Over the past few years, and especially in the last sixteen months, I have come to accept that not everything I do, party I throw, gift I give is going to be a Pinterest-worthy masterpiece. It’s just not going to happen. It’s not necessarily that it cannot happen because anything is possible, but at what cost? I am absolutely never going to spend time making hand-made holiday crackers (yep, did that) if it means less time with my little. I know that at some point there will be a day where we can craft together, but we aren’t there yet, and even when we are, the days of perfection are long gone.
The first few times I attempted to entertain as a new mama were stressful to say the least. I really did believe that it was normal, and expected, to do it all. To live on as if nothing major had changed. Ha. So, the table was on point, but I was a mess, literally and figuratively. At the end of the day, I’m sure my family and friends would much rather have a messy, relaxing, mismatched dinner than watch me run around like a maniac covered in gold-foil (yes, I gold foiled the glasses).
I’m taking a new approach.
I love to make things and I love to plan. One of my favourite things to do is to organize a dinner, plan the meal, and assemble the tablescape. I’m not giving up on all that, but I just think that entertaining in general needs to become a little more effortless. I think it’s all about a careful balance of thinking and planning ahead, and then letting the pieces fall where they may. It’s not a flawless system quite yet, but I’m working on it, and I thought I would share my favourite tips for creating a fun, easygoing, kid-friendly event for whatever gathering you have planned this summer.
Pick you palette (and stick to it) // I am not saying that you should have a theme for each and every event. I’m saying pick a permanent palette and build on it. I find that neutral serve ware, table linens and tabletop décor is a smart choice that allows you to mix and match as often as you want without have to buy something new each time. Ivory napkins, wooden platters and simple white dishes can take on any personality you need them to and can be reused and styled from season to season. Summer tip, if you find a good set of plastic wine glasses or melamine plates, stock up! Use them outside in the summer and inside for the kids during the colder months (or for the clumsy adults).
Technology is your friend // Trust me, I would love to be able to hand-letter, label and mail invitations, but let’s be serious here…There are much easier ways to get the job done, and it doesn’t need to feel like a cheat. I personally use Paperless Post for most of my invites, and I often find a pre-designed layout that I love. If the stars align and I have an extra hour during naptime, I will sometimes design my own and upload it, but at the end of the day, being able to track RSVPs and send group messages makes an online service like this just too easy to ignore.
Simplify, simplify, simplify // And them simplify again. If you’ve got a ton of people coming over, I think the easiest way to go about the food situation is to create one meal with room to customize. Flatbreads, burgers, tacos, anything that allows your guests to pick and choose or build themselves will avoid any stress about catering to specific diets or preference. This is especially true with kids involved because how and what they will agree to eat can be a challenge. Make sure you have a vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy free option along with plenty of make-ahead sides, and you won’t be scrambling last minute trying to make something new while you could be sipping a glass of rose.
Put yourself in their shoes // I forget to do this sometimes, but it has probably been the most helpful shift in my thought process. If there is anything I feel like I’m running out of time for, or if something isn’t turning out quite as planned, I am trying to remember to think about it from my guest’s perspective. What is going to make their time more enjoyable. Will anyone even notice if the napkins are colour-blocked and coordinated with the flowers on the table. I might, yes, but honestly, no one else cares. Put your own ego aside for a second, throw some ikea napkins in a cute mason jar, and call it a day.
Add in a surprise // A little something special, that no expects or requires, is such a nice way to make everyone feel welcomed and appreciated. This does not have to be a big deal, nor does it have to cost you a ton of time and money. Have your kids help if you want, but taking an hour to create something unique. I love to give little plants in the summer or a tree ornament around the holidays. Quick, simple, thoughtful…No need for extravagance, just a little thinking ahead. Bonus points if you come up with an activity for the kids that sends them home with a take-away, but make sure it’s something you would be happy to have in your home as well. Leave the glitter pens for another day please!
Wishing you all the best for BBQ season, and share your party picks with us on Instagram. I love to see how all you talented, gorgeous mamas make it all work and would love to follow along with all your clever party hacks!