9 Ways You’re Entertaining All Wrong, According to Experts

In our highly-digital and often-solitary world, it goes without saying that entertaining has changed—rather dramatically—over the past two years. From big group gatherings to large wedding celebrations (and everywhere in-between), we were used to everything being bold, grand, and sometimes even a little over-the-top, but things have changed.

In fact, many experts say that we’re entertaining all wrong. From how we arrange the furniture in our house to the food and drinks we supply our guests, we’re making a lot of mistakes.

Here’s what experts say about what we’re doing wrong (and what to do instead):

  • 01 of 09

    You’re Not Thinking Ahead

    A woman writing on a piece of paper

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    If you’re going to host a good party, you have to plan ahead. One of the biggest ways we’re entertaining wrong is because we’re convincing ourselves that we can just ‘throw it together’ and it’ll be great. While that can be true sometimes, the best parties are well thought out.

    Ask yourself: ‘When is my event?’ ‘How many people will I be inviting?’ ‘Is there a theme?’ And most importantly, ‘What is my budget?’

    If you’re doing something outside of your home, you’ll need to book in advance and inform your guests so that they can plan (and you can get a headcount). If you’re hosting in your own home, you need to be realistic about how many people you can fit and create a list around that number.

    Outside of the event preparation is the day-of prep. If you’re planning to cook meat, for example, you need to set aside time cook and let the meat set before serving. “Even though some people might think that having a barbeque just consists of putting meat to the grill, this is not the case,” says Franco Moiso of the Sunday Grill Company. “It is important to prepare beforehand the meat and any sides you will have. If you don't do this, you'll end up delaying the meal and that does not provide a good experience.”

  • 02 of 09

    You Think You Need the Latest and Greatest to Host

    A table set for a dinner party

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    When it comes to entertaining out of your home, so often we default to having the best of everything—silverware, seating arrangements, décor, etc.—and we forget that it’s less about impressing the guests and more about making them feel welcome.

    Especially now, where everyone has been impacted by the lack of social outings over the past two years, it’s really not important how expensive your glassware is.

    “First and foremost, we need to normalize using what we already have,” shares Emily Henderson, Emily Henderson, celebrity designer, stylist, and PRESS Premium Alcohol Seltzer partner. She comments on the sustainability—or lack thereof—which is something that is, unfortunately, often neglected when it comes to party planning.  

    “Too often we feel like everything we use for a party needs to match perfectly so we go out and buy single-use items that are costly and end up in landfills,” she says. “Instead, look at what you have (i.e. plates, cups, tablecloths, etc.), create a cohesive color palette, and mix and match away. It will make everything look fun, eclectic, and personal.” 

    Forgoing the ‘Instagram-worthy’ place settings and décor can actually end up conserving resources and creating something that’s more focused on the people than the product.

  • 03 of 09

    You’re Being Wasteful

    Guests enjoying an appetizer table

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    Along the same vein as sustainability comes the harsh truth about being wasteful when you’re hosting. Whether or not it’s intentional, quite a bit of food and beverages gets tossed. 

    Of course, you don’t want to make less food for your guests and end up not having enough, but what you can do is offer for leftovers to go home with your event attendees. Prior to the event, purchase recyclable food boxes so that you can box and send the goodies out at the end of the night. You’ll also want to swap out plastic cups and cutlery with wood utensils, or reusable cups. Another idea is to make your party ‘BYOC’–Bring Your Own Cup–for refillable fun!.

    It’s also a good idea to change what you do about alcohol.  Something that’s heavily wasted at parties—and especially over the holiday season—is wine. Unlike other alcohol which can be closed and stored, wine doesn't kepe well.

    “Nearly 70% of all glass wine bottles never end up making it to recycling, and glass is much more costly and environmentally degrading to produce,” shares Aaron Moore, Co-Founder of Gratsi. Rather than purchasing the traditional bottled wines—and stressing about getting the best for your guests—he suggests purchasing quality boxed wine. Boxed wine has an 80% smaller carbon footprint and lasts about a month in the refrigerator (compared to only 1-2 days with bottles).  

    “The ‘bag-in-box’ format is the future of wine consumption,” says Moore, “And [it’s] a better way to provide consumers with well-made wine that doesn’t come with pretentiousness.”

  • 04 of 09

    Your Food and Beverage Selection Is Boring

    Friends toasting with wine glasses

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    Maybe you want to stick to the tried-and-true, maybe you’re nervous about food allergies or meeting people’s expectations, or you’re just not sure what people like. Whatever the case may be, it’s time to spruce up your food and beverage selection.  

    The key is to get a variety—and don’t forget both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  

    “Another way that people are entertaining all wrong is assuming that everyone wants a cocktail or a glass of wine,” shares Karolina Rzadkowolska, author of Euphoric: Ditch Alcohol and Gain a Happier, More Confident You.  

    “More and more people are choosing the dry life for wellness and productivity. But it's really hard to take a break during the holiday season because of all the parties and socializing,” she says.  

    “If you're having people over for a dinner party, festive gathering, or holiday celebration, make sure you offer guests the option of a mocktail or nonalcoholic drink… It’s the most inclusive way to make everyone happy.”

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  • 05 of 09

    You’re Not Being Strategic About Space

    A group of people at a dinner party

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    How often do you go to parties where everyone’s crammed in one or two spaces? Namely, the kitchen or living room? If you’re nodding your head, you’re definitely not alone.  

    Eating and lounging areas are prominent spaces for people to get cozy and get fed—the two true priorities when it comes to social gatherings. But try to think about the rest of your house too.

    “Since you’ve likely cleaned and decorated your whole house (or at least the communal areas), you want your guests to spread out!” says Henderson, “This is where ‘zones’ come in. Instead of having all the food and drinks on the kitchen island, create little zones/areas around your house. Maybe a drink station on the living room credenza, a dessert bar in the backyard, small bites on a table in a different room. Creating zones that flow within your space will help to make your guests less crowded and more comfortable.”  

    Something else to consider when it comes to space is how you’re upgrading it. While you don’t need to completely redo your house before having guests over, a few simple updates can make a big difference.  

    “The kitchen is often referred to as the heart of the home. It’s where family and friends gather for intimate conversations, cherished meals, holidays, and events,” says Joel Worthington, President of Mr. Electric. “Therefore, one of the best ways to boost a home’s quality is to update the kitchen.” 

    Worthington suggests adding accent lights or above cabinets to draw attention to the lower décor or to draw eyes upward. He also recommends adding art to the kitchen to serve as natural conversation pieces. Another rule of thumb is to opt for canned lighting over fluorescent to remove the harshness, and making sure that the island is well-lit as it’s one of the most frequented areas in the kitchen.

  • 06 of 09

    You’re Overthinking (or Overdoing) the Cleaning

    A woman cleaning a stovetop

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    When it comes to entertaining guests, it’s easy to fall victim to the cleaning stress. Whether that’s doing too little (and regretting it) or doing too much (and overwhelming yourself to the point that you’re not having fun), there’s no happy medium unless you actively decide to clean smarternot harder.  

    “Don’t procrastinate,” says Vera Peterson, President of Molly Maid, “You don't have to set aside four or six consecutive hours to get the job done. Clean your home in little blocks of time over the next few days to spread out the workload… Start with the entryways, foyer, and central closet area to create room for guest coats. The next day, take a small block of time to clean bathrooms, hallways and sitting areas. Next, clean bedrooms and any other areas your guests may encounter.”  

    After you do the basics, Peterson also recommends doing a final walk-through before guests arrive. Check the bathrooms for toilet paper and soap, remove any potential tripping hazards, organize the last-minute shelves, and grab any laundry that might have been overlooked.

  • 07 of 09

    You’re Not Engaging Your Guests

    Party hosts greeting their guests

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    If you’re planning a party with guests who may not know one another, you’ll need to begin with some ice breakers or other games that create easy introductions. Consider games that work well in large groups, like verbal word games, that will help loosen people up.

  • 08 of 09

    You’re Forgetting About Music

    A group of people enjoying a rustic meal

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    Music is everything when it comes to good party planning, but we don’t always think about it, or we just assume that we’ll find a last-minute playlist that will be the perfect vibe. 

    Again, while that can be true—especially with great music apps at our fingertips—it’s best to be intentional about the music before your party begins.

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  • 09 of 09

    You’re Not Enjoying the Process

    A group of friends at an outdoor dinner party

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    Entertaining can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.  

    If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and remind yourself why you’re hosting, what you care about, and how much fun you and your guests will eventually have.

    “At the end of the day, just make sure who you are inviting are the people you want to spend time with,” says Henderson. “Good friends always equal a great party. Everything else will fall into place and the pressure to make everything ‘perfect’ won’t be there.”