Throwing parties is the best. I started off my adult life with no hostessing skills at all beyond muttering “keg’s on the back porch.” But after learning from a few missteps and reading up a bit on hospitality, I think I’ve started to get the hang of it. While I have learned to love smaller dinner parties and shindigs, for me nothing compares to throwing a big party. However, most of my hostessing tips can be applied to parties of all sizes.
Communicate with guests. Whether through Facebook, Evite, email, or phone, make sure to give your guests all the information they need (start time? food or no food? BYOB?), and a reminder if necessary. You may want a casual get-together, but you can’t be casual about the logistics. A party won’t happen if no one knows what’s going on.
Clean your house. Seriously. Do it. Even if you’re just having a few friends over to watch Glee. If a full house/apartment cleaning isn’t feasible, focus on the bathroom, and whatever room(s) your guests will be spending the most time.
Do your prep work. Whether you’re cooking a full meal or just cutting up some veggies, be sure to do as much of the work as possible ahead of time. You don’t want to be the invisible hostess, spending all your time in the kitchen or behind the bar.*
Go shopping. Don’t have a poorly-stocked party. If you’re serving alcohol, even if it’s in keg-and-solo-cup form, have some food for your guests. Low-maintenance munchies like chips and dip, pretzels, a few veggies or cheese are all you need. Conversely, just because you worked hard on a multi-course dinner doesn’t mean you can neglect the drinks. You can pick a few options that complement your food.
On tempering your expectations:
Expect your guests to be late. You know them best, and it’s not a question of whether they’ll be late, but just how late they will be. Decide what a realistic amount of tardiness is for your group (30 minutes? An hour?) and plan accordingly. This will help you select both the advertised start time, and the timing for your food and refreshments.
Realize your party isn’t as important to anyone else as it is to you. This overlaps a bit with the tardiness piece, but really you need to be prepared not to take anything personally. Some people won’t show up who said they would. Some people might “stop by” for a few minutes on their way somewhere else. Someone might spill or break something. This has happened at every party that’s ever happened, so don’t stress about it.
On making the most of the event:
Check your rations. Don’t wait until a friend approaches you to ask if you have any more toilet paper. Make sure that the TP is stocked, the hand towels aren’t soaked, the garbage doesn’t overflow”¦this stuff isn’t fun to do but it’s even less fun for your company to have to deal with.
Deputize. Pick someone ““ a roommate, a good friend, your long-suffering significant other, to be on standby if you need help. Maybe even get him or her to deal with some of the un-pleasantries above.
Enjoy it. To me, it’s so exhilarating to be in my own apartment when it’s packed with people. It’s a weird feeling, but my house really does take on a life of its own as it overflows with sound and conversation and life. While you have a lot of responsibilities as hostess, you also invited these people to your house for a reason: you like them. Make sure to spend plenty of time mingling and enjoying your friends.
*A hidden danger of this scenario is that, once the food portion of the evening is over, you have the urge to “catch up” with your guests, who’ve been drinking for hours. This is a bad idea: you’re dehydrated, you’re tired, and you’re going to end up passing out at your own party and being put to bed by one of your guests.