Hosting is a tough task and most of you will, at some point, find yourself in the hosting seat. Housewarmings, engagement parties, baby showers, birthdays, holidays. Even a casual get together with friends requires you to play hostess. The role of the host is to make sure guests feel welcome, comfortable, and have an enjoyable time. You’re greeting, serving food and drinks, introducing people, starting conversations. In other words, at all times you’re working the party.
The number one concern of the hostess is to make people feel comfortable. As a guest we want to feel welcomed, cared for and involved in the party. If a host fails to introduce us to new people, fails to engage converstations and fails to provide proper refreshments and nourishments, as a guest you will feel unimportant, left out, intrusive and nervous. Fancy drinks and appetizers will not make up for lack of conversation and and unwelcoming environment. You can have the best decorations, best tasting food and the most unique drinks, but if your guests feel uncomfortable at the party, that is what they’ll remember. We always remember how we feel.
It is important to remember that you are not a guest at your own party. As a host there is always a job to be done.
Know your audience
Are you hosting a bridal shower with a mix of family and friends and muli-generational guests? Be prepared to host a bridal shower where both great-grandma and pre-teen cousin will feel comfortable. Prepare food and drinks accordinly and play games (if necessary) that are appropriate for the masses.
Also, be prepared to know the guests. You may not persoanlly know them but know names and relations so you can have an instant connection as you greet them. “Oh yes! Carrie! You’re Eva’s neice. Eva told me you came all the way from Sedona for this party. I appreciate you making the trip and hope you enjoy your afternoon with us. Can I offer you a beverage?” Then make sure to introduce people as necessary and apporopriatly.
At many parties there is a guest of honor to focus on, but it’s important to not forget about the guests. If the guests feel special, so will the guest of honor.
Prepare accordingly, and let your guests know the agenda
If your guests are expecting a casual backyard BBQ, they should arrive to find to a casual backyard BBQ and if your guests are expecting a formal dinner party they should arrive to find a formal dinner party. Makes sense, right?
If you asked guests to bring dessert, wine, an appetizer etc. make sure their contribution stands alone. Asking a guest to bring something, then three others arrive with the same thing, makes the guest feel unspecial. What if they brought a cake, and another guest brought a homemade, buttercream frosted, triple layer, berry filled cake that everyone gushes over? How do you think the other guest feels? Silly, embarrassed, unacknowledged. Make sure a guest’s contributions are well received.
Follow rules of ettiquette
Ettiquette is not pretentious, condecending or snooty. It’s not a way to act “better” than everyone else. It’s actually a way of making those around you feel at ease because they know what to expect. In other words, if you act appropriatly, it makes everyone around you feel comfortable.
You also need to “lead by example”. If you want your guests to start eating, you start eating, and welcome guests to join. If you want guests to use a coaster, you use a coaster, and conveniently provide coasters anywhere a guest would place a drink.
Manage the flow of the party
Drinks, food, converstaion, games, gifts. Make sure your agenda is flowing according to time, and your guests desires. Is conversation dwindeling? Maybe it’s time for gifts. Are the kids running wild? Maybe it’s time for games. If it’s a dinner party manage the conversations so everyone is comfortable with the topic. If it starts to get heated, wrap up the argument (don’t take sides) and politely offer a new topic to discuss.
Wrap it up
If an ending time was noted on the invite be prepared to wrap up the party at that time. If no time was specified it’s up to you as the host to determine if your guests are ready to leave (but don’t want to be rude) and provide them with a comfortable exit. Watch for body language (fidgiting, checking phones for time and missed messages), coversation between couples (couples many times start a conversation between eachother to begin their exit). If you see these cues, begin wrapping up their visit.
Gather their coats, favors, dishes they provided, or any other items they need to take home. Engage friednly conversation summarizing their contributions to the party
“Thank you so much for bringing the wine. We all enjoyed it and it went perfectly with dinner”
“Your stories from your new job were hillarious. Thanks for sharing. I know we all enjoyed a good laugh.”
Walk exiting guests to the door. A guest should be greeted when they arrive and escorted out when they are departing. Thank them for attending. This will be their last impression of the party.