There are ok parties and there are great ‘talked about for weeks’ parties. When it’s on your watch, make sure your name is associated with the latter. Here are our seven principles (courtesy of the Bearings Guide) for being the quintessential host.
1. Keep everything in perspective and remember that at the end of the night the key question is “Was it fun?” You’re the host so you set the tone for the evening. If you’re stressed out and not enjoying the night, your guests’ first impressions are already heading in the wrong direction. Be gracious, smooth and agreeable to establish the mood for everyone else. Prepare what you can in advance so you won’t be frazzled at the last minute.
2. The people are the party. Whether it’s a small dinner party or a big bash, you’re providing the setting for people to interact and mingle. When there is a balance of personalities and a mix of old and new friends, people will find each other more interesting. Intriguing conversations happen and a rich community develops when we meet others outside of our usual circles. As the host, keep your focus on your guests and make lots of introductions.
3. Keep it simple, but not ordinary. The average party is, well, average, but you don’t have to have one big expensive “wow” to exceed people’s expectations. Lots of small elements that go beyond the status quo make an impressive evening. Just make the night your own style.
4. Provide quality food. There’s a balance between chips and salsa and Martha Stewart. It doesn’t have to be complicated, time consuming or expensive, just tasty. Select four different chesses, some olives, salami and prosciutto, and cut up some French bread to go with a few dips. Add some roasted nuts, fruits and dark chocolate and lay it all out on a big cutting board for everyone to gather around and enjoy.
5. Don’t run out of beverages. It’s ok if your hors d’oeuvres are gone after a few hours, but never run out of something to drink. Always buy 25% more than you think you’ll need. Nothing kills a party faster than empty glasses. As the host, greet your guests with a drink and point them in the right direction for where they can find a refill.
6. Establish the vibe. Whatever tone you’re going for, make sure your music, look and lighting all are in sync. People are generally more comfortable in low lighting so put your dimmers to use. A few candles can work, just don’t overdo it and make sure they are unscented. Make a two or three hour music mix based on a genre and set it on a loop. The music is for the background so people shouldn’t have to shout to have a conversation (unless you’re throwing a dance party). Think about where you want people to hang out and put your food and drink in that spot.
7. Check your room temperature. This may seem like an odd item to single out, but trust us, people don’t think about this factor until it’s too late. If everyone is hot and uncomfortable, all the other elements you worked so hard for won’t matter. Turn the temperature down a few notches about an hour before everyone arrives, especially if you’re having a large gathering with significant amount of body heat.
OK so that’s the host taken care of. How about if you’re a guest?
Dinner Party Guest Rules a la MenStylePower:
1. RSVP. Do let your host know in plenty of time that you’re delighted to attend their dinner party. Not responding makes meal planning tricky and can drum up hidden resentment.
2. Arrive on time. That means not too early and not too late. As a guide, if you’re asked to come at 7, then, ah, 7 is good. Later than 7:15 and you should call. Earlier than 6:50 expect to find your host scurrying around in their skivvies doing final prep and be prepared to fix your own drink and amuse yourself for a few minutes.
3. Bring your host/hostess a gift. And choose something that doesn’t make work for the hosts. Wine, chocolates, homemade preserves, are all lovely. Flowers are also fine but offer to arrange them, as my friend did, while your host is busy with the business of looking after their guests. Or drop them off the next day as a thank you gift.
4. Offer to help. Dinner parties = lots of dishes so be prepared to pitch in. But do take no for an answer from folk who like to control clean up in their own kitchen.
5. Take a polite bite. Unless you’re going to go into anaphylactic shock, be at odds with your god, or suffer an immediate, unpleasant reaction to what’s put in front of you, then your job is to try what the host may have spent hours making for the night. Or at least cut it up and move things around the plate. You don’t have to eat it all but you may actually find that those veggies you thought were disgusting, can taste divine when cooked well.
6. Come with an appetite. If you have an event in advance or after that precludes your partaking in the meal, take a raincheck for a time when you can eat what your host has gone to time and effort to prepare.
7. Avoid critiquing the chow. Trust me on this one: The cook will know only too well if the potstickers are a tad burned, the rice a little on the crunchy side, the soup overspiced … you get the idea … find something complimentary to say like “I love butternut squash,” and move on.
8. Give thanks. A gracious thank you at the end of the night, or at least the next day, is the least a guest can do. A follow-up phone call, note, or email is extra nice, especially if you mention something specific about the evening that you found enjoyable.
In all, being a great host and a gracious guest means you will get invited to more social functions and widen your sphere of influence. That’s what we’re all about here at MenStylePower – giving you all the tips and tricks to becoming a great, all rounded and very stylish gent … The rest is up to you!