Tips for No-Stress Entertaining

Playing host isn't fun if you're hyperventilating. Here are some ways to keep your chill on.

True Style

Love the idea of entertaining at home? But when the guests arrive do you just want to hide? You're not alone. Keep these tips in mind to keep party anxiety at bay.

1) Prepare in advance.

Do not grocery shop, clean and cook the same day you're having people over—that's a recipe for a meltdown. In fact, it's best to finish as much as you can the day before your fĂȘte. Plan your dinner party menu well in advance, and if you're having a sit-down meal, set the table the night before.

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2) Don't go cleaning crazy.

No, you don't have to vacuum the curtains. At the bare minimum, make sure the powder room is clean and you have hand towels at the ready. If you have piles of clutter you can't deal with, scoop it all up into a basket, throw it in your bedroom and close the door. Done.

3) Keep the food simple.

Only the truly calm should tackle a new recipe. Try Giada De Laurentiis' chicken saltimbocca another time. If you can't help yourself, make a new recipe in advance (and if it's awful you can toss it). In fact, serving something you can easily warm up is a great idea. Stews, casseroles and pot roasts made a day or two before are all great bets—serve it with a salad and you've got dinner in a flash. For no-brainer appetizers go for mixed nuts and a bowl of black olives—who doesn't love that with a cocktail?

4) Rely on instant elegance.

Sure, fresh flowers are great, but candles offer way more bang for your buck. Light up 30 tea lights and you'll transform your room into a swanky lounge. You can buy tea lights—and little glass votives—for a mere song on the web.

5) Enlist a helper.

If you think you're going to need an extra hand, give the heads-up to your spouse or a friend. They can help serve food, refill wine glasses or greet people as they arrive. If your guests offer to bring an appetizer, sides or some wine, don't hesitate to say yes—you don't have to go it all alone.

6) Remember, it's about the people.

The whole point of throwing a get-together is spending time with the people you enjoy most. Your guests aren't expecting a five-star restaurant experience—they came over to spend time with you. So have another glass of wine, chat it up and don't obsess. No one sees the imperfections you see—they just want to have fun.

Ryan Homes Question: What are your favorite shortcuts while entertaining?