When hosting a party, a host's top priority should be their guests, and that they're comfortable. For Mitchell Crosby (@JMCCharleston), that means always being prepared for the weather. "Regardless of what it is, that means umbrella stands, coat racks, a fire, fans, or bug spray!" And never running out of food, wine, or music.
So what should your first step be when planning a party? According to our experts, it should be the theme. "Think about what kind of event you want to host and plan your menu around that," suggests Megan Morrison of Berghoff Catering (@mmorrison2107). Nor should a theme just be limited to the décor and menu, adds entertaining expert Coryanne Ettiene (@housewifebliss). Use it to inspire your cocktails, playlist, and even party favors and attire, if you wish.
Whether you're hosting a party during the day or at night, lighting matters, says Kate Sasnett at Soiree Catering & Events (@katesoiree). Candles are a natural choice, as they always lend a warm atmosphere, and a little goes a long way. Short on cash? She suggests forgoing flowers and instead loading tables with tons of small tea lights and votive candles.
There is no better way to make guests feel welcome than being greeted by a host with a large smile on their face and a tray of cocktails — lifestyle expert The Haute Wife (@hautewife) and Morrison agree. "Having a signature drink to greet guests with is always a fun way to start an event and keep guests happy."
When considering the décor for a party, begin with the centerpieces and don't feel limited by flowers. "Be creative," says The Haute Wife. "A bowl of citrus fruit can be just as beautiful as a floral arrangement," she suggests. Sebrell Smith (@sebrellsmith) likes using vegetables standing end on end in cheap vases — it works for lemons and limes at the bar, too.
Don't want to spend money on décor that won't last after the party? "Consider using plants that can be planted after the party, like herbs," suggests the team at Duvall Events (@duvallevents). Something unusual not only catches guests' eyes, but it can also act as a discussion piece for the night.
“An unexpected element, a surprise, makes for a great party,” says event planner Linnea Johansson, who has planned events for the Kardashian sisters. Morroccan hotelier Maryam (@mymarrakesh) agrees, "It makes it memorable." If you have a budget like Kim Kardashian, you might choose a full performance by a team of synchronized swimmers, but for the rest of us, consider a face painter, or a fortune teller.
Can't decide between a buffet and plated food when hosting a dinner party? While it might initially cost more to pay for the extra service staff, the team at LRE Catering (@lrecatering) favors plated meals if you have a tight budget. At the end of the day, you'll save money when it comes to food costs by serving smaller portions. Plus, less food goes to waste.
Once the planning is done, a party host's top priority should be their guests. Make sure they're comfortable by ensuring that they have a drink in hand and that they know others around them. If you don't know anyone in the room, the host should make introductions, says Juliet Douglas (@greenorchid). Sasnett agrees. "I love when a hostess stands at the front door and greets every guest personally and makes introductions."
The easiest way to get into trouble when hosting a party is to bite off more than you can chew. "Pick a few simple items for the menu and bar, a couple of small centerpieces, then good music," recommends Douglas. And should something happen, Tara Wilson (@savvysoutherner) reminds us to roll with the punches. "There is no such thing as a perfect party!"
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While it can be nice to be left with some leftovers after a dinner party, sometimes there is just too much to pack into the fridge (plus, can a host really eat it all before it spoils?). Jennifer Grove (@skyblueevents) suggests making cleanup easy by having reusable storage containers for party guests to take home extras as favors. No waste!
No matter how hard you try to throw a flawless party, some little surprise always sneaks its way in. Wilson always has an event kit, stocked with tape, Tide stain pens, aspirin, and safety pins, in case of accidents. Did a cocktail glass leave a watermark on your antique coffee table?
Smith always has a jar of Vaseline on hand to prevent the ring from ruining the surface. Hired staff to lend you a hand? Make sure they know where all the cleaning supplies are, recommends Sasnett. As for stains, Crosby avoids serving red wine and black caviar when possible, but should an accident happen, he always has plenty of Clorox pens and club soda on hand for stain fighting.
Our experts agree — save time on party day by doing as much in advance as possible. Sasnett loves making a homemade peach salsa the day before, then topping crackers with a smear of goat cheese and a dollop of salsa for an appetizer — and anything braised or slow cooked for an entrée. You can make it two days in advance, and it will taste even better by the time you serve it. And don't forget foods that you can serve at room temperature, like sushi or beef tenderloin, adds Wilson.