Tips for Entertaining – Hosting a Party at Home

With the holidays just round the corner, we’ve compiled a list of our token tips for entertaining for the modern host!

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

With the holidays just around the corner, we thought it would be the perfect chance to share our top tips for entertaining!

We do this because we love you.

And we don’t want to see you secretly crying into your wine glass upon every sip.

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Entertaining at home should be easy and stress free.

Plus, we’d love to hear what your tried and true tips are too!

It’s not quite as standard as it was back in the day when everyone owned fine china and greeted guests still donning an apron around the house, is it?!

We’re also divulging our top secret tip for hosting at home.

And the Pinterest lovers may roll their eyes at us for that one!

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Make Your Guests Feel Welcome

It’s no secret that the number one party killer is an uncomfortable atmosphere.

So your top priority should be making sure guests feel wanted and welcome.

Greet your guests:

We always find that making a point to greet guests individually even if just for a quick one on one hello and hug.

Bonus points if you greet your guests with a glass of wine.

Introduce your guests to one another:

A quick introduction or two also goes a long way, they didn’t come up with the phrase “shaking hands and kissing babies” for no reason!

This is a huge factor in creating a good vibe, especially for guests that may not know the rest of the party.

Show your guests around:

If guests are bringing a contribution to the dinner, make sure to take a second and let them to know where to place the items that they worked hard on for everyone to be able to try.

It’s a simple way for people to feel appreciated for their portion.

And so they’re not weirdly walking around with casserole in their hands looking confused.

We’ve been THAT person plenty of times, and it’s not fun!

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Simple is Best

This one is never fun to admit.

But it’s necessary to make sure that you, as the host, are not the one running around crying over spilled milk!

Plan easy recipes:

If you’re the type that stresses over keeping meals warm or everything being just perfect, try to choose simpler dishes that don’t need served immediately.

(Crockpot meals are our go-to for dinners!)

Because if you’re stressed and frantic, everyone else will feel it too!

Be strategic about your prep time:

If you have multiple meals to prep and items to decorate, plan ahead on how you can efficiently utilize your time.

For instance, if something has to marinate or set in the fridge, use that period to prep another item.

Make sure to allocate a few minutes of me-time before guests arrive so that you can an enjoy a glass of wine and relax after all of your hard work!



Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Set the Party Tone

It’s important for a modern host to set the tone of the party in advance.

It’s kind of contradictory for guests to show up in a suit and tie for a light bites cocktail party served with plasticware, which leads us to our next tip…

When you’re letting guests know about your event, it’s important to not leave out the significant details for them to be prepared.

Decide in advance what you want the tone of the party to be and be sure to convey that in the invite.

For instance, is this a casual get together?

Like a game night or backyard BBQ where you’ll be donning disposable utensils and bathing suits?

Or is this a seated dinner with linen napkins, china, and candles?

Even if casual attire is fitting for both occasions, it definitely makes a difference for guests to know what they’ll be walking into! 

Not only is setting the tone a nice courtesy to guests, but they may even offer to bring a backyard game or flowers for the table if they know in advance!

Plus, you’re less likely to have guests bringing a plus one without mentioning it in advance if they know it’s a seated dinner or more of a come and go atmosphere.

Lastly, it also helps the host determine what’s really necessary and what’s not.

It’s easy to start going over board with dinner, dessert, and drinks.

But if you determine what you want the tone to be early on, you’re less likely to spend the extra money on unnecessary items!

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Create a Flow for the Party

Once you’ve determined the tone of your event, it’s time to figure out the flow that works best.

For example, you’re not going to want guests running inside and out in wet bathing suits from a backyard BBQ.

So you should be prepared by prepping an outdoor space with everything a guest might need to be accessible.

Plan your home layout:

Secondly, it’s never fun for everyone at a dinner party to be hovering around one corner of the kitchen trying to squeeze by to get ice or glassware.

And then, squeeze back passed people to the bar area for drinks.

Thinking through the layout of your space makes the space feel much bigger.

It will also cut down on unwanted spills or making someone who might not know the crowd too nervous to grab a glass.

Not to mention, it takes the heat off of you if you’re one of the said high strung hostess we talked about before!

Arrange an easy flow for serving food and drinks:

When setting up a spread for a party, we try to designate a flow by placing flatware, plates, and napkins on one end.

Followed by light bites, main dishes, sweets, and last but not least, drinks and glassware.

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Make Things Pretty (But Not Too Pretty!)

When you have everything else thought out and the flow set for your party, you can now go buck wild with the styling.

(This is our achilles heel!)

After hosting a ton of workshops and events for Sugar & Cloth, as well as plenty of get togethers at our house, we’ve learned one key thing about styling that no one ever really mentions.

And that’s that you can make things a little too perfect.

Yes, my fellow Pinterest lovers, you just read that correctly!

Have you ever been to someone’s house for dinner or an event with the perfect setup.

But you don’t want to be the first one to dig in and mess it all up?

It’s the same concept!

The first guests to arrive are likely to be hesitant to mess up your picture perfect spread until everyone arrives.

To avoid this, you can still easily make an Instagram-worthy tablescape.

But take a second to eat a few bites here and there before people arrive to make sure they know they’re welcome to it!

We definitely have to do this with events in the studio since everyone knows there will be a ton of photos taken,

But we always make sure to also encourage guests to enjoy it as well!

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

Tips for Entertaining for the Modern Host - Sugar and Cloth - Ashley Rose

What are some of your favorite hosting tips and tricks?

Did we leave out any major pieces that you always make sure are on your mental list?

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  1. Love these tips! Something I think we know, but need to remind ourselves!

    I’d love to know if there are things you would change in and event vs home setting? How would you adjust this advise as the host of a workshop or party at the studio? Especially in a setting where you probably don’t know everyone that’s walking in.

    1. I think doing your best to greet everyone individually at some point throughout the event is always a great idea, no matter the setting, as well as setting a flow for food and drinks! Hope this helps! xx

  2. I love setting a tone for the party thats my favorite part. Its like daaydreaaming and making things come true.

    Fingers crossed for an email!

  3. Such a fantastic article. I’ve read many posts that focus more on the decorum rather than personally catering to your guests. I also love the idea of bringing the perfect hostess gift. I’m a huge advocate for bringing a bunch of fresh flowers, personalized stationary or French themed tea towels as a “thank you”.

  4. Great ideas, Ashley! Have definitely felt the anxiety from a stressed host – no good. One thing I always try to do is set the mood with music – a good record or playlist that fits the vibe I’m going for. If you aren’t particularly music savvy, encourage a guest you know is to help deejay (my music-minded husband is a bit anxious at parties sometimes and LOVES being assigned this task!). Same goes for that guest that arrives a bit early. Save a couple simple tasks – like setting the table or lighting candles – so that instead of feeling like they’re rushing you or just standing around, they’re helping out by lending a hand. =)

  5. I’d love to know *how* to set the tone before the event — is there a way to do this with the invitation? I always end up with people texting me the day of asking me what to wear! No hostess has time for that!

    1. Great question! I think the cute sayings at the bottom of the invites are fun, but you can always make them more formal if you want. Something like “casual attired welcome!” or “be sure to dress in your best!” are fun ways to include information without coming across too stuffy :)

  6. I’ve noticed when I entertain at home that people tend to congregate where the food is so to avoid congestion, I set up separate stations for appetizers, desserts, and drinks to spread things out. I also place bowls of spiced or candied nuts, chocolates, or a snack mix around the house so that nibbles are always within reach.

  7. Wow what a beautiful food spread!! I can’t wait to move into a new home so I can entertain!! Wonderful tips!

    Melanie | Toots & Dill

  8. Oh I love your tips! I usually end up being the hostess for most events (not that I don’t love it), but sometimes it can be tough. Saying hello and greeting each guest is something I make sure I do each time, though. It makes a huge difference and definitely helps guests feel much more comfortable.


  9. Great ideas and inspiration….can you say where that fabulous white console/island in the first pic came from. It’s just what I’m looking for to use as an island!!!!