One thing I’ve learned about entertaining is to never expect two dinner parties to be alike. You have different personalities, family, friends, people on the run, people who like to mingle – you name it.

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Learning how to “go with the flow” has really lightened my expectations as a hostess. In other words, I just want to relax, enjoy my guests, and not really worry about details like clean up!

But, that said, we do still have to clean up and someone has to do the dishes!

Small party
Often during a small party I’ll put the dinner plates in the sink and get right back to the conversation. A little bit of dishes is not stressful, right? And the last thing I want to do is to be doing dishes and leaving my guests.

Large party
I feel a bit different about a large dinner party, like the one I had the other night with 18 guests. I’ve found with large dinner parties, if you don’t stay on top of the dishes – you are sunk! And I don’t ever hire help (although my kids have helped out), so I have to be organized. Quickly after we served the soup the other night, I loaded all of the dishes and other miscellaneous stuff into the dishwasher and got it started. I washed up the appetizer plates and set them aside so they’d be clean for the dessert. I needed to feel that I had SOME control over the kitchen, because next would be the dirty salad plates that I needed to use for dessert plates. I had to be organized.

Now what about the guests who jump up and want to help with the dishes? Each hostess is different, so this is just my opinion. I really don’t want my guests jumping up to do the dishes. I want them to stay at the table the entire meal, until dessert is over. Only then will I consider help, but only if they offer. I am fine doing the dishes.

I have invited guests over to enjoy a meal in my home, not to do the dishes. I know some families where the wife will cook and the husband will do all of the after-dinner dishes. Everyone seems to have their own method that works for their family.

When it’s time for our guests to leave, my husband has a standing statement that he never forgets to say, and it’s said in a joking manner: Come back when you can’t stay as long!

What are your thoughts about dish-duty during or after a dinner party?

My blogging friends are sharing their passions in this 31-Day series:
31 Days to a Less Messy Nest – Nester, Nesting Place
31 Days to Grace – Emily, Chatting at the Sky
31 Days to More with Less – Jen, Balancing Bedlam and Beauty
31 Days to a Better Photo – Darcy, My 3 Boybarians
31 Days of Autumn Bliss – Melissa, The Inspired Room
31 Days of Living Simply – Emily, Remodeling this Life
31 Days to an Inspired Table – Kendra, My First Kitchen