My friend was feeling anxious about inviting her new neighbor over for lunch, so she wanted to go over her planned menu with me.
“I’m making soup, a salad, an entree, and dessert,” she said. “What should I serve for the appetizer?”
I gently discouraged this complicated menu, which included frying eggs and cooking crepes right before serving, for just two people.
“If you’re spending so much of her visit cooking, you won’t even be able to enjoy talking to her and getting to know each other,” I said. “Choose one or two dishes to make, and instead of making all those other things, spend the time relaxing in her company. Simplicity brings peace.”
Most of us aren’t out there planning a five-course meal for two people for lunch! But there’s a bigger lesson in my friend’s experience about hosting guests in our homes.
Friends make life better
My husband and I recently watched, and really enjoyed, the Netflix documentary Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones. It was funny what we each got out of it, though!
My impression after watching it was that I need to exercise more, walk and bike as much as possible, and increase my daily physical activity. My husband’s conclusion was that we should have friends over more often and drink good wine!
As much as we laughed over our different takes on the show, both of us were right. Friendship and enjoying life is just as important as anything else we can do to improve our health.
Since watching it, we’ve made a new goal as a couple to get better at hospitality. We are trying to have friends over more often and build up our community, whether it’s a big party for 50 people or one family coming over for dessert.
We know that hospitality is good for us and that friendships and connections improve our mental and physical health. But it’s not always easy to have people over!
Whenever I prepare to host, doubts creep into my mind. What if the whole thing goes horribly? Will everyone judge my messy house? What if no one has fun?
Even though I’ve hosted hundreds of events over the years, these fears still get to me! But you know what? Now I have the benefit of enough experience to know that none of those things ever ends up happening.
I’ve had a few hosting mishaps, to be sure. But I’ve never hosted an event and regretted it.
If you want to get better at hospitality, here are a few tried-and-true tips for when you feel hesitant to host.
1Simplify, simplify, simplify
An overly complicated menu or setup just brings stress. Keep things as simple as you possibly can. It’s better to make one or two delicious and doable dishes than stress out making all kinds of different things.
We’re hosting 50 people tomorrow for a housewarming party, and I’m borrowing crock pots from friends to make about 20 lbs of pulled pork for sandwiches. I asked the guests to bring side dishes. We are making s’mores over a bonfire for dessert. With all these choices for simplicity, I don’t feel stressed or anxious about the party at all.
2Ask for help
Closely related to simplifying is asking your friends to help. You can make it a potluck, as I do when hosting a big crowd, or ask for help in other ways.
For tomorrow’s party, one of my friends will bring a craft for the kids. Another friend is overseeing the piñata. Many others are bringing dessert, drinks, chairs, or picnic blankets.
It might sound rude to ask guests to bring something, but I would really challenge this notion. I really think that asking guests to help out with a social event helps them feel more comfortable and at home almost instantly.
A potluck also makes it feasible to host a big crowd. I wouldn’t ask a guest to bring food if I’m just having a few people over, but asking for help is the only way I can manage hosting such a big crowd.
So let go of any worry that it’s rude to ask for help. Guests are just happy to be invited, and pitching in together to pull off the event will build your connection and bring you closer together in friendship.
3Think outside the box
Don’t want to make dinner? Have people over for dessert or for a board-game partyafter dinnertime.
Feel like your home is too small for a crowd? Meet up at a playground or forest preserve instead.
I don’t want to sound flippant. Not all problems with hosting are easily overcome, and in some seasons of life, hosting just is not doable. I certainly wasn’t planning parties for 50 people when I had a newborn at home.
But with a little creativity and help from our friends, we can pull off something magical, something beautiful. And with some planning and forethought, we can pull it off without feeling anxious or stressed either.
I’ll be in your corner cheering you on. Go ahead and invite that acquaintance over; you won’t regret it, and it might just be the start of a wonderful new friendship.