‘Tis the season . . . for entertaining. Parties are almost synonymous with the holidays, and it may fall as your responsibility to host a joyous gathering this year. Whether it’s a casual family get-together or a more formal dinner party or cocktail hour, you’ll want to impress your guests and help them get into the holiday spirit. No matter the occasion, there are a few tried-and-true tips that will help you prepare as host extraordinaire—which will not go unnoticed by any guest. From sprucing up a certain (bath)room in your home to creating the perfect flow for the party, check out these easy entertaining hacks for hosting a successful soirée below.
Set the Scene
Don’t make your guests guess where they are supposed to go. Instead, be sure to guide them to the appropriate space or room for the party. You can accomplish this by greeting each guest at the door to lead them into your home or by making it very clear with lighting or even a small sign if you’re going for an open-house approach. Partygoers will appreciate the warm welcome—and it will save you from people lingering in unwanted parts of your abode—if you make the layout very clear.
Pay Special Attention to Seating
Save your guests (and yourself) some awkwardness by ensuring there is enough comfortable seating and space for everyone to enjoy the company in the room. If there are too few seats, no one will want to sit solo, so either decide if you want to designate the space as standing room only, or provide enough seating for at least half of your guests to rotate resting their legs at one time. The proper seating setup will also invite your company to partake in easy conversation and enjoy each other, which is the goal.
Aim For Quality Over Quantity When It Comes to Food
Whether you’re providing a full three-course dinner or just a few appetizers, it’s important to remember that quality (translation: tastiness) trumps quantity. The party will also lack an organized, uniform feel if the menu is all over the place. Stick with several delicious and universally appealing appetizers or provide at least two main course dishes (a protein and a vegetable) if you’re hosting a dinner party. Your guests will eat more if the food is actually delicious rather than a plethora of random dishes that won’t mesh well in the mouth.
Get (Frugally) Festive
It’s easy to give your space a festive feel in an affordable way with a few simple touches. Choose a theme for florals, whether it’s a few branches of berries or greens or a selection of small bud vases with seasonal blooms scattered around the room. Custom paper cocktail napkins—which are extremely economical and easy to order online—engraved with a fun, festive phrase or your (the hosts) last name and the date of the party give the event a personal touch. Providing a specialized pre-mixed cocktail in a large carafe or dispenser or setting out pre-poured glasses of wine and champagne around the room also make it easy for guests to imbibe and mingle around the space without creating a crowd in one specific area (the bar) of the room.
There’s no better way to decorate than with an abundance of candles. Small votives placed all over the room add ambiance and give the space a warm, inviting glow. Light a seasonally-scented candle (but nothing too overpowering) in the entryway, and place larger hurricanes or candlesticks on the mantle and covering tables or eating areas to provide ample light for guests to see each other and converse over candlelight.
Prep a Good Playlist
Background noise is just that but a fun playlist ensures there won’t be any awkward, silent lulls in conversation, especially when you’re hosting a smaller, more intimate group. They key here is keeping the music, which should speak to the mood, at a pleasant decibel, so it’s loud enough to enjoy but not difficult to speak over. It’s almost too easy to whip up a custom playlist within a matter of seconds on Spotify or choose one of the many pre-made playlists on the streaming site.
Go Overboard on the Bathroom
While you should spend time sprucing and organizing your entire party space, go above and beyond when cleaning the guest bathroom. There’s nothing worse, as a guest, than finding that there’s nothing to wipe your hands with after washing, or walking into a unsanitary situation in the restroom. As the host, be sure to wipe down all surfaces, especially the mirrors and faucets, until they shine. Provide ample paper or linen for guests to dry their hands and light a scented candle or place a diffuser next to the sink or toilet to ensure the bathroom smells clean and fresh for each guest throughout the evening.
Plan a Fun Activity Ahead of Time
Plan one short and sweet activity for guests to participate in throughout the evening in order to give the party structure and help the flow of the evening. It can be as simple as setting aside time for introductions (if it’s a random group) before sitting down at the table or placing a mantra under each person’s dinner plate to incite conversation over dessert. Going out of your way to make everyone feel comfortable and to personally include each guest, which can be accomplished through a planned activity, will ensure everyone experiences a memorable evening.
What are your go-to entertaining tips for the holidays? Share with us in the comments.