Easy & Effective Entertaining

Hi, there! My name is Diana and I feel honored to have been asked by the oh-so-lovely Candice to put together a little treat for you all today! Though I'm a wedding photographer and mainly blog about that, today I'm sharing with you all another passion of mine: fun, easy, and effective ways to entertain.

Ever since I could remember, entertaining has been a large part of my life. Growing up in what I like to consider "my very own big, fat Romanian community," my family found any and every excuse to have people over, host parties, Sunday lunches,... the works. When my husband and I officially became homeowners about five years ago, we quickly discovered how much we love continuing the traditions we grew up around and had people over constantly. I suppose my background in interior design and being a wedding photographer has furthermore exposed me to everything from elaborate celebrations to simple rehearsal dinners and has given me a true appreciation and love for the "art" of entertaining. Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that simple is best and I'm here to share a few tips with you all that I've picked up from various planners, designers, brides, friends, and of course, my own personal experiences, along with some pretties for you all to look at.I've broken it down into three easy components to effective entertaining: atmosphere, food, and details. Of course, hosting and entertaining is based on individual and personal tastes, and while having elaborate centerpieces adorning your table and a five course meal can be nice, it's just plain unnecessary and let's be honest... not nearly as fun. I find that having a simple table setting, in-season floral arrangements that you can put together yourself, perhaps place cards or little favors to take home to make your guests feel special, and a tasty menu is all you need to successfully entertain a large or small crowd. I've also discovered that the simpler the process of planning and hosting is, the more likely you are to enjoy the process, do it more often, and make the experience less intimidating for your guests. Below you will find some ideas and thoughts on how you can entertain easily and effectively by paying close attention to the three main components previously mentioned.

First, setting the atmosphere. I always take the time to make a music playlist that is customized to the particular crowd I am entertaining or event I am planning for. I find background music to be soothing, a great conversation starter, and just an all around pleasant addition to your event. It can be as elaborate as a live band at a wedding or as simple as an iPod set up in the background, but it's my belief that music is an absolute must for any get together, big or small. Another large component to entertaining that is often overlooked is lighting. Stringing white lights around the trees in your back yard during a summer barbecue for instance, will go miles for setting the mood and placing candles on your table (remember they should always be unscented if serving food) is an inexpensive way to make a big impact. Of course, if you are throwing a larger cocktail party or event such as a wedding, uplights accenting the walls can make an impressive statement and dimming chandeliers will cast flattering light on people's skin tones, while also lending itself to a more elegant atmosphere. Thirdly and my personal favorite, decor. This is a pretty broad category that can include everything from table cloths, to chairs, to floral arrangements, but for the sake of keeping things simple and effective (my personal motto when entertaining), I believe that a little goes a long way. I also believe that the best place to start is your own home, as that is the space most reflective of you. Collect vases, gather up interesting chairs (who says they all have to match), and always think outside of the box. For instance, why not cut a fun table runner out of Christmas wrapping paper for your winter holiday party or if you live in Florida like me, simply trim off some palm leaves from your backyard (in Florida, everyone knows someone that has a palm tree in their yard), lay them on the table and place hurricane vases with white candles or seasonal fruits in the summer time for an easy yet impressive arrangement. There are endless ways to create striking tablescapes without breaking the bank and still leave a lasting impression. In the photo below, we used birdcages and branches that we already owned, various white porcelain vases, spring florals from our local Whole Foods Market, pink lemonade in mason jars, and some adorable napkin rings we scored at a thrift shop for pennies as decor for a spring stylized lunch reception. And during these hot summer months, my "can't go wrong" tablescape is always white florals from your local market, a few mason jars with raffia tied around them holding unscented candles, a crisp white table cloth and jute table runner, and simple white porcelain or bamboo plates, lending to a refreshing yet clean, earthy, rustic atmosphere. A great tip I picked up along the way is to keep your centerpieces low so that you can see and converse easily with your guests. Pinterest is amazing for ideas on decor but I also love this blog for entertainment ideas (amongst other things) and this book comes highly recommended.

Next up: your menu. Personally, I like a menu that reflects the current season we are in. Call me nostalgic, but I have specific memories that I associate with seasons and I look forward to reliving them each year. It's ridiculous how much joy and comfort I find in summertime bonfires and corn on the cob and traditional turkey dinners in the fall. When entertaining, think of what ingredients are currently in season (this saves you money as well) and what foods are reminiscent of the weather or time of year we are currently in. Think refreshing, light, and cooler ingredients such as fruit and mint for summer and spring, and heating things up in the fall and winter a la apple pies and comfort foods that make you feel all warm and cozy inside.

If you're cooking, keep your menu simple at one or two appetizers, a main course (though, it's perfectly okay to serve a collection of various finger foods instead) with a fresh salad, and a lovely desert. I believe 100% in ending things on a sweet note, even if it's as simple as a fruit salad parfait. As with everything, presentation is key so pay close attention to the way your food is displayed and feel free to dress up your dishes. Placing mint and lemon slices in your water, rosemary alongside your cheese platters, and little details such as labeled hors d'oeuvres or striped paper straws can leave guests impressed and feeling oh so special. As previously mentioned, I get tons of inspiration and recipes from Pinterest but also use this blog for easy, no fuss, yet totally delish recipes and this blog for drool worthy deserts.

Lastly, we've all heard it before... it's all in the details. Taking the extra time to create menus, place cards, or making little favors for your guests to leave with will make them feel included, important, and excited for your next fabulous event. If your hosting a shower, birthday, or celebratory dinner for example, help your guests feel a part of your experience by personalizing your event as much as possible. This could be done through picture frames telling your story, a slideshow, fun non-cheesy games, wishing trees, and the ever popular photo booths. At this particular Mexican-Fiesta themed bridal shower, the maid of honor made her own photo booth by setting up a fun shower curtain and a gorgeous settee that she owned outside in her backyard along with two chalkboards. Not only was this a huge hit with guests and very inexpensive to put together, but it also proved to be a fun way to have photos of all the guests along with messages they could leave for the bride-to-be. The most important thing about details is to to focus on a few and make them special and personal to you and your event. At a recent wedding I photographed, the bride recruited all her bridesmaids and family members and stayed up for 3 nights making her grandmother's favorite recipe for cookie batter to give out to all 100 guests in mason jars as favors. Another recent bride didn't like the idea of guests clanking on their glasses each time they wanted her to kiss her groom so instead, she had a mock wheel of fortune made at her wedding for guests to spin with fun trivia, questions, and dares if they wanted a kiss out of the new Mr. & Mrs. So creative & as you can imagine, everyone loved it! Whatever the idea, the sky is literally the limit and the best part of it all is to have fun with it. Remember, entertaining is supposed to be just that.

That pretty much sums it all up and I really do hope that all these ideas have helped you all in some way or another. Most of all though, I hope it has inspired you all to entertain in easy and effective ways and helped you realize that there is no need to spend a fortune on setting up the perfect event. Remember, sometimes it's as simple as looking through your home or your backyard and infusing a little creativity
 in thinking outside of the box. Happy planning all!! *All photos via Diana Lupu Photography*


maryl said...

I absolutely love you ideas! You have incredible tips that aren't too pricey. You have encouraged us to be creative,use what we have on hand and have FUN. Your pictures are fabulous, too. Thank you so much for sharing your talents with us.

Lauren said...

Wow!! What an amazing post with such wonderful tips and lovely photos! I'm ready to start planning my next party!! :)

Mikelle Jade said...

these are great suggestions. with exquisite photos. Seriously, magazine worthy.

Thanks for the tips, now I want to throw a party!

Anonymous said...

MJ is right! This really IS magazine worthy! Phenomenal post! I LOVED it!

Julia D. said...

Wow, this is an amazing post. Your photos are GORGEOUS and you have so many helpful tips. Thanks for sharing your expertise! Just as a side note that wasn't explicitly covered with the menu, while it is by no means the host(ess) responsibility to make an individual meal for everyone, I would think it is good to be mindful of dietary restrictions so that everyone has something to eat.

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