We know the stress of inviting friends over and wanting everything to be just so. You want to wow your guests and have them leave thinking you’re the superhero host of the western world. And that’s all great, but it’s a ton of pressure. Bringing people into your home is such a personal thing.

We know it’s easier said than done, but try not to take it too seriously and just have fun with it. After all, they’re your good friends and want you to succeed, right?

Here are 5 stress-free entertaining tips to help you take the stress out of your party so you can enjoy your party guests!

5 stress-free entertaining tips

1. Take baby steps

If you’re new to entertaining, don’t jump in with your spouse’s 40th birthday party. Start small. Invite a few of your best friends over for say, a “Chinese Takeout Night” and serve take-out food instead of cooking a big meal.

Learn the ins and outs of entertaining without the stress of cooking. Then, once you are comfortable with the entertaining part, start to introduce one or two things you’ve prepared yourself. You don’t have to do it all.

Start small and work your way up.

2. Drum up a theme

If you don’t know where to start, give your evening a title, like “Monday Mexican Night,” or “Sunday Sundaes.” When you title a gathering, you instantly elevate it, and the get together takes on a personality of its own.

Say you decide to ask everyone to wear his/her favorite hat. The very idea makes people feel comfortable because they’re all on the same page.

When Cheryl helped her husband throw an over-the-hill, hiking-themed party for her 30th birthday, they asked everyone to wear hiking attire. They had a chili cook-off and a tent you had to climb in to get dessert. They ate off blue tin camping plates and drank out of canteens.

It was such fun and everyone had a great time. So if you are in search of how to bring everyone together, create a theme.

3. Break the rules

Who says you must serve wine from wine glasses? When it comes to gatherings, we’re always a little irreverent. If you’re supposed to do something, we make sure to do it differently.

A few years ago Cheryl’s husband had important clients coming over. She set a formal table because she was “supposed to,” but then she served kid food for dinner.

They had mini gourmet pizzas, mac and cheese in adorable little antique French pots, chicken finger skewers, and for dessert, hot fudge sundaes with maraschino cherries.

Everyone loved it and kept wondering what the next course would be.

4. Expect that something will go wrong—and be okay with it

When you host a party, the only thing you can count on is that something will inevitably go wrong. That’s just the way it is. But how you handle the situation will dictate how successful the evening is.

Whatever happens, just go with it. Because more often than not, the thing you thought was such a disaster could turn out to be the party’s defining moment (in a good way). A happy accident, if you will.

We try to not get hung up on roadblocks or analysis paralysis. Just shift—if it doesn’t work, do something else.

If something doesn’t go as planned, make light of it. It’s so much better to do that than to apologize for it.

5. Focus on your strengths

So much about being a happy host depends on trusting your instincts. Do what you enjoying doing and outsource the rest.

If you love to cook, but are terrified of baking, there are plenty of bakeries out there. Pick up a dessert on the way home from the market and then display or serve in on your own serving ware.

And when everyone tells you how delicious it is, never give away your secret. Just smile and say, “thank you!”

Cheryl Najafi | CEO & Creative Catalyst | Everyday Dishes & DIY “To me entertaining is like driving a bumper car–if I hit a bump in the road, I just change directions, but never stop moving forward.” – Cheryl