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How to be a Great Host (or Hostess!) at a Party

How to be a Great Host (or Hostess!) at a Party

how to be a great host

How to be a Great Host (or Hostess!) at a Party

Have you ever wanted to throw a dinner, cocktail, or movie party for your family and friends but realized you don’t know how to be a great host and got cold feet? We all know that one person who is always the best host or hostess. They throw a party and everything feels warm and welcoming, your needs are met, the food is great, nothing runs out, everything runs smoothly, and everyone is having a good time. You probably didn’t even notice all of those details but felt content and sensed an overall hominess. 

The truth is,  some people naturally have this innate sense of hospitality. But the good news is that even if you’re not born with this “hospitality gene,” you, too, can still be a great host! Whether you’re hosting a holiday for family or throwing a dinner party for friends, there are aspects of good hospitality that can be learned. And we’ve gathered a few tips for you. If you want to know how to be a great host (or hostess!) at a party, follow along with these basic tips!

1. Accept help

2. Give yourself more time than you think you need

3. Set the ambiance

4. Be strategic with the menu

5. Anticipate needs

6. Have a cleanup plan

7. Have fun!

1. Accept help

The first (and maybe most important!) tip for how to be a great host is to always be ready to accept help. You don’t have to be superhuman and you don’t have to do it all yourself, so don’t try to! Delegating is a critical part of good leadership, and that includes being the leader (host) of a party. If someone offers to help, don’t pridefully brush it off and claim you don’t need it. There’s always some task that would be a relief to have someone else help check off your to-do list. And if no one has offered to help, be proactive about recruiting a spouse, sibling, older child, or friend!

2. Give yourself more time than you think you need

Another one of the most important tips for how to be a great host is to prepare for the fact that most things will take longer than you anticipate. Being organized and planning ahead is essential for being a good host. However, don’t shortchange yourself when planning out certain tasks. As a general rule, add about 25% more time than you expect a task to take you into your plans. If you anticipate something to take you an hour to complete, schedule it with an extra 15 minutes added. 

You never know when a wreck on the highway might cause a 15-minute delay to your final supply run. But if you always give yourself a time buffer, those surprises life throws at you won’t cause as much anxiety. And the best thing is that if you get finished early, you have extra time on your hands to fine-tune other preparations. Or even relax and rest!

3. Set the ambiance

If you want to know how to be a great host, make sure you plan to create a comforting ambiance in your home. Pay special attention to creating soft lighting with lamps and candles. Also, make sure your home smells great. Clean your home so it’s fresh, then add scented candles and air fresheners. Not too much that the scent is overbearing but just enough to please your guests’ sense of smell. Additionally, add some other welcoming scents by having some cookies or bread freshly baking in the oven close to arrival time. 

Music is also another important aspect of ambiance in your home for a party. Awkward silences are the worst, so counteract that with some soft music playing in the background. Make sure it’s loud enough to hear, but not too loud to discourage conversation. Some light jazz or coffee shop tunes are an easy go-to for background music. If you’re throwing a party around a holiday check out some curated playlist such as a patriotic playlist for the 4th of July. 

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4. Be strategic with the menu

One of the most crucial tips for how to be a great host is to not over-stress yourself with the menu. What do we mean by that? For starters, as a rule, don’t plan to make any dish you would be making for the first time. If you have guests coming, it’s not the time to try out a new recipe that you’ve never successfully tested out before. If you try out a new dish on the day of the party and it doesn’t work out, you might be left scrambling to make up something else. 

Also, don’t try to cook more than one thing on the day of the event. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to have one cooked entree, and three other sides or salads to go with it that you are able to throw together or prepare the day before. Cheese Boards and appetizers that you can prepare in advance are crowd-pleasers that go a long way, too! Don’t be over-ambitious and try to cook too many things on the day of the event and end up fighting yourself for oven and stove top space while frantically losing time!

5. Anticipate needs

If you’re wondering how to be a great host, one of the simplest answers is to anticipate the needs of your guests. However, this simple answer involves a lot. Anticipating needs includes seeing to the comfort of your guests in every aspect you can think of, and being prepared for it ahead of time. Some examples of this might include:

  • Providing easy access to extra toilet paper rolls 
  • Having an adequate amount of food and drinks per person (and including provisions for extras)
  • If drinks (etc.) are self-serve, make sure your guests are aware of that and familiarize them with the location of ingredients and tools
  • Establish an appropriate comfortable temperature for your home, allowing that with extra bodies in the room it tends to get warmer
  • Make sure your guests are aware of all the pertinent locations of your home for the party, such as the bathroom, coat closet, kitchen, dining area, route to the backyard, etc. 
  • If you see appetizers, dishes, or drinks running low, be prepared with extras already put together in the fridge or set to the side

6. Have a cleanup plan

One of the least pleasant parts of hosting a party is the cleanup. But it doesn’t have to be stressful if you have a plan! So part of how to be a great host is to plan ahead how you want to approach the cleanup process. If it will work out best for you to leave the dishes in the sink until the next day, put that clearly in your plans. Having a definite plan to attack the after-party cleanup will help distance you from the stress of all the mess before you go to bed. However, if it’s best that you get it done right away, don’t shy away from recruiting a little help to avoid losing sleep! 

7. Have fun!

Last but certainly not least, one of the most important aspects of how to be a great host is to remember to relax and have fun! Your guests will feel like a burden and won’t feel welcome if they sense that you’re overworking yourself and not having fun. Remember that the point of hosting a party is to spend quality time with your guests. You want to be aware of their needs and make sure they have a good time. And sometimes one of the best ways to do that is to make sure you’re having a good time, too! It will put your guests at ease and set a tone they will all want to follow.

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