Whether it’s a family gathering, dinner with friends, or a party, hosting an event in your home is incredibly satisfying…but can get a bit stressful. If you tend to find yourself frantically trying to locate exotic ingredients from the depths of your pantry an hour before guests arrive, and scooping up piles of magazines to stash in the basement in the minutes before the doorbell rings, take control of your next gathering with these 6 simple tips.
1. Have the Essentials on Hand
Before hosting a big event, check up on your supplies. The middle of a gathering is no time to run out of toilet paper! Keep your guests’ comforts in mind: offer a variety of beverage options, including something appropriate for non-drinkers and children. Other items you might want to have readily available: headache medication, the Wi-Fi password, and a stain stick.
Have a designated and easy to reach spot for coats and winter gear; if you are a shoe-free home, let people know in advance so they can wear their cutest socks. Similarly, if you have pets, tell guests know when you invite them in case of allergies.
2. Do Advance Work
If you have a large kitchen, and adore eyes upon you as you cook, feel free to whip up a soufflé as guests arrive. But for many people, the host and hostess’s responsibilities of greeting guests, taking coats, providing beverages, and making small talk all while cooking may feel like a bit too much multi-tasking.
Plan ahead: prepare only dishes you’ve auditioned before, so you’ll feel assured and confident while cooking. Make food before company arrives if possible—and even if you can’t prepare food beforehand, do as much prep work as possible. After all, who wants to get teary-eyed while chopping onions in front of Aunt Suzie?
Don’t go crazy cleaning your home; most likely, your guests won’t be inspecting underneath your bed for dust bunnies. But take time to clean and tidy high traffic areas, such as the kitchen, bathroom, and dining and living rooms.
3. Give Guests a Tour
If guests haven’t been at your home before, show them the sights with a quick tour. (Go ahead and skip the spot where you’ve hidden piles of clutter.) Most likely, visitors will be curious about the layout, but more than that, nearly everyone at your home will have to use the bathroom at some point. Let them know where to find it early on. As well as a tour, offer guest a beverage, and make sure to check if there’s anything else they’d like.
4. Make People Welcome
As guests come in, introduce them with a personal touch. Doing this can help foster conversation. Say things like, “Mary, meet Sue— Sue loves trying new restaurants nearly as much as you do” or “Bob, meet Sally. Sally, Bob is my go-to person for book and TV show recommendations.” That way, people will have a bit of an icebreaker to start chatting and making connections.
Resist the urge to invite all your friends, and to invite people who don’t know each other. As Amanda Hessler writes over at Bon Appétit, if all your guests are strangers, “you’ll have some heavy lifting to do.”
5. Encourage Standing, Mingling, and Movement
It can be a good thing if there aren’t enough seats for guests at a cocktail party or any event that isn’t strictly sit-down; this encourages movement and conversation with lots of different people. Keep an eye out for conversations that are flagging and guests who seem trapped or bored—as the host, you’re in charge of rescuing these moments.
Over at Jezebel, Jorj Morgan, who wrote an entertaining guide, At Home Entertaining: The Art of Hosting a Party With Style and Panache, recommends putting the beverages far from the party’s entrance, to encourage mingling and movement. At all costs, you want to avoid a huddle of people in the brightly lit kitchen.
6. Make the Party Inviting
Whatever kind of party you’re hosting, make it warm, lovely, and inviting. Light candles—not only are they flattering, but there’s something about them that encourages good conversation. Make a playlist; keep the volume low.
The most important thing to remember when hosting: you’ve invited friends, family, and other people who love you. Take time to enjoy yourself; don’t forget to enjoy a beverage of your own. Leave the dishes until after guests depart, so you won’t miss out on the festivities.
We want to know: what are your tips to throwing a stress-free, amazing party at home? Share on Twitter and Facebook using #winterparty.