My goal this year is to host at least one gathering per month. Historically, I would get all riled up when I hosted anything and spend hours and hours preparing the house, food, and drinks. This high energy input generally resulted in good results, but I would be so tired afterwards that the idea of hosting anything again anytime soon was overwhelming.
So, time for a new strategy: I call it low-maintenance entertaining.
The basic tenets of this entertaining style are as follows:
1. More often than not, schedule gatherings for hours that do not overlap with meals.
2. When inviting guests, clearly state what you intend to offer them during their visit.
3. Actually just do what you said you would, rather than prepare eighteen different dishes "just in case." If you are hosting outside meal hours, no one is going to starve.
4. Invite your guests to bring their favourite appetizer and/or beverage to the gathering should they so choose.
5. Only say "you don't need to bring anything" when you really mean it.
For example, last week I invited a group of coworkers over for drinks and apps. The email invite went something like this:
It's been a while since we all got together, so I am taking the opportunity to invite you over to my apartment Saturday evening. I am going to make an appetizer of some sort and open a bottle of wine. You are welcome to bring your favourite appetizer and/or beverage if you'd like.
Looking forward to seeing you!
Voila. People came. Some brought food, others brought wine. I opened said bottle of wine and made a large platter of hummus with veggies and gluten-free crackers. We had a great time, and the effort it took to put together the evening was minimal. So minimal, that I would be willing to do it again as early as next week.