Hosting in your Home

by Aoife Ní Dhonghaile

Some of my fondest childhood memories are from family gatherings or special occasions hosted at home. As it is First Holy Communion season and coming into summer – the unofficial hosting season, second only to Christmas’ festivities - we thought we’d share some hosting guidelines to keep those fond memories flowing and the good times rolling.

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Decide who to invite and when your event will be taking place.

Invite the people you like… sounds simple and yet often we can feel pressure to bow to societal inflicted niceties and over-extend the invitations. Figure out what kind of gathering you’re aiming for and who to involve. Whether it’s a work gathering, a family gathering or a gathering of your OG friend group; keep it simple and invite people you are fond of that will add to the atmosphere of the evening. You’ll be catering for the guests so bear the numbers in mind. The more you invite the more space you’ll need, the more you’ll have to cater for and therefore the more expensive the evening will be.


Be strategic with menu planning. Try and make the catering as efficient and stress-free as possible for yourself. If it’s a barbeque among friends you’re organising, you could delegate some jobs or even go potluck style. This also means that you can split the cost, as the expenses of hosting can add up.

Alternatively plan a menu that you can have as much of the food as possible prepped in advance rather than items that need preparation during the event so that you are free to mingle and enjoy, and are not confined to the kitchen quarters.

Provide plenty of drinks ;) Non-alcoholic or alcoholic, try to guestimate how much will be consumed and have a little extra on hand just to be safe. You may also need ice so prepare some ice trays (which are reusable and a great investment! They can also come in fun shapes for your own amusement) or buy some ice in advance. You could also slice up some lemons and limes and freeze them in advance to add to drinks or a water jug, therefore fulfilling two needs with one deed.

****** Wear an apron ****** -take it from someone who has learned the hard way! Nothing worse than being all dolled up and ready to go, putting the finishing touches on the food and a splatter splashes front and centre onto your getup – Avoid the added mess at all costs and invest in that apron!  

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Prepare as much of everything as possible in advance. Once you have your food plan organised, think about serving methods, the volume of people you’ll be catering for and the necessary seating arrangements, music – playlists to suit the atmosphere you’re aiming for (perhaps an extra more calming playlist for yourself to listen to while getting set up), set the table, layout a drinks area for people to refresh their own drinks, maybe recruit a couple of good friends to show up early to help you with the finishing touches or be co-host with you as guests arrive, think of a place to store bags and coats for guests where they can also be found easily at the end of the evening and you’ll be well on your way to a successful gathering with minimum stress.


Whether you’re planning on hosting a formal sit down or family-style catering; here are the basics you’ll be needing to set the table.

Plenty of napkins! Think one per person at least and add a few extra to cater for the inevitable messy eaters or spills that could happen.

Serving dishes – include a jug of water or two for guests to help themselves throughout the evening.

Enough plates, bowls and glasses for all your guests. Take into consideration if you’re planning on doing a couple of courses, that you’ll have enough to either cover both courses or will you have to wash up in between. People could have a couple different drinks e.g. a glass of water, a glass of wine, a sherry, a cup of tea… so consider how you want to go about serving them.

Condiments. I like to try and have these organised in advance so people can grab from the table themselves as they eat and I won’t have to go searching for things in the middle of dinner. Depending on what you’re serving some of the basics you may require include; salt and pepper, mayonnaise, salad dressing, ketchup, mint sauce, cream, sugar, milk (for tea/coffee), butter etc. etc.

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    Set the ambiance of the party with the music and lighting. From Norah Jones to the Stones you get to choose the party vibe!

    If your friends are anything like mine, provide plenty of notice! Send save the dates if need be and set the time you want people to arrive and leave by to what suits you. It can be good to clear the timeline up in advance so you and your guests will know what to expect from the evening.  
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    You’ll be happy you did at the end of the night when you’re ready to crash after a successful evening.


    It should be fun. Relax, enjoy and don’t worry. A nice idea for these gatherings is to have a polaroid camera (if you have access to one) at hand to pass amongst guests and capture the moments. Disposable cameras are also readily available again and can be equally good fun with the added excitement of having to wait and see what was captured on the night until you get them developed or put onto a CD to share.

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