Entertaining for the First Time as a Widow

Q. My late husband and I used to invite friends over for dinner occasionally, but I haven’t “entertained” since he died. Part of me wants to try it, but the rest of me feels overwhelmed at the thought. Any suggestions?


First realize that it’s natural to feel daunted. You’re no longer part of a couple, and everything is different. Yet you’ve somehow handled many new situations since your husband’s death. Entertaining solo is just another step forward in building a new life—and it takes courage. Your husband probably shared in at least some of the planning, preparation, and possibly the cooking at a dinner party. Even if he simply greeted the guests and took drink orders, he was an extra “hand.” Although you’re on your own now, you can take control and ease into becoming a hostess again with these steps:


  1. Keep it small. You don’t have to invite 12 people. You can start with six or even three or four.
  2. Keep it simple. A dinner isn’t necessary unless you’re a confident hostess. Weekend brunch is much less stressful. The menu needn’t involve any cooking at all, unless you want it to. For example, most people love bagels and lox (plus muffins, if you wish). Lunch, which is usually more casual than dinner, is also easy to assemble. You can serve sandwiches and/or salads. Another option is a small cocktail party, where you can limit the time from, say, 5PM-7PM or 6PM-8PM. All it takes is wine/drinks, cheese, crackers, and dips—or hors d’oeuvres if you want to splurge.
  3. Invite congenial people. Pick friends (or acquaintances you’d like to know better) who are easy to be with and talk to. Consider mixing up the guest list. It’s always fun to invite people who don’t know each other, but share interests or can cross-pollinate.


Plan to ask guests for help, too. Someone can pour the wine and/or mix drinks at a party, allowing you more time to circulate or introduce people to each other. If you’d like to try a barbecue without being tied to the grill, you might (in advance), draft a willing guest to pitch in. Or consider hiring someone for grill duty. The point is to relax for a few hours with people you enjoy. You’ll feel empowered, and also open the door to reciprocal invitations. We widows need to be proactive in building a social life for ourselves.

If you have a question for Florence, please email her at fisaacs@florenceisaacs.com.


Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is IllWhat Do You Say When and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons / John Taylor

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