Seasonal entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful. With a little prep work and staging, you can enjoy the party as much as your guests.

By Real Simple
Updated October 20, 2017

I post a lot about entertaining on my blog. And, no-brainer, I’m so excited to be sharing my ideas here with Folgers® as part of our collaboration, Feels Like Home. For me, hosting is all about creating space for memorable moments to happen. More than the food, more than the décor, it’s the traditions that my family will remember. But our most unforgettable gatherings were no accident. They happened naturally because the space was curated to let the memories unfold.

To help set the scene before every gathering at my home, I always take a moment for a little planning session over a cup of French press (the amazing team for Feels Like Home introduced me to Folgers® Coffeehouse Blend on the video shoot for the series, by the way, and I’m loving it). My first strategy: envisioning how I want the space to look and feel when my guests arrive. Getting things ready ahead of time has its obvious perks, but most of all, it makes it easier for me to enjoy and share in the festivities, too! If friends and family are coming, these are some of the simple ways I curate spaces to inspire memories.

1. Make Eating Easy
There’s a reason the party always ends up in the kitchen. Food stations are the perfect way to create a comfortable atmosphere and bring people together. On the counter, I set up a beverage bar with water, juice, sodas, and freshly brewed coffee. On the island, I set out appetizers or finger foods (guests love nibbly food because it gives them something to do with their hands and makes them feel more comfortable). I love to see everyone chatting while they prepare their drink or plate of hors d’oeuvres. If I’m serving a meal, I set food out on the table family-style, to encourage guests to continue mingling.

2. Gather ’Round
In the living room and sitting areas, I make sure to bring in extra chairs and arrange the couches so that guests face one another, and the conversation can flow.

3. Set the Mood
Ambience is essential to any party—and it’s not hard to do. To create an intimate space, I dim the lights, play soft music, light candles, and make sure to place snacks in different areas throughout the room.

4. Prompt the Conversation
Story time isn’t just for kids. Designate a space and time to sit down and reminisce over everyone’s old family stories and holiday traditions. Take advantage of the room you set up with extra chairs, or leave pillows and blankets for guests who might want to cozy up on the floor. Have a fireplace? A fireside sitting area is the perfect spot for storytelling. Sharing stories and memories usually happens naturally at gatherings, but to help get the ball rolling I try to share a story of my own, or I’ll ask guests to tell the first one.

5. Sneak in a Sweet Surprise
I always make sure to save time at the end of the evening for dessert and coffee, so after story time, invite guests to mingle over a pre-prepared sweets station, whether it’s in your sitting area or back in the kitchen. Guests look forward to something sweet, and sharing something homemade is a great way to warm hearts. Clever tip: When you set the table, place a little note under each mug that says “share your favorite holiday dish, memory, or tradition.” It’s a fun surprise that will inspire everyone to open up even more.

6. Give a Parting Gift
No matter the occasion, everyone likes a gift! I let my guests know how special they are to me with a simple, yet thoughtful, take-home present with sentiment they’ll remember. Some of my favorite go-tos: Wrap baked goods from your family’s recipe book with wax paper and twine; package coffee grounds in a customized mug; or set up an area for guests to customize their own gifts. Whatever it is that you choose, your guests won’t soon forget your generosity.

Brew in bold new territory with Folgers® Coffeehouse Blend, distinctly delicious no matter the brewing method.

This is a paid post written by Tabitha Blue of Fresh Mommy for The Foundry on behalf of The Folger Coffee Company. Tabitha received free product samples of Folgers® Coffeehouse Blend and blogged about it to create this content.