10 Things I’ll Be Doing When It Comes To Entertaining In 2023

My new motto is "less is more."

Emily Painter Garden Party Drinks Station
Photo: Carmel Brantley; Styling: Page Mullins

I love entertaining. Whether it’s a special celebration or a Wednesday night dinner, you’ll find me setting the table with my favorite candles, bringing out fun linens, dusting off unique glassware, and filling the kitchen with delicious aromas. For larger gatherings, I’ll break out a cheeseboard (or three), whip up a big batch cocktail , and serve my favorite bottles of wine with my prettiest stemware. For me, the prep work is half the fun of entertaining—topped only by my favorite part, which is spending time with the people who show up.

Hosting has been second nature to me since I was a kid. It’s something I love to do, but I’ve found that it’s often easy to get caught up in the making-and-maintaining of everything rather than actually enjoying your company. (And I’m sure I’m not alone in this.) So, my entertaining motto for 2023 is "less is more." I’m making next year all about getting the right people together and not stressing so much about having everything else perfect. Here are the commandments I'll be following for a not-so-fussy, yet still thoughtful affair.

Keep It Simple

Pick one or two things and do them really well rather than stressing yourself out with 10 to-dos. Doing so will allow you to be more relaxed and actually spend time with your guests and cultivate meaningful memories.

Sometimes Smaller Is Better

While it is important to be kind and considerate when making your guest list, you don’t always have to invite the whole neighborhood. More intimate groups allow for better conversation and allow you, as the host, to be more thoughtful when catering to your guests' needs.

Cater To Where People Congregate

It’s inevitable that guests gravitate towards the bar...so you might as well give it its own moment. Set out your favorite glassware, open the wine, and have a pre-made cocktail at the ready. Then layer in thoughtful touches like a vase of fresh flowers or greenery, a set of tapers, bowl of citrus, and pretty garnishes. Plus, it’s a nice place to add an easy appetizer or bowl of nuts .

Bourbon-Peach Iced Tea
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Kay E. Clarke; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin

Let Your Guests Help

If you’re like me and prefer to be in control when it comes to your kitchen and what you’re serving, but you have friends that always offers to bring something—let them. Just be specific. Share a recipe you want to include, name of a wine you were planning to pick up, or have them grab the cocktail garnishes you need to complete the bar setup.

Have A Signature Moment

Whether it's a dish, drink, music, scent, or just the way you welcome people into your home, create something that is you. This will keep you calm and give your guests something to always look forward to. If you’re in my house, you know you’ll always be offered a glass of my favorite wine at the moment (which you probably won’t have heard of before) not long after you've walked through the door.

Try Non-Floral Centerpieces

While I love a floral centerpiece and small arrangements around the house, sometimes fresh cut buds can be expensive and time consuming to arrange. Plus, they don’t last very long. In lieu of flowers, fill a shallow bowl or scatter the table with lemons, limes, artichokes, pomegranates, or oranges. Small potted plants are also a great and reusable centerpiece. Then, add in your favorite tapers—painted, twisted, and lacquer ones are having a moment—and votives to fill in the space.

Thanksgiving Table Setting with Topiary Centerpieces and Pear Place Cards
Robbie Caponetto; Design: Mariée Ami; Styling: Kathleen Varner

Mix And Match

Gone are the days of fully matching sets of everything. Bring in your thrifted and passed down pieces. Use various patterns, colors, materials, and finishes when it comes to setting the table —just have a color scheme to tie it together. You might be surprised to find you can create a cohesive yet unique, layered table with seemingly mismatched tablecloths, placemats, napkins, plates, and glassware.

Use The Crock Pot

Just because it doesn't sound as fancy doesn’t mean we should dismiss one pot meals when it comes to entertaining. The chef in me always wants to impress with an elaborate meal, but at the end of the day, as long as it is delicious, your guests will remember it all the same.

Take It Al Fresco

When weather allows, take your gathering outside. There’s no better way to make a backyard evening feel cozy than around a fire with a warm beverage. And when spring rolls around, ice down some rosé and turn on the grill because everyone is ready to be in the fresh air without freezing.

Emily Painter Courtyard Garden Party
Carmel Brantley; Styling: Page Mullins

Try The New Charcuterie Board

The viral butter board has us all rethinking traditional charcuterie boards with the idea of a more shareable, spreadable board. It’s an easy way to avoid constant replenishing. I plan on including more veggies and less meat.

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