How to be a Classy Hostess and Throw the Perfect Dinner Party
Pulling off a party with class
I love to entertain and have some wonderful tips to make sure that your dinner party, cocktail party, or any kind of party is a SUCCESS!
There is nothing worse than being invited to dinner only to arrive and discover that the hostess has done nothing to prepare for it beforehand. This not only makes guests feel unwelcome, it also makes them feel unimportant.
My mother was a perfect hostess- always tactful, diplomatic, polite and generous with our good wine and food. Our guests were always pleased and grateful when they went home. She received many compliments for her hostessing skills and I have always looked to her as an example.
Here in Italy, where I live, there is a common saying: "If you do not have leftovers, you did not make enough food." In other words, never let your guests go home hungry!
The following are 10 simple steps to being a classy, perfect hostess (or host).
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Prepare Ahead of Time
Day before the event
#1 PLAN AHEAD: In order to look and feel your best, you must carefully plan your event. What kind of party do you want to throw? A sit-down formal dinner, a casual dinner, a buffet-style dinner, a cocktail or theme party? It's a good idea to stick to foods that you KNOW- a party is not a good time to try out a new recipe. Go for one that is tried and true. Once you have decided, set a date and tell people about it well in advance. I know that e-vites are the "in" thing, but there is nothing like a written note or personal invitation (even a phone call is nice). Make sure your guests RSVP a couple of days BEFORE your party so that you can buy the correct amounts of food, wine, etc. Also, plan your food accordingly. If you are having a cocktail party, you won't want to serve something too messy. Finger foods that people can munch on while they walk around socializing would be an ideal choice.
#2 SHOPPING: I like to get most of my shopping done well in advance. Things like wine, olives, dry goods (rice, pasta, flour, sugar, etc) can be purchased and stored, so that when you go "party shopping" for same-day items like fresh bread, meats and produce it isn't so overwhelming.
#3 HEAD START: I try to prepare everything I can in advance. This not only saves time but it eliminates some of the work that has to be done on the day of the event. It also allows me to breathe a little easier and relax. So, if you are making deviled eggs, boil the eggs the night before. Things like broth, caramelized onions, spaghetti sauce, and cakes can be made ahead of time. Set your table, arrange your flowers, balloons, streamers, etc. beforehand.
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Day of the event
#4 DON'T SLEEP IN: You will want to get all of your food ready and your table set early. Of course, things like grilled meats or pasta must be cooked when your guests arrive, but anything that you can get done early (like pasta or potato salad, green mixed salad, soup, etc.) will allow you time to shower, change and get ready to enjoy the evening.
#5 YOU'RE ON: When your guests arrive, SMILE! Make sure to greet them as soon as they enter your home and make them feel welcome. You are happy to have them there, after all, you invited them! Offer them a cocktail (or whatever other drink you are serving) within the first few minutes of their arrival.
#6 DIPLOMACY: This can be tricky. If you are hostessing a small, intimate gathering with people you know very well, then the conversation can flow freely. What if you are entertaining new people? Let's say, your husband's co-worker and his wife? Or friends of friends that you don't know at all? In that case, you should stick to safe topics (obviously not politics or religion), and try to give your opinion in a mild manner- don't be too radical. If you feel passionate about a subject, save it for your friends and family, not acquaintances . If your guests, however, are discussing hot topics, then be like Switzerland (neutral) and steer the subject to more tranquil waters...and offer another drink!
#7 BE GENEROUS: Make sure that you have made enough food to feed everyone and a little bit more for second helpings. No one should leave your house hungry (since I am Portuguese, I always cook for twice the number of people I invite. Not having enough is a big taboo in my culture). If someone's glass is empty, offer to refill it (of course, if your guest is guzzling down too much alcohol and begins to act foolish, by all means act responsibly and offer him/her some water or strong coffee).
#8 JOIN IN THE FUN: Balance your responsibilities as a hostess with having fun with your guests. I attended a party once where I only saw the hostess for 5 minutes because she was stuck in the kitchen cooking all night. That's no fun for the hostess OR the guests. Take time out to chat, have a glass of wine and relax. If you are buzzing around constantly, your guests won't feel at ease.
#9 THANK YOU: When your guests thank you for a great time, thank them in return for coming. This will make them feel special and appreciated.
Day after the event
#10 CLEAN UP: I don't like to have my guests clean up after a party. If they want to help clear some plates or toss things in the trash, that's fine, but nothing else. Those of you who know me must think me a hypocrite because I am always the first to offer to help a hostess clean up and start washing dishes in the homes of others. Going to bed with a smile on your face after throwing a successful event is a good thing, which is why I save the major cleaning for the following day. Nothing like upbeat music and good memories of the night before to help you through scrubbing and vacuuming.
There you have it. Hope this helps you entertain in grand style and get you the reputation of Hostess with the Mostest . As always, thank you for reading.
C. De Melo