This week, I’ve finally started making time to sit down for 30 minutes or so every day to read Kinfolk, a magazine guide for small gatherings that my sister-in-law Cathy gifted me this year at Thanksmas. It’s a beautiful publication, with a similar quality in paper and content to Darling. It’s the kind of magazine that sort of just takes you away to another place while you’re reading it.
With all of this reading about get-togethers and relationships and community I’ve been doing, it isn’t surprising that Brian and I hosted our first dinner party this weekend—exactly 6 days after moving into our house. It’s nuts, really. I didn’t imagine having people over until New Year’s Eve, when our dear friends Patrick and Jenn are flying out from Texas to stay for a week. The timing surprised me, but the event was in no way rushed.
Thanks to my mom’s visit, our home was pretty put together by the time she left. While she was here, we managed to find the most perfect dining table and, of course, the most perfect dining chairs to go with it. We decorated the guest room so that the only “junk” areas at the moment are the office and the downstairs closet. She even so kindly cleaned the entire house—that’s love right there!
So, despite my plans to not host anyone until the new year, we somehow ended up inviting friends over on Saturday. It was a casual thing—a last-minute invite kind of gathering. I texted Rachel and Karen (Karen and Greg would be out of town, but Rachel and Steve could possibly make it), Brian invited his friend Corey (who could come, but would be there late), and also a few of his co-workers (who thought they could come but ended up not being able to make it). By Saturday afternoon, I knew to expect three: Rachel, Steve and Corey—which was perfect because our new table only seats six!
The preparations were simple, but intentional. We lit candles around the house scented like pine and cinnamon, and turned on the beautiful Christmas-tree-scented plug-in my other sister-in-law, Kristin, gave us as a housewarming gift this week. We tidied up the common spaces and tossed everything without a proper place into the oh-so-messy office (and closed the door, of course). We turned the lights on the Christmas tree, lit only the best lights in the house and put some music on in the background. We set a Christmas arrangement on the table, along with six new red placemats, silver chargers, and our nice white plates. The space was cozy, warm, and clean without being stuffy or over-the-top. It was just our style—just the way we wanted to invite our first guests into our home.
By 5:30 I started making the pumpkin bread—our dessert—which I knew would take at least an hour, if not more. By 6pm, I was prepping the garlic bread, only to notice that I didn’t have enough foil to cover it in the oven. “Oh well,” I thought, “it happens!” Rachel and Steve arrived by 6:30 or so, and we welcomed them with some beverages and a little tour of our home. Brian and Steve chatted on the couch about travel and Steve’s upcoming deployment to the South Pacific. Rachel and I stood in the kitchen with our white wine, discussing the new furniture pieces I’d found and how we absolutely needed to go to that one consignment shop in Encinitas together sometime.
As soon as we knew that Corey was on his way, I put the garlic bread in the oven and the pasta in the large boiling pot of water on the stove. I prepped the salad, drained the pasta, mixed in the pesto and—voilà—dinner was served! We ate and chatted and drank and ate some more, until it was nearly midnight and our eyes were getting sleepy. We said our goodbyes and called it a night, Brian and I feeling great about how the gathering went.
It was casual and simple—not fussy at all. It was a quiet night in with friends around the big dining table that will continue to gather memories of meals shared. It was an opportunity for Brian and I to be invitational with the gift we’ve been given—this new home to not only live in, but also to share with friends old and new.
Being invitational is something many of us dream about, but not often execute on. I, myself, made many excuses when we lived in an apartment about the reasons why we couldn’t have people over—it’s too small in here, we don’t have enough seating, it’s messy, etc. And while I now have successfully hosted an actual gathering in an actual house, I can’t help but wish I’d done it more when we were renting.
At the end of the day, it’s not about having people over to see your new house, or showing off a big, well-decorated space, or impressing people with gourmet cooking skills—gatherings with friends are about connecting, human to human. They’re about silly stories and serious ones, work drama and decorating advice, sharing a meal together and toasting to life’s small joys.
If this gathering taught me anything, it’s that we always have the opportunity to be invitational. Whether we live in a house, condo or apartment; whether everything is decorated nicely or not; whether we can cook or would rather order Chinese takeout; being invitational is about the relationships built, and that is what life is really about.
Would you consider yourself invitational? What tends to hold you back from having gatherings with friends?