How to Be a Good Hostess

The sort of part two to How to Plan a Dinner Party.

Hosting a cocktail or dinner party isn’t as easy as inviting your friends over and hoping they serve and entertain themselves. It is a task not for the faint of heart but for the hardened veteran, trained by many nights of sneaking down from bed to steal cheese cubes without being caught by that one weird friend of your parents’. Good intentions do go a long way, but a bad host, the kind who doesn’t take care of their guests, can ruin a party. The best way to become a legendary hostess is to pay attention to what other women do when they are hosting. That way, you can emulate the qualities you appreciated and avoid the things they did that you didn’t like. The following tips are my current results from using this method.

  • Great guests at the door and ask to take their coats
  • Do not allow your dogs to jump up on them or sniff them in embarrassing places
  • Introduce any guests who may not know each other
  • Offer guests a drink as soon as they are settled in
  • Bring out your hor d’oeuvres, snacks or party food when the first guest arrives
  • If given a bottle of wine by a guest, try to gauge whether it was for the evening or a hostess gift for you to enjoy later (if it was given wrapped up, it is probably a gift, it was handed to you bare, they probably want you to serve it)
  • If serving fancy cocktails, make them up in batches and place them in a pitcher, this way you won’t be stuck behind the bar making cocktails all night, which would be a disservice to your guests
  • If serving basic cocktails, put out a variety of standard liquors (scotch, gin, vodka, etc.), mixes, garnishes, ice and tumblers for easy assembly by you or your guests, themselves
  • Be sure to offer non-alcoholic beverages as well
  • Keep drinks topped up, but don’t over-water your friends – a responsible host cuts their friends off when they start to get silly
  • Make sure you have enough food to offset the amount of alcohol being served (two to three different types for a party with dinner, five to seven for a party without)
  • Serve dinner on time (in the case of a dinner party)
  • Be sure to provide your guests with everything they need to retain their comfort and dignity, this includes making sure you have enough napkins and setting the table with the proper dining and serving utensils
  • Keep things tidy, but don’t spend the whole night cleaning up, it is expected that a bit of a mess will be made
  • Play soft, unintrusive music only
  • Facilitate conversation between your guests by asking them questions (people love to talk about themselves) or telling an amusing anecdote
  • Do not change into your pajamas until after your guests have left (I have to bring it up because I see this rule broken far too often)
  • But most importantly, don’t let your guests feel that you are making a big fuss over them