Recently, I was preparing for the imminent arrival of dinner guests and I was reminded how few people even have dinner guests anymore. This was followed by pondering the reasons behind that. If you are one of those families who never (or seldom) invites friends or family for meals but you might consider doing so, check out my practical tips! My best advice is:
Don’t stress it!!!
Sadly, it has become a lost art – having people over for meals. People used to share meals together often with friends and family, tell stories, play games and relax together, MINUS television, cell phones, tablets and computers. Time was taken to have genuine, heartfelt conversation. Definitely a more peaceful time! I would love to see this “lost art” return!
We’ve had zillions of people over (okay, maybe not quite zillions) and it causes me minimal to no stress. In our world we are the invitERS and we enjoy that role! We already have a list of different families to invite over this summer. We enjoy having our own extended family over, but also various families and friends with whom we want to become better acquainted.
I know people are busy. The electronics and technology are supposed to have made life simpler; instead they have made us more distracted and more isolated. As a culture, most of us barely even know our neighbors. But reaching out to those around us, whether it’s family, neighbors, friends or co-workers can enrich our lives in so many ways. (A fantastic book, The Art of Neighboring, is an excellent, inspiring resource about engaging your neighbors and building real community). Although it seems that everyone already has enough friends and is otherwise occupied, there are a lot of people who would be blessed by a simple invitation to your home. (They probably don’t even realize what they’re missing!)
So, how do I make this whole “having guests over for a meal” thing simple & stress-free?
1. Don’t stress over the food.
People aren’t coming to evaluate your culinary skills. They really are not. Don’t use the “we can’t have anyone over because we’re not good cooks” excuse. I generally keep it simple by doing most of the meal in a crockpot or two. One of my favorite crockpot cookbooks is Taste of Home Slow Cooker Cookbook. LOTS of scrumptious recipes in there with pictures included. I love that! Another one that has some delicious recipes as well as other helpful suggestions is Fix It and Forget It New Cookbook. (Definitely try the “Mexican Haystacks” on page 136; perfect for company!). Usually guests offer to bring something so I’ll assign a salad or dessert, but if not, that’s fine too. (Now, I don’t necessarily recommend this, but I am crazy enough to try brand new recipes when we have company. Usually it works out. If not, we can just order a pizza or have some soup and sandwiches). People really aren’t coming over for the food.
2. Don’t stress over the tableware and decor.
People aren’t coming to your house because they think you’ll have the best floral arrangement or silverware; nor are they coming to get ideas for their own gatherings. Keep it simple with paper plates, plastic silverware and styrofoam cups. (If it makes you feel better, buy recycled items). Seriously, you don’t need to polish your silver or wash up the china (I mean, unless that really makes you happy). No one cares what type of plate or fork they are using to eat (especially if they get a really cool BUGS placemat)!
3. Don’t stress over the house!
I am definitely not a great home decorator OR a great house cleaner. Fortunately, people are not coming over to inspect my house, or yours! (I mean, if the toilet is black inside and the kitchen table is covered, you’ll need to get with it!) But, no one is going to do the “white glove test” on your furniture; no one needs to take a tour of the house; and no one is checking the corners for cobwebs. (When the bedrooms are a disaster, we put up a baby gate to block off the back part of the house, or simply let our guests know that we’ll be hanging out in the dining/kitchen/living room area). I have never had any dinner guest comment on the cleanliness of our home.
Our philosophy is exemplified by a wall hanging that says, “Excuse the mess, but we live here.” As soon as I saw it at Hobby Lobby, I knew it was the sign for us! (You can get really cute versions of it on Amazon, including signs, bags, pillows and more).
The size of one’s home can also deter people from having guests over. Why not eat in the backyard or frontyard or at a park? One thing we do is have the kids eat first, then send them off to play. The adults enjoy a lovely, peaceful meal with uninterrupted conversation! Definitely don’t stress over the house. You can make it work!
When is the last time you had company for dinner? I encourage you to drop the excuses and plan some meals at your house this summer!!! You can do it! Don’t stress it!
P.S. If you click on and purchase one of the above books, I will get a teensy-tiny bit of money to help me with my blog. Thanks!