Guest books and hostess diaries swing in and out of fashion. As a child, I watched my grandmother use one – regardless of their popularity – and have yet to see her host a dinner party that was not a complete success. I learned from her the value of taking notes and how a well-managed home always has a stack of journals to tell its story. The hostess diary is by far the most entertaining of them all.
The hostess diary takes all the stress out of party-planning because everything is written down as a reference for the next time you have people over. Once you begin keeping a hostess diary, you can forget about duplicating a meal, making poor seating arrangements, or sending a guest into anaphylactic shock.
You can purchase hostess diaries specifically designed to record dinner party details, or you can create your own. I have done both. However, at the moment, I really favor my blank bound book that I split in half to record both the details of my dinner parties and my guest preferences.
The dinner party section is where I record the menu, special table settings, seating arrangements, how the meal went, memorable aspects of the night, wine served, and what I wore.
The guest preference side helps me keep track of relationships, food preferences/aversions, and other quirky morsels of information that help me in planning the menu and the seating arrangements. For example, at a recent dinner party, I learned that a guest of mine has an aversion to carrots, and another prefers to sit at the end of the table. Naturally, the morning after the party, I made a note of both preferences. Additionally, (and this is important for single guests) I make a note of their date for the night, and what their current relationship status is. The same should be done for couples with small children by writing their birth year, name, and anything else I know about them.
Each time I plan an event, I refer to my hostess diary. It takes the guesswork out of planning a successful dinner party, and makes you a more confident hostess. Best of all, it makes your guests feel welcome and well-looked after.