Hosting with Style
Whether Throwing Together an Impromptu Party or Dinner for Friends, These Simple Tips Will
Help You Entertain in Style
It’s Saturday night and a coterie of your co-workers and their spouses will descend upon your house for an informal party. You want them to have a good time, to enjoy themselves and to leave satisfied. Most importantly, though, you want them to be impressed with your stylish party. Don’t despair. By following just a few simple guidelines—and a little bit of careful planning—your guests will think they’ve just stepped into an episode of Mad Men.
1.) THE SETTING: Your home is your domain, and chances are it’s comfortable for you. But not everyone will have the same appreciation for that collection of vintage Princess Diana Beanie Babies you’ve amassed on eBay. Glance around your living room and make sure it’s decluttered. Personal effects should be stowed. So should magazines. It’s nice for people to have something to flip through, but a table full of magazines can undermine conversation and turn your living room into a dead zone. That goes for the remote controls, too. Unless it’s movie night, the T.V. stays off.
2.) THE ATMOSPHERE: Lighting is important. Too dark, and your friends won’t want to hang around in Dracula’s Castle. Too bright, they’ll think you are prepping for surgery. So strike a balance. If your lights are on dimmers, knock it down a bit and be sure to keep tuning it up as the evening progresses. Also, think indirect lighting, but only so long as it fills the room. The last thing you want are people leaving, because they feel like the cast of an Ed Wood film.
3.) THE TUNES: Music is that afterthought we toss on once we’ve done everything else. Sure, there’s Dianna Krall and a bit of Nora Jones never killed anyone. So you put the iPod on shuffle and begin a nice conversation with your boss over chevre brioche. Five minutes later, the conversation is interrupted when your shuffle strays into your workout selection and Semi-Precious Weapons starts shouting about paying the rent. Avoid this embarrassment by sitting down at the computer and programming a playlist that matches the mood you’re hoping to set. And who know? Maybe Semi-Precious Weapons is what you are going for. In which case, ditch the Nora Jones.
4.) THE FOOD: Anyone can pop by the big box by the airport and pick up some cream puffs and pinwheels. But where’s the fun in that? While pre-made finger foods can help in a pinch, you’ll want to make sure your friends feel like you’ve put forth an effort. No matter the method of delivery from the store, food should never be served in the packaging it was delivered in. Place those cream puffs on a tiered tray and add in some fresh berries. Pinwheels look great on long sushi plates, too. And under no circumstances do you serve a sandwich tray on plastic. Take the time to transfer all those meats and cheeses to a series of several dishes. It’ll allow ease of service at a buffet and give you the flexibility to spread the plates around. With the food goes the conversation!
5.) THE BEVERAGE: You keep your vodka in the freezer, just above the orange juice in the fridge. It makes sense, since that’s how you use it. But what about your friends? Consider the flow pattern of your party and the desires of your guests. Most guests will come in, visit for a moment and then head for the bar. Your bar should be close enough that it welcomes your guests but far enough away from the entrance that it doesn’t create a bottle neck. Also, be sure you have a good variety of what people will want to drink. That means you’ll need a couple of bottles of wine—red and white, and some liquor. There are your staples of vodka, gin and bourbon. And then you’ll want a couple of mixers. Consider keeping on hand some orange juice, cranberry juice, tonic and soda water, and a good margarita mix. That should cover most of the bases. And if you really want to spice things up, consider serving Captain Morgan, Coke and lime…if only because it’s fun to hear your guests saying “Cuba Libre” all night.