With our wedding just days away, a hurricane was headed straight for us. It was due to arrive on Thursday, just in time to wreak havoc on our Saturday wedding. I stared at the TV, willing the storm to move East or West, just not here. Surely it will wobble this way or that.
My praying mom prayed and prayed and prayed. I had seen mountains move before, I wondered if we would get a miracle.
My dad, always the voice of reason, was out of town until Thursday, so he wasn’t there to calm me down. This was happening.
Hurricane Alicia hit Houston as expected on Aug. 18, 1983. The winds blew in, the rain hit the house sideways, and the power went off as expected. Then there was an eerie calm. Since my parents lived north of town, the effects of the hurricane there were minimal. There were a few tree limbs on in the yard, much less than I expected. I wondered if perhaps the storm wasn’t as bad as we had feared. My dad made it home safely and then we started making calls. The church where we were to get married had no power. This was not a good sign. My mother-in-law also had no power. That was really bad news, since she planned to host the rehearsal dinner at her home Friday night. I read the next day about a couple who had to cancel their wedding because of the hurricane.
My memory about the exact timing of events is a little foggy, but I must have gone to town later on Thursday. I drove over to check on the house that Kevin and I had just bought, and planned to live in after we came back from the honeymoon. Here, the damage was quite different. The fence was down, and it seemed like there were more tree limbs in our yard than still attached to the trees. The good news is that our house had power. My guess was that our house was on the same grid as the nearby hospital and therefore it was one of the first restored. At least I could sleep with air conditioning. Kevin and I and the best man began the cleanup. It was exhausting. We set to work cleaning up the debris, which took part of Thursday and all day on Friday. I knew we wouldn’t be able to face the clean up when we returned from our honeymoon, that is, if there was a honeymoon. We busied ourselves with the yard clean up, and I tried not to think about my wedding.
My mother-in-law on Friday morning realized that the rehearsal dinner was not going to happen at her house that night. She asked if we could have the dinner party at our new house. The house had very little furniture, was not the best venue for a party, but she said she would bring everything we needed. So that was that. Finally we got word later that the church had power. We would be able to have our wedding in the church! As I exhaled, I realized I hadn’t fully done so for days. The rehearsal dinner was moved to our new house.
At the rehearsal dinner, word got out that we spent the day doing hard labor instead of enjoying a spa treatment. People started asking to see my hands. I thought they wanted to see my engagement ring. No, they wanted to see the blisters on my hands from raking up all of the leaves. The rehearsal dinner went on without a hitch, if you don’t count the fact that it was at a different house, the A/C wasn’t working properly, and someone spilled an entire jar of juice in my brand new refrigerator.
And that is the story of the first time we hosted a party in our home. So if you’re stressed about entertaining, don’t be. Remember, it could be worse.
To ensure your party goes on without a hitch, here are a few of my tips.
- Put a plan together for the party. I like to make a list of what needs to be done far in advance of the party. Then I can space out the tasks so that they don’t all have to be done the day before the event. Try to do as much as possible before the week of the event. If you need to do some cleaning or repair work, or you’re waiting for a new sofa, you’ll want to get those things handled long before the doorbell rings.
- Do food prep ahead of time. I love to plan ahead and make some dishes that can be prepared the day before. If you decide to have some or all of the meal catered, that works too! Entertaining is all about enjoying a great time with your guests, so anything that makes that happen is fabulous in my book.
- Set up for your party the night before. I love to set out all of the dishes that will be used the day before the event. I select the dishes, glasses, tablecloths, flatware, napkins and serving dishes for the event. I like to know where everything is going to go. If you think you might need to purchase supplies for your soiree, then I recommend sorting through these details a few weeks before the event.
- Use the good stuff. I love using my favorite dishes, linen napkins and silverware. I don’t mind a little extra work at the end of the evening, hand washing those things. Honestly, what’s the point of having nice things if you aren’t going to use them? I say use them, unless the thought of doing those dishes makes you want to scream. In that case, go for the disposablel stuff. A lot of people just don’t want to deal with washing things after the party. If that’s you, then it’s just not worth it. Entertaining should be fun. When it the thought of prepping for a party goes from excitement to dread, it’s time to change things up.
- Don’t experiment on guests. This is not the time to try a new recipe unless you are a seasoned cook. If you are unsure about how the dish will turn out, then either test it before the party, or skip it. ‘I wonder how this will taste’ is not something that should be said the day of your party.
- Set up a playlist. Think about the mood you want to create, then prepare a music playlist to be used for the party. After the party, you can share the playlists with guests who enjoyed the music.
Have fun and don’t worry if something goes wrong. Trust it, it will. So when something goes awry, try to roll with the punches. You’ll have more fun, and your guests will too.
By Anita Joyce
Photos: Courtesy Anita Joyce, Cedarhill Farmhouse