It’s hard not to feel a bit jealous while watching Ina Garten throw one lavish party after another on the Barefoot Contessa. How does she make entertaining look so effortless?
Of course, while no one becomes the Barefoot Contessa overnight, the basics of throwing an excellent party can be mastered by even the most novice of hosts. We at Alsons Properties are happy to share these no-fail principles with you.
Mix familiar faces with new acquaintances. Each guest must know (and like!) at least two other people in the room. This ensures that everyone has ample opportunities to meet new people, while still having a few familiar “fallbacks” to rely on so they won’t feel out of place.
Handwritten invitations show that you care. Your invitation is the first peek your guests will have of your party, so make a good impression. A card carries a certain thoughtfulness to it that an emailed invitation simply cannot replicate.
Send invitations early. One week in advance is typical for more casual gatherings, while 3 weeks is considered standard for more formal events.
Don’t forget the fine print! Aside from the date, time, venue, and suggested attire for the party, make sure your invitation also asks guests to indicate whether they’ll be bringing a plus-one or if they have dietary restrictions (i.e. if they’re vegan).
Follow up conscientiously. A good rule of thumb is the 14-7-3 Rule: Follow up your guests’ attendance 14 days, 7 days, and 3 days before the event. This allows you to keep on top of the headcount with ample time.
Start planning your menu early. If you plan to cook, start drafting your menu at least six weeks in advance so you know exactly what ingredients to shop for. If you plan to have your event catered, your catering company usually needs a final headcount about one week before the party for smaller events or 10-plus days for larger gatherings.
Prep everything in advance. You don’t want to be slaving in the kitchen by the time the guests arrive. To avoid this scenario, wash and pre-cut all vegetables and meat the night before so you can focus solely on cooking during the day of the event.
Always Have More Food Than You Think You Need. When you’re making estimates for a party, always err on the side of excess—no one will ever complain about having too much to eat. In general, people will eat about six pieces of appetizers each and consume about one-and-a-half servings of the main dish.
No Experimental Recipes. It might be tempting to debut that new casserole dish at your next party, but don’t use your guests as guinea pigs. Stick to tried-and-true dishes that are already crowd favorites. You can pilot test new concoctions at smaller, more intimate dinner parties.
Always have meat-free fare. We all have that friend who is a vegetarian or is perpetually on a diet. As such, always have healthier, meat-free dishes on offer during parties so everyone feels catered to. And don’t put in a token effort by simply assembling a salad bar—there are many delectable vegetarian dishes that you can serve, and certain food, such as pasta dishes, can be served with meat-free sauce options.
Keep drinks flowing. Nothing loosens people up and gets them in a socializing mood quite like libations—as long as there’s enough to go around. As a general rule, each guest will imbibe two alcoholic drinks during the first hour of the party, and one drink per hour thereafter.
Stock lots of ice. For a typical party, allocate about one pound of ice for every guest in attendance. If it’s an outdoor party, double the amount of ice you order.
Offer a self-serve bar. A self-serve bar allows guests to become their own mixologists, a fun and interactive alternative to simply offering them more drinks. Plus, it allows the host to focus more on entertaining guests—their main duty.
Have non-alcoholic beverages. Whether by choice or by necessity, certain guests will not drink alcoholic beverages at your party. As with vegetarians, cater to non-drinkers by providing them with non-alcoholic drinks such as coffee, juices, sodas or even “mocktails.”
Have a dedicated greeter. Guests should feel welcome from the moment they step into your home. For this reason, you’ll want to have a dedicated greeter to meet them at the door. This person will often be the host, but you can also ask your spouse or another family member to welcome guests on your behalf.
Hire servers. The bigger your party is, the harder it will be to look after each and every guest. To make hosting a bit easier, consider hiring servers. As a general rule, you’ll want one bartender and two waitstaff for every 50 guests.
Introduce guests to each other. As host, your job is to serve as the social conduit for your guests. When someone arrives, take them to people they already know or introduce them to a group that you think they’d be interested in meeting. It’s also your job to get the conversation going among newly introduced guests. Leading off with common interests is a great way to start: “Tess, I’d like you to meet Linda, who’s also a gardening enthusiast.”
Pace yourself. You’ve got a long night ahead of you, so be sure to pace your drinking. A good tip is to only start having drinks midway through the party, when you’ve already welcomed and attended to most of your guests.
Keep these tips in mind and you’ll soon be throwing parties that everyone will be excited to attend. For more tips on entertaining at home, follow our Facebook page or subscribe to the Alsons Properties our newsletter.