Top Tips for Holiday Entertaining Abroad
Holiday season is officially upon us, and one of the major demands of living life in a really cool place is the amount of visitors one receives throughout December for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It can be tough to avoid burnout as you host back to back friends and family, but this open door policy will truly enhance your experience abroad!
Our friends and family are our life. So, there’s always room at our house for guests and space for one more at the table. However, in order to stay sane, I’ve made some serious adjustments to our entertaining life.
More and more of our friends and family have purchased or rented homes in this magical city, and I wanted to take the opportunity to pass along entertaining tips to help you all avoid the burnout we’ve experienced in the past. Much of this knowledge is straight up from trial and error, but I’ve also been blessed to learn from some of the most gracious hosts and hostesses in San Miguel de Allende.
A little known secret (or well-known depending on whom you’re talking to) about San Miguel, is that there are some true-blue socialites that host and entertain here. You won’t find them on social media, but their names grace the pages of Garden & Gun and buildings at major university campuses. I've been fortunate enough to absorb some of their entertaining styles over the course of our time here, and I've tried to implement some of these best practices myself.
Here are my top tips for entertaining abroad this holiday season:
1. Invite all of your friends within a condensed time frame. For one month a year, a rather famous family in San Miguel hosts endless parties and lunches for all of their friends. Groups of friends visit in shifts over the course of the month, and guests from each group tend to overlap by a few days. This keeps the energy, quite frankly, electric.
The advantage to doing this is that you get to see everyone you want to see, but the rest of the year, you can enjoy your vacation home alone. It is also easier to account for the cost of entertaining during this month on an annual basis and anticipate the cost.
2. Avoid the madness and financial complications of large dinner parties at restaurants. San Miguel has become a very popular hangout, and high season makes dinner reservations for large groups very difficult. (Dia de Los Muertos was a nightmare this year). In addition, service expectations are different in Mexico than the US. You can get angry and disappointed, or you can just accept this and move on. If you have a special occasion and really want to be out, rent out the whole restaurant. Otherwise, entertain at home.
3. Hire a cook. For large groups, there is simply no substitute. It’s far less expensive than paying for a group of 10-12 people to eat out, and the intimacy of dining at your home can’t be beat. You can drink and party all night long! Many vacation rentals are already staffed with maids who cook breakfast. Ask the rental company to assist you in booking them for dinners also. Make sure you get a quote up front, pay them in cash, and don't forget to tip generously.
4. Encourage guests to rent homes of their own. Not everyone mixes well in living spaces...This person has kids, this person is a party animal, this person is a friend of a friend whom I don’t really know, etc. Save yourself the grief, and encourage them to rent a home themselves. There are so many magical places in San Miguel to choose from!
5. Rotate parties. Here is the real bonus of having friends with homes of their own… More party spaces! It can be exhausting to host everyone by yourself all the time. And it can become monotonous for you and your (repeat) guests. Divide up the evenings and really enjoy yourselves. Plus, you’ll get to explore the different neighborhoods throughout the city. Throw a theme party or a lunchtime fiesta, and coordinate with your friends to host on the off-days or nights.
6. Turn your home into a spa. Refresh yourself and your guests after a wild night of partying with massages at the house. The weather in San Miguel is so gorgeous year-round, you can do massages by the pool or in a garden courtyard. Have cucumber water and healthy snacks prepared for afterwards.
7. Provide guests with all the information they need to explore on their own. Give guests some options for exploring in and around San Miguel on their own. Bike rides, hot air balloons, pyramids, the botanical gardens... The options are endless! Check out our previous blog post "Explore the Magic of San Miguel de Allende." Don’t feel obligated to join unless you really want to. Downtime is necessary.
8. Mix groups whenever possible. Lots of people come in all at once. Maximize the opportunity to meet people. With such a well- traveled bunch gathered together, don't be surprised if you learn about a private truffle farm in Provence or end up with a new friend from the Philippines who knows all the club owners in Manila. Get out there!
9. Hire a nanny. Little ones still need structure and consistent bed times. Plus, you increase the danger factor when you rent a house with a pool. Hire a nanny to watch the kiddos even when you’re at the house. You can still be around your children, but you’ll have an extra set of eyes. Ask your home rental specialist a recommendation. Or if you are staying at the Rosewood Hotel, book a nanny through the hotel.
10. Help your guests be self sufficient. Encourage them to download WhatsApp and give them the phone numbers for support staff to call or email on their own. You don't want to be responsible 24/7 for helping them book transportation or complain about a safe not working in their bedroom. Make sure they get pesos at a bank in the US before their trip, and tell them to bring a debit card to use at the ATMs. Many places accept credit cards, but this is still very much a cash based society.