A Guide To Becoming A Perfectly Relaxed Host Who Has Flawless Parties
We’ve all seen these people in movies, or maybe in real life; the perfect hosts. They welcome you with a warm smile and a drink, while magically whisking away your coat before you’ve even finished saying ‘Hello’.The house is warm and inviting, the dinner is pleasant, and the conversation never hits a dodgy lull. Is there a secret school for hosting dinner parties that the rest of us don’t know about?
Here in Ardent Fancy’s guide to party hosting, we will unpack the essential rules that all great hosts follow to ensure a memorable and enjoyable occasion for everyone.
Rule #1 – Never Take Yourself Out Of The Party
When hosting a party, most of us easily fall into the trap of ‘WORRYING’. We stay in the kitchen looking after the food, or we run around filling everyone’s drinks without ever making conversation. By the time dinner is served we’re already thinking about dessert and how tired we suddenly feel. Here’s a little reality check for you: Your guests are here FOR YOU. They want to see you and enjoy your company. They did not come to sit and watch you rushing by in a blur. Become more mindful about how present you are at the party. Take a moment to sit and tuck into a few appetizers with your guests before dinner and set the tone for the evening with your calm and collected demeanor.
Rule #2 – Plan, Plan, Plan
I heard someone complaining recently about how a lot of things went wrong or didn’t go well at a party they hosted, and in the same breath this person extolled the benefits of “going with the flow and not getting too caught up in planning”.
At Ardent Fancy, we strongly advise against this laissez-faire attitude. How could someone possibly be upset about something when they didn’t put in any work to stop it? Planning is key to a successful event. Plan your butt off and then sit back and relax at your own party.
Here is a checklist of details to consider when planning a party:
- Room layout. Will you have to move furniture to accommodate the guest numbers?
- Dietary requirements
- Theme and decor
- What party games will you play?
- What music should you play?
- Buffet or family-style dining?
Rule #3 – The Guest List is EVERYTHING and Food Comes Second
Who you naturally are at a party and who you invite means everything when hosting a gathering. Tailor the order of the evening to complement your personality and the preferred ambience of the evening with a pre-ordained timeline and menu. Here are a few ideas to invigorate your imagination:
Upon their arrival, welcome your guests immediately to the dining table and spend the entire evening seated together, slowly making your way through a five-course meal. Play a few dinner games and keep the table wine flowing. This is a very European style of dining and is perfect for intimate evenings with close friends or perhaps, professional acquaintances.
Prepare a buffet table with appetizers, entrees, and side dishes and present it to guests when everything is ready. Make it clear that your guests can come up and help themselves as many times as they like during the evening. This is ideal for larger guest lists for special occasions like housewarmings, birthdays, NYE, and public holidays.
Invite your guests to enjoy some appetizers and a drink while the dinner simmers on the stove in a separate area to the dining room. Welcome this opportunity to catch up on personal affairs or break out the wedding photo album. If a dinner game is happening, ask your guests what game they’d prefer to play, as this creates some anticipation for fun happening later on in the evening.
Have a themed party as this often dictates the menu, decor, and activity, keeping everything very simple and easy to plan.
Rule #4 – Take Shortcuts With The Menu
You may be an amazing cook or pastry chef, but hosting a dinner party is not the best place to demonstrate your passion. If you want to be a relaxed host who has flawless parties while having fun, the best food to serve is always the simplest.
Take shortcuts and buy ready-made appetizers or pre-cooked ingredients. Only serve dishes that can be prepared well in advance. The most relaxed dishes are cooked in one pot or casserole dish, saving you the hassle of measuring ingredients and cooking specialty items while your guests are left to themselves. You should be out there with the party and not in the kitchen as much as possible. Dishes like beef stew, lasagne, and chicken curry are common for a reason. Take the pressure off and stick to the classics.
The same rule applies to desserts. Make it ahead of time or order it in from a local bakery. Remember that hosting a party was your idea and it’s supposed to be fun for everyone, including you!
Rule #5 – Discuss Logistics
If you are co-planning a party with your roommate or significant other, talk openly about the logistics of the evening. Decide who will take coats, who will take drink orders, and who will serve the food. Make a plan for these matters beforehand, so you avoid accidentally neglecting guests or losing track of what needs to be done. If things are left to chance, this opens up the possibility of resentment, arguments, and possibly a lot of work solely on one person’s shoulders.
Rule #6 – Keep The Conversation Personal
Keep the conversation personal by continually asking guests questions about themselves. People love to talk about themselves and if you make everything about them, they are likely to feel special and welcomed into your home. It will also make you feel good to feel like a successful host. Talk about each other and celebrate your achievements, or discuss life goals. This helps to create a nurturing and inspiring environment in a friend group where you can find ways to help one another get ahead.
Rule #7 – Accept Help
If a guest asks in advance if they can bring something, say yes. Ask them to bring their favourite dessert or side dish or favourite bottle of wine. Allow them to have input in the evening and they will appreciate it even more.
If a guest offers to help you in the kitchen, say yes. Give them something small to do that makes them feel important while also being useful to you.
If a guest wants to help, take them up on the offer. Everything that needs to be finished will be done sooner and you can bond over the shared experience. It also makes your guests more invested in the success of the evening.
Rule #8 – More Is Better Than Not Enough
If in doubt of ‘more’ versus ‘less’, always choose more. It’s better to be over-prepared, overly detailed, and overfed than the opposite. If you’re wondering if you should go to the effort of X for your guests, the answer is usually Yes. After some experience hosting parties, you will develop a general idea of what to do in different situations. Your level of effort may change according to the style of the party and who is in attendance.
Rule #9 – Set A Time For Getting Dressed
Don’t leave getting ready for the last minute. Have your outfit planned and ready to put on for the evening. A relaxed host does their hair and makeup before putting the finishing touches on the table decor or dinner. You don’t want to feel rushed to look presentable as guests are walking through the door.
Rule #10 – Remember To Breathe
Before opening the front door, take a second to neaten your appearance and take a deep breath. Lower your shoulders and let go of the tension in your neck. You have planned everything for the evening in perfect order and now it’s time to enjoy your hard work. Check the food is okay and uncork the red wine. If things go awry, laugh it off and go for Plan B: Order in food from a local restaurant and play charades.
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