Entertaining 101: Easy Tips & Tricks to Impress

Try these few quick ideas for a simple yet elegant dinner party with friends & family.

Simple elegant dining table setting with roses, goblets, and linen placemats

As I write this it’s the end of June here in Colorado and I have the heat on in my house—with no hope this weekend of entertaining outdoors. I look so forward to summer here in Denver because it’s usually perfect for enjoying the weather and eating as many meals as possible outdoors. This has definitely been a strange summer so far and I’m ready to turn the heat off! I’m sure that once the 90-degree days arrive, I’ll be wishing for some cool weather again.

Host’s hands arranging ingredients on hand on a pretty platter for quick and easy appetizers

This week I thought I’d put together a post on ways to be a gracious host and make your lunch, dinner or cocktail party a lovely event, wether it’s indoors or out. I’ve even provided a few tips and tricks to make it easy on you so you can enjoy your guests instead of working in the kitchen the entire time.

Hostess sitting at dinner party dining table with platter of chicken fricasse recipe


Let’s start with appetizers. Sometimes the best, and prettiest appetizers can be put together with things you may already have on hand. For a recent dinner I hosted, I used one of my antique platters and filled it with things I had in my fridge. I added small bowl of olives, a wedge of blue cheese, brie cheese, some crackers and crusty bread, snap peas, strawberries, and roasted fingerling potatoes-left over from dinner the night before. Then I added a jar of fig preserves on the platter and voila, a beautiful appetizer plate composed in minutes!


Next, let’s talk about one of my favorite things that I love to have on hand when I entertain (and other times, too): flowers. The addition of flowers, in my opinion, makes a beautiful embellishment that shows you went to extra trouble to make your home look special. Plus you get to enjoy them afterwards or send them home with a friend!

Ashley arranging tulips with boxwood cuttings in a vase

This simple arrangement was used for a Southern ladies luncheon at my Mom’s house last spring. I needed something quick and easy so I picked up one bunch of boxwood and two bunches of tulips at Trader Joe’s and put together two arrangements for our table. The arrangements were simple and inexpensive and didn’t overpower our table.

Overhead view of dining room table setting

Another inexpensive way to add flowers to your decor is by splitting up a dozen roses into small containers to spread out across the table. In this case I purchased two dozen lovely pink roses from Costco and filled small glass containers with five roses each. That’s it—but look how pretty it made the table! Low arrangements like this are also good because they don’t block the others on the opposite side of the table.

Here’s another idea for a small arrangement that I used to set at each place setting for a Christmas dinner. I cut down one single rose and placed it in a champagne glass filled with water. These red roses were a week old from another arrangement so I cut them off at the stems and they floated perfectly and lasted another five days in the glasses!

Red roses floated in goblets next to fine china and embroidered napkin

Table Settings

Next up, is your table setting and china. I love pretty china and have collected it for thirty years. I found pieces at antique or thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets. My formal china is a collection of mis-matched plates and platters that I collected over the years. I use them when I want to get creative and give everyone a different plate that I think they will like. The plates in the setting below are some I’ve had for years and I love them for day or night, inside or outside. Paired with some pretty wine and water glasses and a linen napkin, they perfectly compliment each other.

Simple Meals

For your meal, you can make it look and taste amazing, even if it wasn’t a complicated menu. A simple prepared salad is the perfect starter paired with dinner or soup made in a crock pot. My crock pot is a go-to for my entertaining and it’s easy to plate food at the last minute. Using a crock pot keeps you out of the kitchen for hours on end preparing your meal. See these posts for Chicken Fricassee and Chicken Noodle Soup for simple recipes that are great for entertaining and preparing ahead.

Homemade chicken noodle soup served on a marble cart with wine and crusty french bread


Finally, dessert. For my Ladies Book Club dinner I was short on time so I purchased a prepared cheese cake (from Costco-my favorite) and added fresh strawberries! That’s it and it looked and tasted great!

A purchased New York Cheeesecake embellished with fresh sliced strawberries

All that really matters when you entertain is that you and your guests have a good time. Raise a glass and toast to an elegant but simple meal together!

Ladies’ hands toasting goblets over a shared dinner.

Be sure to check out my posts highlighted above for more fun stories and entertaining ideas.

Entertaining 101: Easy Tips & Tricks to Impress at Yarn Scissors Silk