13 Entertaining Essentials for the Beginner Hostess

Building up a fully stocked arsenal of kitchen and entertaining pieces is a process for most of us. It’s easy to see a beautifully styled table or party and lust after fancy plates; patterned napkins; and colorful, rimmed glasses. But if you only entertain occasionally or are just starting to build up your collection, chances are, it’s more wise to stick to practical, universal staples. Whether you are putting together a wedding registry or are starting to acquire pieces on your own, I’ve assembled a list of entertaining essentials for the beginner hostess – but really, this is a great guide for anyone who hosts guests occasionally.

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BASIC ENTERTAINING ESSENTIALS

Truth be told, I actually worked backwards when I first started out- I found myself with multiple sets of a little bit of everything before I went backwards to start over with some of the basics. If you too have mixed sets, that is totally fine! Mix and match and call it “eclectic” as you work to build up your basics. This is your party and you can do what you want 😉

1. SET OF BASIC WHITE DISHES

Before you start springing for the fine china and different print salad plates, it’s a good idea to get a standard set of white dining and salad plates. They go with everything so even if/when you do start to expand your collections, you will always be able to come back to these. Now, I love using my standard white dinner plates and adding different salad plates every once in a while. As you are getting started, I would recommend at least eight and work toward twelve sets of each. You don’t need a different collection of plates; these can be the plates you use for dinner every night.

Meal ideas for a Galentine's Luncheon


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2. SET OF LINEN NAPKINS

Napkins are an inexpensive way to change up place settings if you entertain a good bit, but first, invest in a set of at least 12 nice quality napkins. I would recommend a neutral/taupe linen as your main set – they are more kind with discoloration and wash up well. Plus, just like those white plates, they will go with anything.

Paula Deen Modified crock pot mac and cheese- so easy and delicious!


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3. GLASSWARE

If you are limited on space or have no reason to have the endless collection of glasses for every. single. beverage. ever made, stemless glasses are the perfect, universal drinkware for water AND wine. If you have the space and $ beyond a collection of stemless, you can start with six standard white wine glasses and six standard red.


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*set of 12 for $20*


4. ONE VERSATILE VESSEL FOR A CENTERPIECE

You don’t have to have 87 vases to create pretty centerpieces. Actually, you don’t have to have a vase at all. Some of my favorite arrangements come from other vessels that serve double duty throughout my home. (You can catch my post on floral vessels HERE.) Think of a timeless, universal piece that can offer more than one use- one of my all time favorite centerpiece vessels is this soup tureen. I use it for serving and keep it on display when it’s not in use.

Blue, purple, and pink floral arrangement with strawberries on wooden paddle board


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5. ICE BUCKET

More than a beverage trough or champagne chiller, an ice bucket can offer so much more practicality than several standalone pieces. Yes, you can use it as an ice bucket, but you can also use it to chill beverages (or even as a centerpiece, as described above).

Outdoor Entertaining and Table Ideas with Cheese board appetizer centerpieces- black rattan bar cart outside


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Southern Garden Party Bridal Shower Ideas- mimosa bar champagne bucket

6. BOTTLE OPENER

You probably already have one but if not, get one asap. Between wine and beer, chances of not having to use one while guests are over are slim.

Cute Wine Openers and Cork Screws


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7. LIDDED JUG/CARAFE

Unlike pitchers, an inexpensive glass carafe is more than a one-trick pony. You can store beverages in the refrigerator for every-day use, but also bring them out for entertaining to fill water glasses, mix sangrias/punch, or use for wine.

Carafe on the porch with sangria


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8. SERVING PLATTER

From the Thanksgiving turkey, to burgers at a backyard barbeque, to mini sandwiches and vegetable trays, invest in a large platter. I promise you will use it often.

Southern Garden Party Bridal Shower Ideas- shrimp cocktail cups on platter


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9. FLATWARE

Set a goal of 10-12 place settings worth of the same, uniform flatware sets. I love my gold flatware but if you are only going to have one set, go for the silver to stand the test of time. Trendy is fun but while you are building up your staples, stick to the classics.

Christmas Place Setting Ideas for Dinner table


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10. CORNINGWARE FOOD STORAGE

Yes! That Corningware that you’ve seen for years is an entertaining staple for me. The white is so easy to match and mix with other whiteware, also. Use it for casseroles, dips, heck- you can even use the large round piece as a salad bowl.

Organizing Glass Baking Dishes - corningware and pyrex


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11. PRETTY KITCHEN TOWEL

Have at least one pretty kitchen towel that can function all over the place – from the kitchen to the dining room – it can even serve as a cover for your break basket.

2017 Fall Home Tour with Yellow and Orange Leaves- kitchen with artichokes


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12. A FEW MINI BOWLS

I have more mini bowls in my kitchen than any other single thing – something I learned from my mom. They also stay in use more than any other item in our kitchen. Start with at least one set for dips and condiments, but also for appetizer spreads and to sprinkle little pre-dinner bites throughout your home.

Place small bowls of nuts and appetizers around before a dinner party


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13. APPETIZER/CHEESE BOARD

Even if you aren’t big on cheese, one good appetizer board is all you need to serve up a buffet of snacks for your guests. You can bring it out from the most casual, to the most elaborate get-togethers and will use it for crowds, down to two people. (See my appetizer board meal ideas, perfect for two, HERE.)

Outdoor Entertaining and Table Ideas with Cheese board appetizer centerpieces- wooden board with lanterns


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I pull together a LOT of tables and entertaining ideas but if you look for it, you will see that I use a many of the same core pieces throughout each. Creating different flower arrangements and pulling some items throughout your home will help you change up your looks, even while you’re working with one set of supplies. Any other key staples for the entertainer? Let me know in the comment section below.

What you need to host a party or a dinner- perfect wedding registry ideas

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13 Comments

  1. 2.15.18

    Great post Kelley. I wish many moons ago when registering for wedding gifts I would have had this information 😉 I agree on all accounts. I need to pick up some of those carafes. And, I love the set of the stemless wine glasses. Great price. Over the years we have broken a few, and I’d love to have a matching set. I do love a marble board for entertaining. It does a great job of keeping cheeses cold.

  2. 2.15.18
    Joni King said:

    Lots of great ideas! This is one of my most favorites posts! Thanks Kelley Nan – hugs!

  3. 2.15.18
    Gretchen Thomas said:

    I love this! The 13 tips are so on point. It only takes a little bit to make the effort to be such a thoughtful hostess. You have mastered that, my dear!

  4. 2.15.18
    Anne said:

    White basics to start is such a great idea. Those beautiful floral china dishes I picked when I got married…are so not “in” anymore. I don’t think any of my kids will even want them! About 15 years ago I bought a set of white dishes and they have become our go to for every occasion! Love them!

  5. 2.16.18
    Nia said:

    Great post!!! I have everything, but carafes and linen napkins! I was fortunate that l snagged the vast majority when I got married, and been adding on since. Happy entertaining!!!

  6. 2.16.18
    Cecilia said:

    Kelley, I hope every young person just starting a home will read this and pin it! Such great advise and white dishes can be bought anywhere depending on how much a person wants to spend. I love the elephant bottle opener and the little wooden serving pieces ( I have seen them in previous posts and hoped you would use them again). However, I am not able to open the link for rstyleme 🙁
    One thing I can’t entertain without is a pedestal cake stand and tiered stands. Pieces with different height add interest to a table so everything is not just flat. Thanks for your tips!

  7. 2.16.18
    Joanne Sowa said:

    I loved this article! It makes me want to entertain more. I have the same sets of pans and containers in your corningware storage photo! And I have white dishes, too, mixed with blue and white toile! And a floral arrangement in a soup tureen! Great minds think alike! Unfortunately my pans are not as organized as yours…I better work on that! Thanks for a great article!

  8. 2.16.18

    Wonderful information! I agree with it all. Those of us who have had a kitchen for many years take these essentials for granted, so this is perfect for someone just starting their entertaining collections. Your photos are lovely as well.

  9. 2.18.18
    Cheryl Hand said:

    LOVE LOVE this post!! Thanks for posting Kelly Nan. While I have a lot of the things you mentioned, I look forward to collecting those items I don’t have. ?

  10. 2.18.18
    Maureen said:

    Great post. Wonderful list for those just starting out or replenishing!

  11. 2.25.18
    beth said:

    Great post! Sent it to my daughter so she can start her own collection.
    Anyone want to buy a vase or two???

    • 2.28.18

      Beth, that is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing! xoxo

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