How to Be a Charming Host(ess) Without Losing Your Mind
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How to Be a Charming Host(ess) Without Losing Your Mind

Oh, how Pinterest and Martha Stewart have fooled us all. It isn’t possible, or even advisable, to make every party into a production worthy of a magazine spread. You may not have the space, budget, or know-how to throw an elaborate shindig, and that’s okay.

purple party cover

Start with what you do know (impromptu pizza and beer!) and use the guidelines below to fake a flair for the fête.

Fête n 1: Festival 2a: lavish, often outdoor entertainment b: a large elaborate party ~ Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

Invite the Right Mix

Here’s a little pre-party game: select any three persons, dead or alive, to invite to an intimate dinner party. Do you have your three choices? Good. Now, think: did you invite three unrelated people just because you personally find them interesting, or did you put together a group who will be engaging to you, as well as each other?

As the party host, you’ll be splitting your time between mingling with your guests and doing all the little things it takes to keep everyone happy. Odds are, you’ll have limited time with each of your guests — even less if they get bored and decide to leave early. You’d better make sure everyone is able to easily mix and match. Besides, you definitely want to be the one who gets credit for introducing the members of the next hot screenwriting duo.

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Prep Your Space

The invitations have been issued, your menu is planned, and you have a grand vision for some amazeballs decorations. Now the stress sets in as you evaluate the havoc everyday life wreaks upon your house.

As a Premier Designs Jewelry Consultant, Kelley Parker is regularly in the unique position of being both a party facilitator and a guest simultaneously. With more than 1000 parties under her belt, she can confidently say that you only need to clean three spaces: your entry, the guest bathroom, and the kitchen. “Nobody wants to know their food came from a dirty place,” she says, “but other party areas can just be tidied.”

Kelley also recommends you focus your light on the areas you want to highlight. For her parties, that means the food, the jewelry display table, and the sitting area. A post on Apartment Therapy recommends a similar approach, suggesting light should be used to establish the party zones.


Keep the Food Familiar

According to Patricia Rossi in Everyday Etiquette, “The host sets the mood, so no flailing about like an exasperated chicken […] Keep the food, drinks, and plans simple. The focus should be on the people, not the flaming soufflé.”

Whether this is your first party or your thirty-first, now is not the time to attempt culinary greatness. Fix things you know how to fix and that your guests will like to eat – our recipe index features a breadth of recipes that you’re bound to find just the thing. If possible, make food well in advance and freeze or refrigerate until the day of the party. Also, never underestimate the power of re-plating purchased dishes.

Drinks All Around!

Parties are thirsty events, so make sure to have an abundance of simple-to-serve alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Water is not suitable for the only non-alcoholic alternative. Your designated drivers and other guests that prefer to abstain will be grateful for efforts to make a party-worthy beverage sans booze – setup a tea station for everyone to enjoy at their leisure.

Should any party-goers happen to overindulge, start circulating bottled water, and make sure to put out carb-laden and salty snacks. Take your cue from bar food; there’s a reason all those pub menus look the same. Pretzels, pizza, and burgers soak up the alcohol, as well as slow its consumption.


Introductions, Interactions, and Extractions

A good host knows to greet every guest at the door or soon thereafter. Likewise, she knows to personally bid each attendee adieu as she walks them to the door at the party’s close. The really tricky part comes with all those hellos and good-byes that happen during the festivities. Here’s a quick run-down of situations to prepare for.

Once you’ve greeted a guest, do not leave him standing in the entry all by his lonesome. Introduce him to at least one other guest, and mention something you know they have in common.

Between setting out extra snackage and answering the door, be sure you take a minute to show up at your own party. Mingle, chat, laugh! But keep moving. If you feel you’ve been neglecting your host duties, politely excuse yourself.

Before you exit a conversation, pull in another guest to fill the void. Grab a nearby loner and ask for her thoughts on a comment just made by someone in your little convo group. Just like that, you’ve engaged at least two party guests, and you can slip off to check on your other guests.

Be prepared to rescue hapless guests from endless, one-sided conversations or other unwanted attentions. If you see anyone looking panicked, bored, or desperate, get yourself to her side. Apologize for the interruption and lead your glassy-eyed friend away to show her that thing she just has to see (you know, that thing, right?). Don’t worry about Chatty Cathy; she’ll have no problem finding another victim other new friends.

party guests

Let’s Do This Again, Sometime…or Not

In my experience, good parties take practice. To paraphrase my husband: plan, party, improve, repeat. For the next party, use what worked and nix what didn’t. I even give you permission to throw out every suggestion above. After all, a good party is all about having a good time.

Photo credits: wintersixfour, Ikea, buzzle, ambernambrose, ohsarahrose

How to Be a Charming Host(ess) Without Losing Your Mind

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