No party or friendly get-together is complete without a mess-up that you can laugh about later, and Easter Sunday breakfast for 60 people at our church was no exception. I poured two liters of boiling water into our 120 cup tea maker without noticing that the serving spigot was open. Ten minutes before guests arrived, I had tea was all over the counter instead of inside the teapot where I needed it!
Now I can laugh, but on Sunday morning I panicked. I’m definitely not Martha Stewart when it comes to having guests, but I don’t let it stop me. A few weeks ago I wrote about letting go of perfect to make room in your heart and home for community. Here are a few practical hospitality hacks for the less than perfect.
Meals and Planning
1. Develop a repertoire of three easy meals that you can cook in your sleep from ingredients you usually have on hand. These are the dishes you want to cook for guests. Avoid the last minute stress of trying an elaborate recipe for the first time.
2. Keep a hospitality stash of items like decorative paper plates and napkins, candles, special drinks, frozen lasagna, and chocolate for a quick desert with coffee. These make spontaneous hospitality more do-able.
3. Use paper plates and plastic cutlery. (At least use them for dessert!) You’re not trying to impress anyone. You’re letting go of perfection to make more space for community in your life.
4. Host a picnic in your backyard. Kids can run around to their hearts’ content, and clean-up is easier.
5. Have a pot-luck, so everyone brings something.
6. Cook up a one-dish meal like taco soup or chili.
7. Invite friends to weekend breakfast if that’s easier than making dinner.
Before Guests Come
8. If your house is a wreck, set a timer for a 20 minute rescue clean: run the vacuum, wipe down the bathroom, and clear away clutter. Do what you can and call it clean.
9. Set the table before you start cooking. Even if you’re behind schedule with cooking, a set table with pretty napkins makes it look like you’re ready for visitors.
10. If you’re running late, leave an easy task for guests to help you with after they arrive. They can help make salad or set glasses out on the table.
11. If you have older kids, put them in charge of background music and choosing a game to play after dinner.
After Guests Arrive
12. If you’re not finished when the doorbell rings, breathe deep and smile. Invite your friends into the kitchen, offer them a drink, and finish your cooking.
13. Let them help if they ask. Better yet, ask for help if you need it.
14. Put a few dirty dishes in the dishwasher every time you go into the kitchen after the meal. Clean-up will be less overwhelming later.
15. Try the lovely Turkish custom of cleaning up after dinner before you sit down for dessert. Guests, especially close friends, chip in to help.
As you can see, several of my hospitality hacks involve running late and getting others to help. Both are part of real life around my house. What works for you when you’re having friends over?