Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

dinner celebration

Getting together with friends and family should be awesome, not stressful.

I’m definitely the planner in my social circle. When there’s something to celebrate (birthdays, holidays, important life events, etc.) or when people just want to get together, nine times out of ten I’m coordinating, and often hosting. Gatherings with friends and family create some of my very best memories.

However, a few years ago, while I was organizing holiday events, I came to a disturbing realization: It wasn’t fun anymore. Somewhere along the line, I had reached the point where I felt like the pressure was outweighing the positive. So I decided I needed to figure out how to put the fun back into the functions.

As the holiday season is gaining momentum, this feels like the perfect time to share what’s worked for me, both general advice and specific suggestions.

1. Don’t put pressure on yourself

dinner table

Don’t get hung up on perfection.

Repeat after me, “My friends and family love me even when I’m not perfect. We all value the time we spend together way more than a brilliantly executed party.”

For a long time, I was all about hosting the perfect events, from the menu to the decorations to the music. I spent hours planning, shopping, cooking, creating custom playlists, and so on. The result? Hours or days of caffeine-fueled mania culminating in parties where I found it almost impossible to relax and have fun.

The first time I scaled it back, I was nervous that my guests would be disappointed, but I should have had more faith in them, because we all had a great time, and no one seemed to care that I had bought a cake at the bakery and only had one appetizer. On a few occasions, I’ve bought everything I needed premade from the grocery store, and my guests have enjoyed it just as much.

If going all out is something you enjoy, then go for it. However, if it’s stressing you out, dial it back. It’s about the experience, not the expectations.

2. Don’t be afraid to accept help

team heart

Working together is an expression of love.

When I show up for someone else’s party, the first words out of my mouth are “What can I do?” It took way too long to realize that I’m not the only person in the world who likes to help others. I’d had this idea that guests should never do anything, and that was just silly. Nobody leaves my house and says, “That was a great party until Amanda let me load the dishwasher. The nerve!”

Once I started accepting help, people started offering even more. It makes things so much easier when I can ask someone to stop at the store on the way over, or give me a hand with some last minute preparations. Now, I always have one or two people who come over early to help set up, and one or two who stay after to help clean up. Not only does it lower my workload, but it allows for some personal time with these special people to bookend the larger event.

You can take this a step further and…

3. Make it a team effort

My mother is a world champion entertainer, and her dinners, parties, showers, etc. are always amazing. When I thought about how Mom gets things done, I remembered that she’s constantly asking, “Can you bring XYZ?” or “Is there something you’d like to bring?” At our Thanksgiving dinner this week, Mom only made three of the dishes. The rest of us had happily provided the rest, and together we had assembled everything we needed to end the day in a food coma.

So I’ve fallen in love with the potluck. It saves me tons of time and money, and my friends actually get excited about contributing their favorite dishes. My absolute favorite method is:

The Crock Pot Potluck

IMG_1983

Sometimes, my slow cooker is my best friend.

One of my co-workers organized what she called a “Crockluck” four or five years ago, and it was the best! A dozen of us brought in our slow cookers, filled with a variety of our favorite recipes, and plugged them in first thing in the morning. By lunchtime, we had an awesome selection of soup, chili, meat, vegetables, and even dessert.

The idea was too good not to steal. At work we used the cooking time for, well, work, but outside of work we use it for social time or activities. At my most recent Crockluck, we gathered at my house, plugged everything in, caught up on each other’s lives, and then piled into a couple of cars and went to the movies. When we got back, dinner was ready and we were all in a great mood. A few guests who weren’t able to make a day of it cooked their contributions at home and brought them in time to enjoy the evening with the rest of us.

One of the coolest things about Crock Pots is that you can use them to make anything from appetizers to desserts. Here are a few great recipes and resources:

I’ve discovered crock pot recipes for everything from coffee cake to vegetarian lasagna, and chances are that your friends and family already have some favorites of their own.

4. Go out!

painting pottery

Pottery painting is just one example of awesome group activities.

Not every gathering has to be at someone’s home. Activities can be a great way to spend time with important people without having any pressure to cook, clean, and entertain. In the future, I’ll be posting about some of my favorites, but for now, here’s a quick list of things to consider:

  • Plays
  • Cooking classes
  • Craft classes
  • Holiday light tours
  • Escape rooms

Most importantly, HAVE FUN, and focus on creating memories!

relax

What’s your favorite way to plan or host a gathering? How do you keep the fun in your functions? Share your ideas in the comments!

23 thoughts on “Worth Trying: Tips for Low-Stress Gatherings and Celebrations

  1. Those are all wonderful ideas! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Thanks, Robin! I’m definitely enjoying get-togethers more these days. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amanda this post was so fitting! Last night my friends and I had our first Friendsgiving. We had high hopes and planned it out to be perfect and this stellar picture where somehow we appeared to not look like we spent the whole day stressing out and cooking. Turns out, nothing went as planned and our pictures were not perfect, our food was not “pretty” and the wine ran out fast. But this post helped me realize that although our Friendsgiving wasn’t a magazine cover, the food was amazing and the company was even better. Good luck with all your holiday gatherings! Fantastic post!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Megan, I’m so glad you’re focusing on the successes of your Friendsgiving. I think sometimes we don’t realize that it’s ok for things to go wrong until they actually do, and then we see that everything’s still ok. I once had a complete and utter disaster when I decided to try a complicated new recipe for a dinner party. When it proved to be inedible, we ordered pizza and still had a great night.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Having kids around always keeps our get togethers fun!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Definitely! And they sure help me deal with my perfectionist tendencies. It’s hard to fuss about perfect presentation when a little one keeps calling, “Aunt Amanda, when do we eat?” 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

    Amongst those who call themselves my friends, I am always 100% of the time the initiator, the planner, the executer of our outings…. I got tired of it. So, I enjoy being able to go out and do something on my own. I can get myself up on time, head out and not have to worry about other’s nonsense. Go me! Lol!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Sometimes you have to decide whether the effort you’re putting in is worth it. The important thing is that you’re having fun. 👍

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

        Well, I don’t know what it is about people who befriend me lol!! But, I just got tired and stopped initiating anything. If they want to come they’ll make an effort. If not, I can certainly enjoy myself lol! I think John’s pretty fun to be around lol!!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Accepting help is the hardest one for me! I will try all these!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      It was hard for me at first, too, but I’m so glad I did. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

    I tagged you for the 3.2.1 Quote Me Challenge!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Thanks! I’m on it!

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Fantastic ideas! I tend to hold onto control and take care of any guests but do end of worn out. I love the crockluck and will have to give it a go next winter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I’m always up for a crockluck, because they’re so easy to host.

      Like

  8. somedayillbeontime478 says:

    I love gatherings. These are all great ideas. I always love planning everything in paper. I print out some planning sheets from Pinterest and make my own planner for any event.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I’m often an on paper planner, too. I’ll have to check out the organizers on Pinterest…I hadn’t thought of that as a planning resource. Thanks for the tip!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Really liked this
    Especially
    …..its about the experience not about the expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Thanks! I definitely believe that when fun things stop being fun, it’s time to re-evaluate.

      Like

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