We know that times have changed. Sunday suppers have now been replaced with extra soccer games and pre-work-week scrambling. Even holiday planning gets squeezed into the 72-hours-before-the-festivities sprint. And we're always on the hunt for quick and simple shortcuts–the secrets for making more with less money or those sneaky ways to bake dessert in less time. Apple cake in a slow cooker was, after all, a pretty brilliant idea. There are just a few old-school ideas that are required at a proper Southern celebration. We're not budging. Now, how you choose to make them happen, we leave the clever hacking in your creative hands.
1. Be prepared with food. Guests always arrive hungry. If they say they're just fine, then we say they're just being polite. Let them graze. Set out munchies that don't require a ton of time and effort like deviled eggs, mixed nuts, and a few dips.
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2. Be ready with drinks too. Signature drinks are a great touch but sometimes we just forget to plan for them. Simply stock your bar and serve a festive, no-fuss punch.
3. Make sure there's plenty of seating options. Every gracious hostess needs to plan for guests to actually sit, and the options can be scattered like on the porch, in front of the television, or around the kitchen island. No need to cram everyone around the dining room table.
4. Break out the everyday china. You did register for it. Keep it on the casual side by mixing and matching colors, styles, and patterns together. We just recommend keeping those paper and plastic additions stowed away–at least until dessert. As for the silver, feel free to keep that fine stuff tucked away unless it's Easter or Christmas dinner.
5. Bring in flowers. We're not saying to call the florist and ask for a last-minute, extra fancy arrangement (although they are certainly nice). Flowers have an incredible power to change a setting from ordinary to extraordinary in no time. Plus, the all-natural look works like a charm. Pick buds from your own garden or buy a bunch of flowers at the grocery store. Quickly arrange in a vase or a pretty ice bucket.
6. Serve cake. The world of exploring desserts can be a fun time for the modern day hostess because there are just so many options, from the cupcakes and macarons to the petit fours and individial cobblers. Go wild with these wow-worthy finds but please, please, please serve a cake. Trust us, Mama will be happy to know there's a cake at your get-together. A simple coffee cake or cheescake will make her happy. And the Hummingbird would make her extra proud.
7. Thank guests for coming. Or if you're the guest, beat the host to the thank-you line. An actual handwritten note is a nice touch for a special occasion or holiday but not necessary for a Saturday night cocktail party. For less formal gatherings, we suggest expressing gratitude with an actual phone call, email, or even a text. Just don't say "thanks" on their Facebook wall.
Anything we forgot? Tell us!