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Friday, 5,40 pm: a notification on Facebook informs you there’s a private event going on this very evening. Carlo’s organising a get-together for drinks and he’s inviting a few friends, it sounds like a nice idea and the venue sounds familiar. The address is yours.
Your house is the ideal place for a big party or even just a dinner - and your friends know this very well. Your outdoor space is famously the best-kept among your peers: you’ve poured huge care and attention into it and it would be a shame not to use it, wouldn’t it?
There are at least three ways of keeping things under control - apart from the unexpected arrival of other friends, relations and neighbours, obviously.
Let’s be honest: there’s no time for decorations. Garlands and swags look great, but they don’t last more than a few hours and there’s nothing worse than seeing them dangling sadly halfway through the evening.
Combine business with pleasure: remember that time you bought three different types of fairy lights? At last the time has come to use them. All together.
Now the sun’s setting later in the evening, there’s no need for bright, focused lights: go for atmosphere, playing with lanterns and fairy lights. If yours are coloured, that’s great. If they’re all white, even better. Add a vibrant touch with cushions and throws, which will turn into comfortable seats as soon as the small talk is over.
Another thing you can neglect? The food. Yes, you got it: the food. Delegate the tasks among your (self-invited) guests: each of them could take care of one course - don’t even think about it: you’re busy with lights and cushions, remember?
What you can do is think about a few cocktails made from simple ingredients you can pick up on the way home. Alcoholic or not, drinks can be made at the last minute: this way you can take the pressure off, and you can always use the excuse of giving your guests some creativity space.
Don't worry if your table’s not big enough: it’s unlikely that all your guests will be sitting down at the same time. Family members who haven't seen each other for a while and friends who want to catch up will prefer to sit to one side.
Instead, use the table as a place to put food and drinks, as a focal point but without making your guests feel obliged to stay seated.
Forget about plastic plates and cutlery: you’re all big enough to keep your forks for the whole meal. By doing so you’ll not only reduce waste and the amount of rubbish - someone has to take it out in the morning, don’t they? - but you’ll also give your gathering an intimate, homely feeling. Your home.