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How to Be a Better Host: The Best Tips for Entertaining Family and Friends

A couple smiling and setting up a table together for a dinner party.
Bruce Gibson.

Do you ever hesitate to invite your friends and family to your home? If so, you’re not alone! The pressure to have a perfect home or throw a flawless holiday dinner will always be there, but you don’t need to set yourself up for unrealistic expectations that are impossible to meet.

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Even Sebastien and Sheila Centner, a husband-and-wife team and the owners of a leading event management and catering company, Eatertainment, admit that entertaining is a skill that needs to be practiced. “Many people are nervous about entertaining, and we’ve all wondered if we’re a good enough host,” he explains, adding that social distancing throughout the pandemic has us all feeling out of our element now that we can gather together more safely. 

The good news is that entertaining guests again doesn’t have to be stressful, especially when you keep these expert tips in mind. 

1) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff 

Whether you’re throwing an elaborate-themed holiday dinner party or an impromptu board game and takeout night, being a good host is all in your mindset. 

“I have always encouraged people to enjoy themselves as your guests will always take their cue off you,” he says. “If you are relaxed and easygoing, your guests will feed off that energy.” 

Remember: entertaining is about getting together with people you care about. Enjoying one another’s company should be the heart of every get-together. 

Related: How to Make a Gold Tumbler & Glasses for Your Next Party

A couple smiling and making a toast in an outdoor dinner party.

2) Simplify Your Menu 

You don’t need to cook like a Food Network Canada star to invite your friends and family for a special dinner. “Set yourself up for success by having a simple menu,” Shelia suggests. “If you’re having a large group of people over, prepare dishes you’ve made a hundred times before. Turn to easy recipes that you know how to make well.”

And if you’re not the most confident home chef, you can always pick something up at a nearby restaurant or turn to a local catering company. No judgment here! 

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Related: This DIY Thankful Tree is the New Thanksgiving Tradition We Need This Year

3) Ask for Help 

Never be nervous about asking your guest for help. In fact, the experts encourage it!  “Be prepared to say yes if someone asks you to help,” Shelia says.  “It makes everybody feel more comfortable.” 

Give guests the opportunity to help with easy tasks like tossing the salad, lighting candles, or uncorking the bottle of wine for the evening. After all, who doesn’t enjoy feeling helpful and appreciated? 

Friends having an outdoor dinner party in the fall.

4) Don’t Procrastinate 

Avoid leaving anything to the last minute while preparing to entertain. You’ll feel stressed if you go grocery shopping, set your table, and prepare floral arrangements for the same day of your party. “Make sure the coat closets are clear for your guest’s items and that the dishwasher and garbage bins are empty for post-party clean-up,” Shelia says, adding that this is a step many overlook while entertaining.  Another way to reduce stress is to deep-clean your space a few days in advance. 

5) Set Up DIY Drink Stations  

DIY drink stations are a hit at every get-together, Sebastien recommends. “It’s something you can easily prepare ahead of time, and it’s a fun activity for guests to do while mingling,” he adds.  Be-your-own-bartender stations are a fun way to incorporate the theme of a celebration, and everyone loves adding fresh fruit and different herbs and garnishes to their drinks. You can go all out decorating with drink dispensers or even lay out a recipe card detailing the steps to create a signature drink of the night. We love kicking off the cozy season with autumn-inspired apple cider Moscow mule. Of course, be sure to add a variety of tonic waters and fruit juices for non-alcoholic drinks as well. Read more genius tips for entertaining on a budget

A garnish bar filled with different fruits and herbs.

6) Gift Leftovers 

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Leftovers are a guarantee after a big meal with friends and family. “There’s nothing better than a great takeaway for your guests and setting them up with lunch for the next day or dinner the next night,” Shelia says. Always keep some inexpensive Tupperware or eco-friendly takeout boxes on hand so that you don’t need to worry about gifting your favourite food storage containers.

For more ways to be a better host, check out Sebastien and Sheila Centner’s first book Eatertainment: Recipes and Ideas for Effortless Entertaining, where they share their decades of expertise in making entertaining at home as simple as possible.

Feature image courtesy of Bruce Gibson. Additional photos courtesy of Getty Images. 



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