Sunday, June 15, 2008

Elements of Superb Entertaining

In other words, a birthday party that rocks. I just got back from a social event that represents the best in Southern hospitality -- one of those experiences that makes you feel glad to be a part of the great human family, and forget the dysfunctionality of your own family (it can only bother you if you allow that!)

Even though we can all appreciate Wayne Dyer's joke that friends are God's apology for your family, getting together with relatives can be enriching in unexpected ways. Getting together to celebrate a biggish event (80 years on the planet, for example) gives family members a positive project to collaborate on, and a purpose that gets everyone focused above the fray. The annoyances of others are simply your teachers in disguise so you can always look for the learning experience.

Entertaining often gets short-listed on our priorities because of other stuff that pretends to be more important. I hope this post encourages you to celebrate the next birthday in your household, in a bigger way. Hans Nouwen wrote that to celebrate a birthday is to celebrate life. It's a way to express gratitude that a person simply is there.

Less Work, More Fun

There are three basic strategies to entertaining without it being such a burden to the host/ess.

1. Involve guests and co-hosts. The event from which I just returned was orchestrated by three families living in three different cities. With or without co-hosts, guests always feel more involved when entrusted with an assignment.

2. Outsource. Whether it's a catering service, a bakery, or Sam's Club, getting professional help can save you time and money. Find someone to help get the house ready, and to clean it up afterwards. A totally overwhelmed host can be scary.

3. Simplify. Miami-based Jennifer Rubell has plenty of suggestions about how to work on this. Two suggestions of hers include giving a one-dish dinner or breaking up good quality chocolate bars as dessert.

Get inspired. Give a party. Connect with others. Invite Mixonian!