Before the Guests Arrive

I’ve learned through my years of entertaining to try to get some kind of time schedule in my head, so I can be ready when my guests arrive. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But I at least have a goal and something to work toward.

I recently received an email from a friend saying:

My biggest challenge with entertaining is that, no matter how hard I try, I never seem to have everything prepared by the time my guests arrive. I then have to rely on my husband to keep guests occupied while I finish getting food together.

Working backwards helps me avoid the time crunch!

What I find useful is to make a list of everything I need to do that day. If my party is at 6, then I tell myself that I need to be ready to go at 5:30. I love to allocate an extra half-hour to be able to do last minute details, or even sit down and enjoy some alone time with my husband. If I need to be ready by 5:30, then I work backwards. I need a shower? Then I must be in the shower by 5ish. An hour prior to that is cooking preparations, or table setting.

I will admit though that something strange happens to me right before a dinner party, as I seem to kick into high gear with lots of energy! If I were ever a multi-tasker, now would be the time! I seem to have the most productive moments, as everything seems to come together.

I sometimes holler at my kids for a little help, too! They’ve seen their mom move like lightening! But one thing I have learned is to not steal the joy of those around me right before entertaining. The repercussions resulting from my disorganization should not be taken out on them.

Often I meet my goal, but not always. No one else really cares, or even knows. And it’s not the worse thing to happen if you are not done working in the kitchen when the guests arrive either!

As long as you greet your guests at the door, you can always send your husband out to visit with them while you finish up, or better yet - invite them into your kitchen to join you and put them to work!

How do you avoid the “time crunch” before your guests arrive?

(photos: very top, yummy potatoes and veggies from our garden, on the grill; middle, me cookin' up my favorite orange/carrot soup; bottom, last week we pulled out our garden and these beautiful potatoes!)


Barb said...

I actually like to set the table the night before, if possible, since we also have one in the kitchen that we can use as a family. Then we tag-team it--I do most of the food preparation the day of, then other family members take over when the guests arrive, becuz I get too stressed worrying about bringing it all together at the end. They wrap up the food preparation while I chat with the guests until it's time to sit down. If something is over- or under-cooked at that point--oh well. We tried our best! And there's always dessert!

ValleyGirl said...

Simplicity, simplicity. That's my strategy -- and being okay with putting my guests to work in the kitchen. I always make a mental note of which jobs I wouldn't mind help with and then I leave them until the end. If I get to them before guests arrive, great, but if not, it's no big deal, because it still fits into the plan.

Becca said...

This very thing actually happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I was throwing my birthday party and was in mucho-relaxed gear. So, when the guests got there, party food was all ready but the cake was not!

No problem, we just all relaxed and hung out and talked and snacked. The upside? The cake was beautifully fresh and everyone loved it!

GiBee said...

I always have a plan, a list, and a schedule. I like to pull all my serving dishes out and set the table the night before so that I'm not rushing to do it the day of. I make sure to cross things off my list, too ... that way, I don't forget critical things!

Like you said ... it doesn't always work, but for the most part, it really does! Although, I must be honest that having a toddler under foot has made it much harder!!!!

Nadine said...

I do what I can the day before. Many meals can be cooked halfway. This leaves less mess to clean up the day of. And like you I like to be ready before ETA.

Jill@Who Could Ask for Anything More said...

Like you, I work backwards from a list. I do set the table as far in advance as possible the day of. It's one of my favorite parts about entertaining and it gets me in the mood. If there is anything I can do the day before, I also do that. I have real young kids so they aren't much help right now, but often make things take extra long to complete, as they seem to always need something the minute the sauce is bubbling!

Tammy said...

I love the idea of working backwards...I am going to remember this!

And by the way...I have something for you over at my place! :) Come take a look!

Christine said...

Those veggies and potatoes look heavenly!

I comer from an Italian family with the "Mangia! Mangia!" mentality so I always have too much food! I make sure to plan at least half of the items to be prepared ahead of time- easy appetizers like salami wrapped around cream cheese with a green olive on top and a toothpick through the center...they're great chilled. Then I don't have to prepare everything that day. I always run off of a list that's very specific!

Nadine said...

I think you're fabulous come on by and see.

Ornery's Wife said...

I am with you. Organization is the key to success, and depending on the size of the gathering, I have been known to set up the entire buffet with dishes and decor the day before. As much food preparation ahead of time as possible is also a key. I also try to keep the menu relatively simple, except maybe one or two things. That way if there is help needed, I can pass off the simple things and not worry about them being "done right."

I love your blog, and have it linked in mine. You have been a great inspiration to me, and I appreciate your posts!

Mrs. Jones said...

Thank you for outlining your schedule before entertaining. I'm still learning how to entertain, and this helps a lot!