Spring is here.
It’s time for daffodils to pop, lilac bushes to bloom, little girls to put on their finest dresses and a bunny bearing eggs to visit.
It is also a time to gather with family and friends to celebrate Easter more formally with a sit-down dinner. A formal dinner can be a little daunting if you’re the one responsible for pulling it off.
There are a lot of moving parts to organize, from the menu to the table settings.
That’s why you need a plan.
Without one, you’re likely to be a stressed-out mess, running around like a chicken without a head the night (or even the morning) before. People want to see and spend time with the host, and you want to be able to relax and enjoy the gathering.
To help you stay sane, we’ve broken the big event down into a series of smaller tasks that you can do in increments of time between now and the big day. Yes, you can put on a lovely dinner — and enjoy it, too.
1. Start with a menu. Map out what you will be serving before you do anything else. If you’re hosting Easter dinner for the first time and are unsure of what to cook, ask a relative with some experience in that department or go online.
There are so many great menus already mapped out for you on sites like Marthastewart.com and AllRecipes.com.
We went in search of menus that were both simple to prepare (think roast) and delicious, and feel compelled to direct you to this site as well: http://www.thedinnerpartyplanningsite.com/EasterDinner.htmlChoose.
They also break down what you should do on Friday and Saturday, and on the big day so that everything gets to the table without a hitch.
2. Take a tableware inventory. This is one of those occasions where you do want to pull out your finest linens and tableware.
At least one week before your dinner, go through and make a list of the items that you will need. Start with linens.
Do they need to be laundered and pressed? (If you don’t have the time, drop them off at the dry cleaner early in the week.)
Do you have enough matching settings? If you’re coming up short, don’t fret. The eclectic look works as long as it looks like you planned to be eclectic! The secret to combining different pieces is to keep one color and one type of dinnerware (such as fine china, ironstone, stoneware or earthenware) predominant. Let the odd pieces shine as accents.
3. Make a Delegation Plan. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. In fact, most of your guests would love to be able to lend a hand. Think through what you’d like to delegate. If you’re not sure, these things are easy to delegate as most people are happy to do them: bring wine; make a side dish like a salad; bring an hors d’oeuvre such as cheese and crackers; or bring a dessert. If you tend to be a control freak, consider that by enlisting the help of others actually gives them the opportunity to participate more fully and give back to you. If you still think you’ll have trouble proactively asking for help, consider having a list handy so that when somebody asks, “What can I do?,” you will have an option or two for them to choose from.
4. Plan Activities and Meal Times for Kids. If you will be hosting children, assign one person in your home to pull out age-appropriate games and toys for them to play with.
If you are single, ask a guest with small children for some suggestions. If you are going to eat at an odd time, you may want to consider feeding smaller children separately, and with a more basic selection of foods.
There’s nothing quite like young kids with low blood sugar. Trust us, you want to avoid that at all costs.
5. Let Others Help You Clean Up. Enlist the help of your family for cleanup after the dinner.
Assign tasks such as clearing the table, starting the coffee, setting up for dessert, clearing dessert, putting the food away, loading the dishwasher, washing the pans, taking out the trash, etc.
Delegate before the dinner so everyone is clear on his or her role and timing. That way, you’re not up until the wee hours cleaning it all up by yourself.
The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to email@example.com