Entertaining friends, family & work colleagues, is all about connecting and creating memories together. Hosts & Hostesses put too much pressure on themselves to create "the best event ever", when really the trick, is keeping it stylish and uncomplicated.
I can't emphasise enough the need to plan, plan, plan! This should culminate in most of the set up being done the night before - putting flowers in vases, tea lights in votives, cutlery, tableware being washed and as much food being marinated or prepared.
The last minute events such as ice, cooling the drinks, food preparation and your outfit, should be the only key events on the day of the party.
Our napkins were made by "Stitched By Beverly"
The more you simplify things like food, the more relaxed the day or evening will become.
I intend to stick to simple recipes and not get too tricky. Most people prefer home cooked meals and the basics. If it can go in the oven do it! Means less time in the kitchen and you can enjoy a drink and conversation with your guest.
The key for me is to add the personal touch - truffle salt, homemade mint sauce, homemade prawn cocktail sauce which often have a story behind them. It makes the atmosphere relaxed and people love to know a family recipe handed down through generations.
I also prefer to put a variety of sides on the table so people can help themselves. Ensure each side dish has a pop of colour to make it a visual feast.
My preference is to serve each guest with the main component of the meal
Use your environment around you to create your table centre pieces. Experiment away from the traditional glass vass and use pineapples & Palm fonds etc to add to that relaxed feeling. Pineapples add a beautiful smell to the table too!
Shells down the middle of the table with tea lights or coral is another option for tropical table settings. You can also buy mini pineapples on stems from flower markets here in Singapore and put them in a vase.
At Christmas time, add test tubes with a single stem in each to add a touch of colour and nature amongst the baubles on the tree.
Controlling the music is essential as it creates the guests journey throughout the evening. Start with relaxing vocal music, followed by up-tempo and finish with everyone toe-tapping. I like to start with old school music rather than pumping out house or rock music for drinks and dinner. I rely on music heard from my travels - Shazam it and then create a playlist. I like to mix Brazilian and Middle East artists such as Amr Diab as well.
A recent playlist I came across is "Dinner party - Music for entertaining" which contains vocals and not just instrumental. I think the latter can tend to put people to sleep.
Colour, Pattern & Texture
White tables can tend to look more like a wedding than a dinner party with friends. Use white as the base or table top and placemats and then add colour and pattern. Have fun with your table and be as creative as you like - You are not making a long-term decision about your living and dining room, it is only for a few hours!
I don't like to dress up parties, but I don't mind a colour theme for guests to stick to.
Improvise! Living an expat life means, you often don't have the essential lighting installed in your homes. You can purchase DIY dimmers to add to ceiling lights. Add some string lights above your table if it is being held outside. We used our planter boxes to help support it to prevent it from collapsing on the guests.
Using a multiple of tea lights is also an inexpensive way to create that beautiful twinkle. Use flares in the garden - $8 ea and create a fantastic atmosphere.
The delight on my daughters' faces, receiving party bags, at birthday parties, gave me the idea to do an adult version. I place a little something - a travel candle, cigar, pack of cards etc on the plates for each guest to take home. It doesn't have to be expensive, just a thought and adds to the memory of the evening.
Host & Hostess
Things will most often NOT go according to the plan - the oven isn't turned on at the right time, the potatoes are over cooked. Top up your favourite tipple and smile. You are with friends and colleagues. You are there to enjoy one another's company. It is most likely you are the only one that is noticing the errors and no point in stressing your guests out!
Enjoy the magical atmosphere you have created!