There’s nothing quite like getting the whole family together. Children laughing, tales from years-gone-by retold over decadent feasts and wine aplenty; long lost cousins brought back into the fold, and the chance to get some quality time in with the nieces and nephews. Idyllic really, when you think about it. That is of course until the first tantrum is thrown (one can only hope by one of the children), the first expensive vase is dropped, or the burnt Beef Wellington rears its blackened head and the whole thing is just ruined.
Hosting can be a pleasure, but it can also be one of life’s biggest sources of stress should things go wrong. That’s why we’re here with the ultimate family gathering survival guide, with tips on everything from easy meals for the masses and entertainment for the kids, to sofa beds and tricks to stay sane.
Silent nights: get savvy with sleeping space
If you’re short on spare bedrooms, look at turning one of your downstairs rooms into an extra sleeping spot with a stylish futon sofa bed. There are some really modern and eye-catching designs on the market that will not only give you extra space for guests, but revitalise a room in need of a change too. We love these sofa beds with storage, which will come in handy when it comes to clearing clutter in advance of your guests’ arrival.
When it comes to who sleeps where, try to accommodate the kids away from your main entertainment space so you don’t need to worry about the midnight revelry waking them up when they go to bed ahead of the rest of you. That way you know they’ll be fast asleep when your second-removed aunt reveals she’s brought her karaoke set, or when your twenty-something nephew whips out his guitar.
Don’t forget the kids: stock up on entertainment
Speaking of the kids, having some fail-safe forms of entertainment on standby can be a lifesaver when it comes to keeping everyone happy (and tantrum-free). Dig out any old board games you can find, or pop to a toy shop to stock up on garishly coloured water guns and other easy-pleasers.
You could even go as far as devising a treasure hunt or some child-friendly recipes to put yourself in ‘best relative’ territory with the family youngsters. As long as you’ve got plenty of time to prepare in advance, there’s no reason you can’t make the weekend as special for the little ones as it is for the grownups.
Don’t forget the adults: stock up on tipples
It’s remarkable how much food and drink a family can get through in the space of a weekend. Buy beer by the crate, wine by the magnum and tequila in good measure for those hazy summer evenings where nothing but a cold margarita will do. For the non-drinking drinkers, why not stock up on pomegranates and fresh lemons to make your own fizzing jugs of effervescent goodness? There’s nothing nicer than a glass of homemade lemonade or sparkling pomegranate water to top off a sunny afternoon in the garden.
The same goes for food. You may have stocked up on crisps, biscuits and fruit packs for the kids, but be sure to fill the fridge with plenty of grown-up snacks too. You’ll want to supply hummus by the bucket load, accompanied by a range of bread sticks, cheese twists, cucumber and anything else that’s good for dipping. Another fridge staple should be salamis and cheeses for emergency sandwich or antipasto making, as well as a few punnets of olives for the kinds of evenings that cry out for an aperitif.
Stay sane: organise some outings
Whether it’s an argument over how to put the chair bed back or another argument about the argument you had last Christmas, staying cooped up in the house could end in disaster. If you’ve got the whole family coming over for a full weekend (or even longer) and want your nearest to stay your dearest, be sure to plan a couple of trips out – whether that’s a day of sightseeing or a Saturday night meal.
Firstly, it’ll alleviate some of the pressure of playing host, with at least one less meal to prep and a well-deserved break from offering top-ups. Secondly, it’ll give everyone a timeout from feeling on top of one another in the house, relieve any building tensions and refresh everyone for the remainder of the weekend.
Keep it simple: your Michelin star can wait
Finally, when it comes to meal preparation, keep things simple and save your grandest gastronomic ideas for another time. Go for crowd pleasers like hot, bubbling lasagnes or succulent steaks and chips to save yourself from last-minute mishaps in the kitchen.
While it’s nice to make the effort, and you still can – think scrummy extras like peppercorn sauce and oven-warmed focaccia – save the truly experimental dishes for quieter times when you can master them in peace. For now, you just want to make sure you can feed the hungry hordes and make a good job of the classics.
Things like grilled lamb chops with lashings of tzatziki and Greek salad work well for big crowds, and are easy to prepare in bulk. Likewise, stick a couple of big chickens in the oven with wedges of lemon and sprigs of rosemary to please the whole family – delicious served with buttery jacket potatoes and decadent dollops of coleslaw.
Whatever your reason for gathering together, with these simple tips and tricks you’ll be well prepared to host the whole family, and have a great time too. Let the frivolities commence!