With the arrival of cooler weather comes the excitement of the holiday season. In our house, holidays are synonymous with decorating, shopping, and dinner parties. Whether it be a small get together with friends or an extended family Thanksgiving, the pressure of hosting can be overwhelming to even the most experienced of hosts. In preparation for my 6th Annual Friendsgiving dinner party, I'm sharing a few hostess tips that I've learned through the years of planning and hosting parties and events! Whether you're a first time hostess, or just looking for some new ideas, these party and hosting tips are guaranteed to leave you feeling confident going into this holiday season!
1. PLAN AHEAD
The key to a successful party of any sort is adequate planning. The more you have locked down and in place before the event, the less stressful the day of the event will be. Choose a date, plan your guest list, send out an invitation, map out your venue, plan your menu, choose your decor, etc... Give yourself enough time to plan and prepare for a party so that you don't feel rushed! Are you a pencil and paper kind of girl? If so, there are so many printable planning templates and check lists available for free on Pinterest to meet all of your party planning needs!
2. CHOOSE A THEME
In order for your event to be cohesive, it needs to have some sort of theme. This doesn't mean you need to have a murder mystery dinner party. A simple color scheme or overall aesthetic scheme is enough. My go to theme is a minimalist/rustic approach using soft neutrals and mixed metals. It's my go to and never disappoints!
3. TAKE INVENTORY
Take inventory of your linens, dishes, glassware, silverware, and serving pieces. Decide if you want to use your personal dishes or if you are having a casual affair, throw away might be the best option. Don't stress about having one perfect set of everything. Mixed glassware, dishes, and silverware can be very eclectic and charming!
4. CRAFT A COMFORTABLE GUEST LIST
Don't feel the need to invite every single person you know to your dinner party. Editing down a guest list to an intimate crowd often makes for a more relaxed environment. You don't have to worry about introducing every new attendee to one another to start, and with an intimate group of familiar friends you are able to have more meaningful conversation! And unless its a formal event, save the stamps and send an evite via Paperless Post! They have so many templates to customize, and it makes it so easy to communicate any changes to your guests!
5. PLAN A SEASONAL AND FAMILIAR MENU
This isn't the time to try out a new recipe. Stick to seasonal ingredients and recipes you know so that you aren't stressed about how it will turn out, and you'll have the freshest ingredients!
6. CALCULATE YOUR FOOD/BEVERAGE NEEDS
Use guides online to help calculate the amount of food and alcohol you will need. I use these two when prepping for Friendsgiving every year. The biggest mistake you can make is not having enough food or booze! Oh, and ALWAYS have dessert! (duh!)
7. ADD AMBIANCE
Create seating nooks and cozy areas for guests to sit and strike up a conversation. Have light music on in the background to eliminate any moments of awkward silence! My go to station for everyday personal listening and for a dinner party is "Dinner Party Radio" on Pandora! It is a great mix of Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Norah Jones, etc... Avoid harsh lighting and opt for candles, lamps, and if outdoors, string lights are my favorite lighting source!
8. KNOW YOUR CROWD
When planning, keep your crowd in mind. My friend group for our annual Friendsgiving dinner party are very close friends from college, so proper etiquette isn't as important at this event as say hosting a dinner party for top executives from work . It's important to keep your guests in mind when choosing decor, food, drinks, entertainment, etc... If hosting a family friendly event, consider things like having high chairs, a children's table, dietary restrictions, etc...
9. KEEP DECOR SIMPLE
One of my favorite tips from Emily Post is, "To make too much effort is always a mistake." Keep your decor simple. Use natural elements and seasonal items that are readily available. I love to use herbs from my garden as both garnish and table decor at our Friendsgiving! Simple greenery, tea light candles, and white linens is always a winner in my books. Then simply toss in a few seasonal items such as pears, apples or pumpkins to create a festive, yet simple tablescape.
10. ADD PERSONALIZED DETAILS
Even in a crowd of your best friends, its always nice to add in personal details! One of my favorite ways to add a personal detail is in the place setting! Try using throw back photos as your place card to create a trip down memory lane, or hand paint their monogram onto an inexpensive linen they can take home at the end of the evening along with any leftovers or dessert!
11. HAVE A WELCOMING ENTRANCE FOR GUESTS
You want your guests to immediately feel welcomed once they walk through your doors, so don't neglect your entrance when decorating! A well lit front entry and seasonal decor will make guests feel welcomed and set the tone for the party! Have an area for jackets, purses, or other belongings your guest may have with them! Take time to welcome each arriving guest, and even better, have a fresh glass of wine or champagne to greet them!
12. SAVE PROFESSIONAL CLEANING FOR AFTER THE PARTY
When I first began throwing parties I would always have someone clean our home the day of the party to ensure that it was spotless for guests. The next day I would always regret that decision as no one really paid that close of attention to my baseboards, and now I had a filthy house to clean by myself. Unless you have the money or staff to do both day of and day after, my advice is to save the professional cleaning for the day after! Simply clean your house to your normal standards, maybe work a little harder on the bathroom your guests will be using, and then have the professionals handle the aftermath! You will be exhausted and will want to relax, not clean!
Finally, ENJOY YOURSELF! It is so easy as the hostess to worry about your guests to the point that you don't enjoy the party you spent so long planning! Mingle, but take time to sit and have conversations. Don't rush from one to the next all of the time! You've done all of the prep work, you've accomplished your task of creating a beautiful evening, now allow yourself to enjoy it! If you're frazzled, the energy of your party will be frazzled as well! You set the tone for the party, so make it one that's calm, positive, and enjoyabIe!
If followed, these tips you are guaranteed to set you on the path to planning the soiree of the season! I'm definitely invited, right?