This past weekend was Jude's dedication, and to celebrate, we had our immediate family over after the service for lunch. I wanted to share with you how I entertain for something like this because I feel like many people over estimate how complicated entertaining can be. Really, it's as complicated as you make it, but it can also be as simple as well.
When I planned this lunch, here is what I had to keep in mind:
First, I didn't want to have to do anything the day of as there just wasn't time. We needed to be out of the house by 7:45 in the morning, and everyone would be coming back with us, so there would be no time before guests arrived. I also wanted to sit down and enjoy the afternoon with my company, so little work the day of was key. This meant things needed to be able to be made in advance, or prepped the day before, and simply placed out on the table before enjoying.
Second, given everyone would be back around 11:30, I wanted something lighter that people could enjoy at their own pace. If they wanted to enjoy a coffee and something sweet first, they could. If they were hungry for lunch, there were plenty of options.
Third, I wanted people to be able to move about as they wished, and that meant food people could just pick up and carry around on a small plate.
Here's what I ended up serving:
- A simple cheese plate with a variety of breads, crackers and preserves for on top.
- A meat plate with different pickles and olives and things.
- Some easy vegetables and dip.
- And then sweets - some homemade, some bought, but all delicious: Ina's Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs, Cream Puffs (bought), Chocolate Chip Cookie Wedges, Palmiers (with store bought pastry) and a simple bowl of strawberries.
(And of course, for every party something is forgotten... In this case, the nuts for my nut bowl!)
Everything was assembled on trays the day before and then wrapped and refrigerated, or set out on the table. The only exception was the cheese. They stayed in the packages, but were placed on the plates before I served them. When I arrived home, I simply had to set the trays out and unwrap them, fill the milk and cream pitchers for coffee and add ice to the punch. It's so easy!
And even though the prep work was the day before, I didn't spend hours doing it. It was simply arranging things on plates. The most time consuming thing I did was bake! And if that's too much, you could easily come up with a gorgeous dessert plate with a variety of baked good from your favourite bakery.
When I serve food this way, I use our chairs in the living room as extra casual seating. This frees up the dining room and gives people plenty of room to walk around (and hang out by!) the food. Everyone comes and goes as they please, and I think that feels so much more relaxed and enjoyable.
Another trick from the Barefoot Contessa? Use Hydrangea or fig leaves to make platters look prettier. I just wiped the leaves down with dish water to clean them as food was touching them.
These cookies are super easy to make, and seriously, they are divine!
I worked with the flowers I could get my hands on - mostly from the grocery store. I made one arrangement for the living room and tucked other blooms around the house to brighten it up. A little arrangement in the family room where other were sitting, some little vases on the vanities in the bathroom, others by the sink and by the coffee and punch. Nothing complicated.
We were so thankful to have all our family come and support us. It means the world to us. And poor Jude, he was so tired by the time everyone left!
So that's it! Try to keep things simple. A little effort in how you present things makes anything feel more special, even if it's just a bowl of strawberries! And do as much as you can ahead of time. No host wants to be so busy running around that they miss the party.