‘Tis the season for entertaining. Are you hosting a party over the holidays? I love to have guests over but it used to cause me so much stress. I felt really pressured to give them the best party experience ever! Since then, I’ve become much more relaxed about it and I use these tips to help me enjoy the night just as much as my guests!
These tips for hosting a party will help you (any time of year!) to be the host(ess) with the mostest!
1. My first (and perhaps most important) tip is that you, as the host of the party, need to plan ahead so that you will be able to actually enjoy time with your guests. Don’t plan overly complicated menus that will keep you stuck in the kitchen. Your guests want to spend time with you – that’s the main reason they came! Oh and don’t feel panicked if guests begin to arrive while you’re still working. Get the music on, the appetizers and some beverages out and finish up the last little bits you need to do.
2. Further to my first point, make as many party options self-serve as possible. Put the food out buffet style or in various locations where guests can get their own as they wish. Set up non-alcoholic beverage stations, perhaps a coffee and tea bar. If you want to have some activities, you could even set up tables with all the supplies needed (decorate your own Christmas ornament etc) and instructions (if needed) printed out.
3. If you are serving alcohol, figure out what you will do about the drinking and driving issue now. The LCBO has tips for this. Be sure to serve non-alcoholic options. This is one spot where I don’t like to have a self serve option. As a responsible host, I like to keep close tabs on how much my guests are drinking.
4. Ask ahead of time about any allergies. I have a life-threatening allergy to strawberries and there have been times I’ve arrived at an event only to have to leave because there are simply too many strawberry items around. I also like to make sure there are vegetarian and vegan as well as gluten-free options available. Oh and put out separate serving utensils for each food item. This helps avoid cross-contamination.
5. It’s your job as host to keep the conversation going and to include everyone. Be sure to mingle and chat with all your guests and keep an eye out for any wallflowers that you might need to draw into conversation. I usually keep a game idea in my back pocket – one that spurs conversation – just in case it’s needed to get things going.
6. We all want to go crazy and clean the entire house thoroughly top to bottom before a party but that is often not realistic. I say start with the bathroom. Give it a really really good cleaning and then use whatever time is left for cleaning the rest. Bathrooms have that “ick” factor about them and are often the places where a lack of cleanliness will stand out the most.
7. Anticipate your guests’ needs. In bad weather, where will you put guests’ coats and boots? I like to provide a basket of slippers for my guests to change into once they take their boots off (just in case they need some!). If you don’t have enough closet space, will you put coats on one of the beds? What about umbrellas if it’s raining out? Do you have any female guests who are nursing and bringing their babies? It’s great to have a quiet spot for them to use (if needed – some babies are too distracted by all the noise and activity of a party) for nursing and for putting the baby down to sleep. Are kids coming to the party? You might want to provide activity books and crayons or other fun activities for them. How about a separate area with a television showing Christmas movies during the holidays? If you usually keep your trash can under the kitchen sink or in the pantry, I suggest bringing it out and putting it in an obvious spot in the kitchen so your guests can clean up after themselves. A dish bin by the sink for dirty dishes might be a good idea too.
8. Consider scents. Some people are very sensitive to strong odors and may have to leave your party early (perhaps even with a migraine) because of them. You want candlelight? I suggest battery operated or odorless candles (in a safe location where they won’t be knocked over and start a fire). Avoid putting out strong potpourris or using strong deodorizers. If you really want to or feel you must use some sort of scented items, go for very subtle ones. And while we’re talking about odors, get someone to check your house for any pet odors before the party. You get used to these and may not be aware that your house smells like a litter box or wet dog.
9. Entertaining doesn’t need to be expensive. Simple foods presented in an appetizing but simple manner, lovely but understated decor, and enjoyable company are all you really need. Think about creating a warm comfortable atmosphere that appeals to the senses (music, lighting, that sort of thing). Want some activities for the evening? Simple ones like charades, Who am I?, or two truths and a lie can be lively and fun without being complicated or needing any expensive supplies.
To sum it up, the most important takeaways are: keep it simple and have fun!
Share your favourite tips for entertaining in the comments below!