Today we are sharing our top 10 tips for stress-free entertaining, to help you create a magical ambience that encourages your guests to feel at home and allows you to have fun.

Before you start buying drinks, food or organising catering it is important to consider the guest list.

Communicate the formalities with your guests.
Are kids invited?
Is it a sit-down dinner, a casual potluck picnic, or a canapés & drinks night?
Is the dress code casual, holiday festive or semi-formal?
Let your guests know the arrival time, the finishing time and what time dinner will be served.
 Lastly, ask your guests if they have any beverage and dietary preferences or allergies.

A few weeks in advance, assess what you already have on hand and what you may like to purchase or hire.

Gather all your plates, serving-ware, glassware, bar tools, trays, silverware, and table linens in advance to make sure you have the right number and style. These can be cleaned and pressed the night before.

For Alfresco style entertaining, consider acrylic water, wine, cocktail glasses and jugs as they are affordable, damage-proof and light to carry.If you are having an extra-large gathering you can also hire glasses and table linen which will save you the labour of washing up and laundering at the end of the day.

Declutter the areas you will be using so you feel more ordered in the lead up and can relax when your guests arrive into a beautiful welcoming space. If you clean in advance, you can simply spot vacuum the day of your event. Mini vacuums or cordless vacuums are perfect for those last-minute tidies.

Make a list of the furniture you will need. Items may include a trestle table to serve as a designated bar area, a range of seating options, adequate surface space, and an entryway bench and coat rack. If you are lacking certain pieces, consider utilising ottomans, floor cushions or folding chairs borrowed from friends and family for your gathering. If you have any furry friends, throw a blanket over the couch or a simple sheet tucked in with decorative cushions if you are concerned about pet hair.

Consider what foods, slices or sauces can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated to save time and plan to do one task each day in the week prior to your event.
Serve dinner buffet or canapé style so guests can help themselves and you can relax and enjoy the company rather than waiting and serving. Cook tried and tested favourite recipes that you can make easily and that you love.
There are also so many fabulous delis and gourmet bakeries on offer that you can mix what you make from scratch and what you can buy in to save time and dollars in the long run!  Bought items could include dips, breads, flans, cakes, chocolates, cheeses, crackers or sushi platters.
Organise what and how many of each drink you will need to purchase and keep in mind if guests have already offered to bring beers or wine, so you don’t end up with too much of one beverage. We love to prepare a refreshing mocktail in a large pitcher or drinks dispenser, as well as bottles of mineral water and cut up citrus fruits for non-drinkers and designated drivers.

Photo Source: Matt Armendariz

It can be fun to have some board games, trivia, table topics or conversational cards on hand for those that wish to partake.
Our top 3 favourite games for groups are articulate, taboo, and boules, for outdoor gatherings. 

To set the mood, we encourage you to look at our styling tips for creating a beautiful tablescape ensuring the 5 L's are considered: Lighting, living elements, something with reflect, layering, and lastly some elements that you love! Our favourite trick to add instant life and energy to any space are subtly fragranced candles, a fantastic music playlist & vases full of fresh greenery, such as palms, ruscus, azalia, magnolia and monstera leaves.

WATCH THE TABLESCAPE STYLING VIDEO

Amidst all the preparation and planning, it can be easy to forget about one of the most important elements: lighting. 

Lighting options include hurricane lanterns, battery-operated pillar candles, floor and table lamps, fairy lights, citronella candles to ward off mosquitoes and plenty of candle or festoon lighting to illuminate as the event goes on. Consider replacing your lamp bulbs with smart bulbs, allowing you to set a timer on your phone for when you want the lights to dim and be warmer.

Layered lighting means you can adjust how much or how little light there is as the event progresses from day to night to maintain the desired ambience. We prefer to turn off over-head lighting and use mirrored trays, vases and silverware with reflect to add lustre. This allows the soft lighting to circulate throughout the space.

Check the weather to see if there are any changes and come up with a wet OR hot weather plan, especially if you had been planning an alfresco event.

If it is raining, reimagine how your outdoor gathering could indoors. Have a place for wet umbrellas and coats for when guests arrive and some indoor games that would be fun for after lunch or dinner. Cater to the various age groups and their needs in advance and if the event is outdoors, offer throws and blankets for older guests, and crayons and paper, or bubble blowers and puzzles for younger guests. For hot weather, ensure there are shady areas in your garden, using a holiday beach umbrella, and fans or air-conditioning inside if it is an especially warm day.

Set up the serving table basics a few days in advance, ironing your tablecloth, napkins and allocate your platters, glassware and serving ware, according to the foods you will be serving. That way you are not rushing about on the day cleaning and searching for the utensils.

The night before, set up your trestle with all the bar utensils you will need including ice buckets, bottle openers, cork screws, tongs, knives and drink charms. Then clean your platters, glassware and silverware. Arrange seating so that is conducive to conversation, eating and games.

Clean and vacuum your home including your entrance, living spaces and bathrooms, placing extra toilet rolls in a basket. Adding quality hand wash and lotion in your guest bedroom can elevate the feeling of welcome. Style the flowers and foliage in vases and position your additional lighting, candles or diffusers throughout the home.

On the morning of your event, buy ice, pick up bread and other fresh produce, or even better still, enlist the help of a family member or friend to do the running around for you! Have zinc tubs for recycling at the ready for cans and wine bottles, and plenty of garbage bags on hand, with extras laid in the base of the bin.

Get yourself ready well in advance of your guests arriving so you can feel good. Plan your outfit and wash your hair the day before your event if the situation allows.

• AN HOUR BEFORE: •

An hour before your guests arrive, light the candles, put the drinks on ice, prep the mocktails, open a few wine bottles, and do a final spot clean of the bathroom and entertaining space. Position paper hand towels & napkins in the bathroom and at the drinks and food station so guests can easily wipe their hands after holding their drink or appetizers. Then, put on some great music to get you in a fabulous mood!

Lastly, not everything can be done ahead of time, so just relax and be prepared to take offers of help with those last-minute tasks. Entertaining is about sharing time with those special to you, not about offering a 5-star restaurant experience! Your guests will relax if you are relaxed and enjoying the moment.