7 ways to practice imperfect hospitality

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by Sandy Coughlin
The Reluctant Entertainer

“Do what you’re good at and everything else will fall into place.” -Willnett Crockett

You don’t have to do something perfectly just because someone you know does it perfectly.

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My friend, Krissy, is an amazing designer. Everything she touches with design turns to gold. My other friend, Michelle, knows how to throw a party. She adds the little touches, plans the menu effortlessly, and makes sure everyone has a good time. Another person in my life, Barb, was an incredible mom and homemaker who gardened, canned, cooked, farmed, and raised four kids who are now all fabulous adults. Jeannie, a diligent gardener; Annie, a talented artist. The list goes on and on with friends who inspire me.

I, on the other hand, many times feel like “a jack of all trades but a master of none.” Do you ever feel that way? When it comes to hospitality, however, I know where my heart is, what are my strengths and weaknesses, and I try to focus on what I’m good at: hosting dinner parties.

I finally learned not to compare myself with others because it became a robber of my energy and efforts. Keeping a simple frame of mind and not over-doing have kept me sane.

I’ve learned to cook up some really quick meals. I used to spend hours in the kitchen, trying new recipes and making really complicated dishes. I just can’t afford to spend my time this way anymore, so I’ve simplified. Who cares about “elaborate?”

Over at my blog, I really try to share ways to take the “elaborate” out of hospitality, and in turn, learn to practice imperfect hospitality.

Hospitality is an important piece of life that we should all savor, an art we should teach our kids.

A month ago, I hosted a small dinner party with seven adults when, just when I thought things were going “perfectly,” the fire alarm went off. You should have seen my husband and me rushing around, fanning the smoke detector, opening every window and door, yelling at the dog …yes! I let something burn in the oven. I looked up and saw my guests’ faces staring at me; it was rather humorous! We went on to enjoy an incredible evening, but I will admit, it did take me out of my “entertaining mode,” for a short amount of time.

7 Ways to Practice Imperfect Hospitality

1. Find a style that works for you.

Stick with it and know that it’s okay to use the same dishes every time you have guests into your home, or the same tablecloth, and that potluck is really easy. Learn not to compare yourself with others.

2. Don’t invite more people…

…than you are comfortable seating around your table. Don’t over-commit.

3. Cook and serve the same three recipes over and over.

Practice makes perfect!. You’ll eventually master and memorize the recipe.

4. Remember that when you invite people to your home, they are coming to see you.

Your guests want to meet your family and learn more about your traditions in your home and around your table. They don’t want to be impressed.

5. Don’t try to do it all.

Include the family in doing chores, setting the table, and setting a standard that is “good enough,” not necessarily perfect.

6. Be intentional.

Consider inviting people you want to introduce to one another, or who you want to get to know more yourself.

7. Lean into your fears.

Practice hospitality with courage.

Why do I call it imperfect hospitality? Because not every element of entertaining will ever be perfect.

Maybe your dishes won’t match perfectly, maybe a dish will end up under- or over-cooked, or maybe your smoke alarm will go off! Figure out what works for you personally when it comes to entertaining. I believe it has a lot to do with our personalities and what we can handle, so learn to stop doing the things that make you feel like a failure, and do the things that are simple and easy.

And if unexpected things happen, laugh—and your company will laugh along with you.

When it comes to hospitality, what are your strengths? Your weaknesses?