If there’s one thing that makes me my happiest it’s gathering my people! I look for any and every excuse!… although these days it’s not quite as easy (ahem, Rex). So my answer to that now that al fresco dining season is here is to keep things as fuss-free as possible. And also to be realistic with myself (i.e.: the house won’t be picture-perfect clean, and I probably won’t be making anything spectacular). Low-key and casual has always been the way I prefer to host–like almost borderline the house is chaotic but come on over. You’ll probably have to help in the kitchen, or pour your own drink, but I’ll have music playing, plenty of bottles of wine that we can pop open and I can guarantee some good convos. Maybe I just miss my post college days when I lived with my girlfriends in San Fransisco and our apartment was always the place to be. Friends popping over for take-out and a casual mid-week hang. Also taking notes from my parents who have always been super social and had friends over all the time when we were growing up.
So as we move into my favorite season for entertaining… here are my top tips for a stress-free casual night, taking the pressure off of you:
- As a host, I like to go barefoot. (I will say sometimes this depends on my outfit as I am very short and some maxi dresses require that height, but I do prefer no shoes if the look doesn’t require it. ha!) Because I know that as a guest I like when I show up to someone’s house and I don’t feel underdressed. This sets a casual tone for the night and makes friends feel right at home.
2. Always grab coats / purses right away so guests hands are empty and they feel right at home… and insert a drink in their hand instead.
3. Uncork a couple of wine bottles pre-party or set up a bar situation so guests aren’t shy to help themselves to drinks–learned this trick from my dad.
4. Music! Set the vibe of the night with something chill… or upbeat, whatever mood you’re feeling but music is always a must. You can let friends help with the playlist too.
5. Keep the food easy. Make your go-to signature dish (whatever your speciality is that won’t stress you out). Anything you can prep and pre-make is key. Ask everyone to bring a dish of their own or decide to all cook together in the kitchen. And when super impromptu, just make a Trader Joe’s run and grab all of the pre-chopped, cheese, bread, olives, nuts you see.
6. If a clean house is stopping you from having friends over don’t let that be your excuse. A quick run around the house with the swiffer is all the cleaning you need to do beforehand. Oh and the guest bathroom! That’s a must. But otherwise don’t get too worked up here since most likely things will be dirtier post-party. If you have a cleaning person you might even want to schedule them for the day after the party rather than before. (That’s my true party trick!)
7. Flowers always add a nice touch but if you don’t have time to run to the store, clip something blooming in your yard. Even just some branches or herbs.
8. Invite a mixed crowd. It’s easy to keep to our friend circles, but I also love bringing together new friends or going to a dinner party where everyone brings a plus one who is new to the group. Such a great way to meet people!
The Look | Doen Top. Isabel Marant Sweater (old). Re/Done Jeans.
Photography | Stephanie Russo