Party “Hostess with the Mostess”
It’s not always easy to be a “hostess with the mostess,” but here are some ideas for how you can leave your guests with a favorable impression of your gathering.
A “Hostess with the Mostess” always…
…considers her guests.
Whether she’s putting together the guest list, managing seating arrangements, or planning a menu, the ideal hostess is always looking to please her guests.
When putting together the guest list, it is important to consider groupings. If, for instance, you are inviting some friends who typically socialize in a group, it is best to include the whole group in your invitation in order to avoid hurt feelings. This also ensures that the group will have fun and be able to socialize at the party.
The same is true if you do assigned seating. It’s best to seat people near others with common interests, so conversation will flow with ease. For instance, avoid seating your outspoken, conservative aunt next to your young, liberal cousin.
Choose whether you would like to include children in the invitation, and when doing so, consider how the children will play together. It would be unfortunate to have only a baby and a thirteen-year-old at the party. If you choose to include children, make sure there are enough children coming of similar age groups to play together. Have organized activities for the kids, a special place for them to play, food they will enjoy, and if possible, a designated adult to supervise them.
When planning the food, consider the tastes of your guests. It is helpful to keep a log of what you have offered at past gatherings as well as your friends’ likes and dislikes. Here are some important foods to consider because there are often aversions to them: cilantro, mushrooms, Brussels’ sprouts, seafood, shellfish, and peanuts. If you offer any of these foods, make sure there are other options from which to choose. This is particularly important if any guests have dietary restrictions (i.e.: food allergies or special diets).
…takes organization and preparation seriously.
No matter where you are having your party, preparation is the name of the game. Know where coats are going to go, and who is going to take them. Be sure to make space in the coat closet, have adequate hangers ready, and someone ready and waiting to take them at the door. I recently saw a host take my husband’s coat and place mine over it to maximize room in the closet. This was a great help in finding the coats at the end of the night and keeping the closet organized.
Consider what you will do with your pets during the event, and make sure they will not be in the way of your guests. Sometimes it is best to keep them in an area away from the party, so all your guests are comfortable, and your pets won’t escape out the front door.
Carefully plan your menu and serving dishes, so everything is clean and ready to go in advance of the party. It is helpful to place slips of paper with the name of the dish in each serving item so you can see where everything will be placed and how it all looks together. This step also helps you avoid changing dishes several times because you have the wrong size.
Make a playlist for your party in advance (either on CD or your portable music device), so you can be sure your explicit rap music doesn’t play while your grandma is drinking her coffee after dinner. Consider your audience, and their tastes, when creating the list. Live music can also be a lovely touch, but ask the musicians to be mindful of the volume, so conversation may flow without having to yell.
Whether you are serving drinks, hors d’oeuvres, or dinner, a timeline is your best friend. On your timeline, include preparation, oven temperature, cook time, and any other helpful items. This keeps you from having to go between five different recipe books, and it will keep you counter cleaned off. Also, if you have help, it will be easier to delegate tasks and keep everyone on the same page.
A sample timeline might look like this:
- 6:15 Arrange antipasto plate and set on the coffee table.
- 6:30 Stir together welcome beverage, and place with cocktail napkins on the bar.
- 6:40 Turn on music, light candles, do any last-minute dish washing.
- 6:50 Place beef tenderloin in the oven: 350 for 45 minutes. Potatoes 350 for one hour.
- 7:00 Greet and welcome guests.
- 7:30 Fill water glasses and prepare wine for dinner.
- 7:35 Remove beef tenderloin and let rest.
- 7:50 Remove potatoes and slice beef tenderloin.
- 7:55 Toss salad.
- 8:00 Serve dinner.
A timeline is also helpful if you are hosting your party at another venue because it allows the kitchen, bar, and serving team to be aware of what your expectations are for the event. If your venue doesn’t suggest a timeline, be sure to create one and ask them to approve it and then follow it. The timeline will help avoid any unnecessary mishaps and serve as a document to keep everyone on the same page.
…makes the guests feel comfortable and welcome.
No matter what the occasion, it is most important to make the guests feel at ease. Be sure to circulate around the room, speak with your guests, and welcome them to the party. Help introduce strangers at the party in order to encourage the flow of conversation.
Always keep a lookout to make sure guests have whatever they need. Have beverages readily available, and keep glasses full without over-serving – particularly with alcohol. Be mindful of the flow of the party, the noise level, the temperature in the room, and anything else you can do to make everyone feel comfortable.
If you take all of these ideas into account, you will have a smashing success, and you will most undoubtedly be deemed the “hostess with the mostess!”