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My mother was a great hostess.  I think this was something innate in her gregarious family, and also learned from her years working as a diplomat in the United Nations in New York in the 1960’s. The photo is from one of the great parties she used to throw for us.  Can you guess who I am?

She passed me on a few tips I’d like to share with you.

So here are my 10 simple rules to hosting a successful party:

  1. You’re the host, be happy!  Your guests will follow your cues and your energy. Greet them warmly when you first see them, say a little something personal to make them feel they are part of the event.  If they bring a gift or flowers, of course acknowledge it, but also spend a second looking at it so that they know you noticed their effort.
  2. You’re the host, embrace the stress!  Turn the stress into happy energy.  A party is a journey about to unfold and not a bullet train to the final destination.  It’s not possible to predict every circumstance, so if the unexpected happens, make it part of the memory.  If the caterer brought chocolate cake with vanilla frosting instead of vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, laugh it off with your guests and let them in on the secret.
  3. You’re the host, prepare for the stress!  Preparation, preparation, preparation.  It can be time consuming, but the party planning is half the fun, playing out the themes, music, food, and drinks. Start out with an idea, and see where it takes you.  Trying to find inspiration for a party, I remembered I had a string of lights.  I looked out to my backyard and saw a clearing surrounded by trees, which naturally created an intimate space.  I strung the lights over the clearing anchored by the trees, and voila, I had an event space!  I carried the outdoor theme and set up a picnic area with cushions and tables.  This lead to the picnic theme which meant picnic food, specialty spirit-enhanced lemonade, and C&W music.  All from a string of lights!
  4. You’re the host, and the star of your own show!  Give yourself permission to be your best self. You might want to buy something special to wear, or focus on your hairstyle, or carry a prop.  One of my fabulous friends threw a party in her very small apartment.  She embraced every moment (and space) by dressing up like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” replete with a long cigarette holder.  The moment people walked in, they felt they were part of a movie!
  5. Check dates for major conflicting events such as holidays, charity events in town, concerts, and competing parties from your friends and frenemies.  You want your party to be the hottest event in town!
  6. Start with a budget, then add 10%.  Alcohol consumes much of the budget, so start there first and tailor your budget as you go along. There’s a definite corrleation of when the alcohol dries up and when the party ends.
  7. Keep it simple with the alcohol. No doubt adult beverages help elevate the fun.  I’ve found that responsible drinkers are happy with beer, wine, and a spirit with mixers.  Consider a pre-mixed specialty drink already made.  It’s easy and makes the party special.  Don’t forget NA drinks as well.
  8. Try not to spend all your time in the kitchen.  You’re the host, and fun of being the host is mingling with your guests, getting to know them better, and making them comfortable in your home.  The best ways to do this are to prep (see #3), or just let things be a mess and clean it up later, or if you can’t stand the mess consider hiring help like a bartender who can also clean up small things during the downtime. Staying in the kitchen will only add to your stress and sweat levels.
  9. If you’re not hosting a sit down dinner, finger foods or snacks are best.   Party foods are typically salty or savory or sweet.  Strategically place them throughout your event space so people don’t necessarily congregate in one area.  Consider a variety, not just potato chips. For some reason, everyone likes the kitchen!
  10. Try to organize things in a figure 8 to allow people to flow effortlessly from one area to another.  For example, place drinks on one end and snacks on another or away from each other.  Make sure seating and tables are distributed throughout.  But not so far apart that several parties go on at the same time.  This promotes mingling and flow, and energy.

If you want to skip Steps 1-10, here’s a great solution:  Mr. Mann’s Design can do it!  We’ve put on several very very fun and successful events and parties, here and abroad.  Check out the Production link for more. 🙂

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