Knowing how to properly entertain guests in your home can mean the difference between hosting a party people dread to attend or an eagerly anticipated event. These fetes can range from Thanksgiving dinners to backyard barbecues to family reunions, but no matter the occasion, take heed to these seven tips for a wonderful soiree.
Know your numbers
Guests can’t feel comfortable if they are on top of one another, unless it is that kind of party. A little mathematics will be required for hosts who want to make sure guests have enough breathing room.
The number of guests you invite into your home should reflect the square footage of the entertaining space — not the square footage of the entire house, unless you are willing to give your guests free rein of your master bedroom walk-in closet. Ideally, you should allot approximately five square feet of space per guest.
Staff your party
An intimate dinner with eight guests doesn’t require any hired help, and hired help doesn’t mean finding your own version of Downton Abbey’s dutiful butler Mr. Carson. If your occasion has more than 20 invited guests, you might want to enlist the help of a teenaged family member. You can barter hours worked for an extended curfew or a new pair of shoes. Having extra hands to clear plates and refill drinks will relieve some of the hosting duties.
If your large party is more formal and includes coworkers and employers, you may consider hiring professional wait staff with Smart Serve credentials. As a host, you hope all your guests have a wonderful time, but with libations being passed around, be advised that you are liable for the safety of your guests.
Christmas trees, cornucopias, centrepieces and other sundries regularly adorn homes during festive holidays or themed parties, but consider the amount of space your decorations occupy.
If you are having a seated dinner and have purchased or crafted a centrepiece, make sure it is a low-grazing one. It is uncomfortable and awkward for guests who have to tilt and contort to make eye contact with a person on the opposite side of the table. You also don’t want to obstruct any views or paths. Inching around a 12-foot Christmas tree doesn’t always ignite a yuletide feeling.
Children are people too
Two adults and one child does not mean 2.5 guests. A child is an entire person, just a smaller one. And these pints-sized whole humans have needs too; ignore them and their parents won’t feel comfortable and the child will be cranky.
Plastic cups and paper plates might ruin the party’s aesthetic, but broken glass can be a nightmare when little hands and feet are involved. Be sure to set up a spot for children to play — put out paper, crayons, and set up a DVD to keep the younger partygoers happy. If you’re worried about young ones spilling, colouring or projectile barfing on your $3,000 white couch, don’t invite parents with kids to your party. Family-friendly restaurants are a great way to have fun and catch up with the married-with-children set.
Pull out the linen
Paper napkins are fine, practical options for birthday parties and barbecues. But if you want to add a bit of flair and sophistication to your holiday party, pull out the linen napkins. Treat these fabrics the same way you would a Zegna shirt — make sure they're spot-free and pressed.
Candles, candles and candles
Ever wonder why restaurants are dimly lit? It’s not because they are trying to hide cockroaches and dirt in the shadows.
People look good in candlelight. A candlelit room may have a romantic feel, but it will also be harder for your mother-in-law to stress how tired you look.
Set the tone of your party
According to style guru Clinton Kelly, the space you’ve chosen to entertain your guests is a reflection of who you are as a person. Let your personality shine.
Have you mastered the art of penmanship? Why not create place tags showing off your cursive skills. Are you crazy about the colour pink? Add a splash of colour with your napkins and floral arrangements.
But remember the crowd to whom you cater. If your boss, his wife and their young children are attending your party, you might want to tuck away your gothic German erotica posters.
What are your home entertaining must-do's? Let us know in the Comments!