toast Dinner Brigade, Lists