Many ways to wow: Hostesses share entertaining ideas


“I like to think of entertaining as a wonderful privilege — a positive way to encourage while communicating with good food, good conversation and spending quality time with good friends. For us, entertaining is a ministry — as scripture exhorts us to be ‘given to hospitality.’
“Whether it’s simple or gourmet, the key is being organized and planning ahead. One of my greatest delights in entertaining is for guests to come with a great appetite and enjoy the treat. Whether the party is a simple cookout or an evening dinner, the attitude is a high priority!
“One of my favorite venues of entertaining in our home is to entertain our children! It’s my delight to encourage them around the table, almost every Sunday, and prepare dishes that they are especially fond of. Fried chicken appears on the menu at least once a month — that’s one of everybody’s favorites!”


“My husband, Tim, and I begin by making sure our house and yard are in good shape for people to see and enjoy. We create our guest list and then begin calling or sending invitations. Most of the time, we call so that we can visit with our friends while inviting them to our home. We enjoy having guests that have some of the same interests as we do. “Most of our parties are casual, but we do enjoy big Sunday lunches after church. My favorite party is a big potluck dinner with everyone bringing their favorite dishes. After dinner, everyone joins in a ‘sing along,’ Gaither style! These times are a lot of fun, and I always have a lot of help.
“One of the things I would tell anyone wanting to start entertaining is to just do it! Start out simply, and enjoy yourself and your company.”


“My home is my castle and sharing it makes me very happy. Whether it is dinner for a handful of friends or a party for 150, planning it is almost as much fun as the actual party.
“My ‘must have’ for any party at our home is my husband, Ray! He is a fabulous cook and bartender!
“My favorite party to give is a cocktail buffet for around 100 people. My second favorite party is a dinner party for six to eight people. Entertaining is so expensive now so I would encourage anyone not to get ‘hung up’ on having everything perfect. Plan ahead, keep the menu simple, serve a variety of foods and prepare as much ahead of time — use the freezer!
“Decide on lighting, music and flowers. Select a centralized serving area. If you are planning an outdoor party, always have an indoor backup plan. Serve cold food cold, and hot food hot. Most of all, ENJOY YOURSELF!”


“My most cherished memories in entertaining are informal times with family and close friends, usually in our home. Almost always there is a particular theme, color scheme and purpose. Whether a bridesmaids’ luncheon, shower or reception, it is always a thrill to honor the bride or family with the occasion. My goal is to ensure that the guests thoroughly enjoy the event.
“Our farm is our favorite place to entertain. It’s a great place for a cookout while enjoying the scenery. To see the guests arrive with a smile (and leave with a bigger one) makes me happy knowing that the event was a success.
“Oh, and we can’t forget the food! The food needs to be really good and plentiful! When I’m being entertained, I always enjoy seeing the versatile ways each host incorporates his or her ideas into the event — every occasion is fun and different!”


“I love planning a dinner party, a wedding reception, a bridal shower party or an open house for a special group. The planning is the fun part. I try to think of every detail and picture it in my mind. Then I make a list of what I need to do and when it needs to be done.
“The food is first, of course. Then I plan the dishes I will use, the table settings and a centerpiece for the table or buffet. I decide what needs to be done to the house to prepare for the guests. I try to plan something special or unique for the particular group that will be there.
“I definitely want everything to be done when my guests arrive, although that usually happens about 30 seconds before they get there. I want my guests to be the focus of my attention, after all, they are the reason I have done everything. I want them to feel welcome and happy they are there. Although the work I do to prepare is an interesting project for me, I never want it to feel like a production. My goal is always to create a pleasing, comfortable, interesting occasion for my guests and I want to enjoy it as well.
“My favorite group to entertain is always my family. I like to be as careful when I plan for them as I am for anyone else. It is great practice and I do want them to enjoy being there.”


“Relaxed and fun — two elements my parties must always have. I couldn’t do them without my friends! 
“After I decide on a theme, then I move on to what kind of flowers I’ll have and what things I’ll use from my closets of stuff. I’m always running behind and not sure if I can pull it off — and my friends come to the rescue. Pat Otto and Terry Hendrickson always came to my rescue. 
“I always love to give engagement couple parties and P.E.O. parties. My favorite menu is chicken salad, fresh fruit, homemade muffins and lemon chiffon shortcake with strawberries. And of course, iced tea punch from the First Baptist Church cookbook is a ‘must have’.
“On one party occasion, we made everyone T-shirts to wear. At another one, we made all the ladies an apron! I never will forget the party we gave and made everyone their own reindeer sweatshirt with a reindeer name on it!   
“It’s your home so do what you want to do, just be welcoming and relaxed. My children were always my labor! They learned to give parties at an early age and still enjoy entertaining. I’ve passed the torch — now I just sit and smile!”