‘Tis the season for parties, lots of them. Which means lots of traveling, socializing and knowing how to entertain. Here for your quick etiquette pleasure, updated for the new social media world, are Adventure Mom, Fast Talking Fran Capo’s tips on how to be the perfect host so you have a happy household filled with guests who look forward to your parties year after year.
How to be the Perfect Host
Let’s face it, anyone can host a party or gathering at their house, but making it memorable and welcoming long after your affair is over is another thing. If your guests are traveling to get to you, you want to make sure they are comfortable once they arrive, and aren’t keeping the Uber guy outside in case they need a quick escape. Here are 15 quick tips on how to be the perfect host. (BTW this is the perfect companion article to How to be a great guest. I’m just saying!)
SEND DETAILED INVITATIONS
While it is traditional to send out snail mail invites, I’ve chosen to go green and send either e-mail or text message invites instead. This way if my desired guests are traveling, they can get the invite instantly instead of standing guard at their mailbox. This also ensures I get quick answers and am in direct communication with them.
Besides the essential info, include details so it avoids questions down the line. That means including things like: Bring bathing suit; non-alcoholic party; adults only; casual attire; bring camera, cool surprises await; let us know if you plan on staying over; there will be an elephant outside the house with a balloon so you know it’s our house. Basically, set the tone for the party.
Tell people the best way to reach you the day of the party i.e.: phone, text, etc. and give a backup number (like your spouse’s) in case you are busy and don’t hear the phone and guests are lost.
Also if you don’t want gifts, suggest they donate to your favorite charity in your name. (We did that for our wedding. Hey it was my 3rd wedding, and how many toaster ovens do I really need?)
KNOW YOUR GUESTS AND CATER TO THEM
Know your guests and do little things to make them feel special. Do they have food or pet allergies? Do they have a “Special” number? (I sat my in-laws who love the #13, at table 13 at my wedding, even through there were only 9 tables.
Do they like certain things in their coffee or the way you make carob chip cookies? If it’s an outside event, do they get cold easy? If so have hand warmers or extra jackets on hand.
If it’s a mixed-age crowd play music from different generations. Do any of them have trouble walking up or down stairs? If so have something set up so they can stay on one floor or arrange it so they can sit in an area where they can see all the activity. Making your guests happy ensures for a great party.
PREPARE, THINK CONTINGENCIES & MAKE CHECKLISTS
Once you know the theme or reason for your party, the rest depends on the details. How much food do you need for the number of people coming? What if some Gavon eats like it’s the Last Supper? Do you have a back up emergency food plan–like hot dogs or hamburgers–in case you run out?
Are there enough drinks? Have some powered drinks on hand that you can quickly make just in case. Run out of room in the frig? Put ice in coolers.
Have Tide Pens around and seltzer in case someone spills something on their favorite sweater. Have Tums, Aspirin and allergy meds in case someone is suddenly allergic to Poochie. Have garbage cans around so people can dispose of food easily and not have to hide a dish behind a plant. Have recycle bins for Plastic bottles. bottled water. (I have people label their water bottles with their names so that there are not a million wasted half-drank bottles lying around.)
If it’s an outdoors party, have bug spray, citronella plants or candles, Band-Aids and a back-up plan if it rains. If it’s an indoors party, have decks of cards, Silly Putty, photo albums and coloring books laying around for people to look at or play with if they want to.
Have plenty of seating. If they are swimming in the lake or using a hot tub have stacks of towels around and a bin to put the dirty ones in. Just think details and contingencies.
BUY THE RIGHT TOILET PAPER
If you are having a lot of guests, make sure to buy 1 ply toilet paper so nothing backs up. Nothing says ruined party like a toilet flood.
MAKE HOUSE RULES KNOWN SO THAT NO ONE IS MADE TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE, NOT EVEN YOU, THE HOST.
Unless you are inviting the Great Kreskin over, people do not know your house rules. So make them known so that people are not walking on eggshells. I have a sign that says, “Please remove THY SHOES” Upon entering. That way, the know the deal. Unless, of course, they can’t read English. In case someone is uncomfortable with that, I have slippers they can wear around the house.
Post a sign with arrows telling guests where to park. If guests have to park on the street, tell them in advance where they can park without getting a ticket in your neighborhood. Some neighbors allow friends to have guests park in their driveways. Ask if that is an option. Make it easy for everyone to come and go without having to have a monster truck to get out.
GREET ALL GUESTS WARMLY AND ENTHUSIASTICALLY and INTRODUCE THEM IN A MEANINGFUL WAY TO OTHERS.
While you don’t have blow a trumpet a big smile with, “So glad you can make it.” And a hug goes a long way. Let them know you appreciated they fought through airport security or traffic to see you.
After the hugging, kissing, shoulder pats and handshakes, introduce them around. (Unless of course they are all family, then they should already know and hate each other accordingly.) If it’s a party of friends or co-workers, put some meat into your introduction: “This is my childhood friend Viv, I’ve known her since 3rd grade. She got me into scuba diving. She’s a scientist and is in from Ohio. She knows a lot of funny stories about me.”
Or “This is my friend, Puzzle Artist Alli Berman who also developed a Brain Fitness Program that is being used in over 30 countries around the world. She helps people with their memory and eyesight. So if you can’t see me or remember my name, talk to her.”
If you give people a running start, it easier for them to connect with each other.
ALWAYS HAVE AT LEAST ONE SURPRISE FOR YOUR GUESTS
Every year I throw myself a “37”-year-old birthday bash. One year we built a 150- foot water slide and had llamas show up. Another year, I had a petting zoo complete with crocodiles and baby kangaroos and ended with a crystal bowl meditation. Another year we had a giant obstacle course and sumo wrestling.
During my recent wedding before the first dance we had our minister, “The Great Throwdini” throw knives at us and had a nun bust in and pretend to break up the wedding.
At Thanksgiving I cut out a bikini from aluminum foil and placed it on the turkey so that when it came out it had tan lines. We also had a flowing fountain of chocolate and a fruit platter that looked like a turkey.
During Christmas we had brain fitness lessons, adult coloring books, a flute player and Hula Hooping contests. At New Years we did a midnight run, another year we had a Trampoline Jumping contest and told funny stories.
Be creative. Celebrate life. Have fun.
GIVE THE TOUR
Upon arrival if someone has never been to my house I give them the “The Tour.” The tour includes showing cool artwork like Magic Eye Drawings, moving miniature robots and unusual artifacts from my travels around the world. I also always show guests where essentials like bathrooms and spare toilet paper can be found, where coats are to be kept, where the drinks are, and any other party essentials.
KEEP A GUEST BOOK AND PEN AND PAPER FOR PEOPLE To CONNECT
My friend Rose, once suggested I keep a guest book for all who visit my home. I do and love it. It reminds me of all the love that has come through our doors over the years. I also keep a pen and paper handy for anyone who might not have business cards and wants to connect later.
CURB YOUR PETS
If your pets have manners, then by all means keep them out. But if they are the annoying or mischievous type (and you know if they are even if you love them) them keep them in a separate room for the party.
You don’t want your dog greeting someone’s private parts, begging for food under the table, or jumping up with wet paws on someone’s nice party outfit. Likewise, you don’t want your cat climbing on the table looking for scraps.
And, if your pet is supposed to be kept indoors and it’s an outdoor party you don’t want people to have to play tackle if by accident they let your pet out.
FOR OVERNIGHT GUESTS
If lots of people are staying over (like 10 or more) either make sure you have enough room, or let them know in advance it will be a slumber party with blow up mattresses and plenty of pillows and blankets. Guests are good if you tell them in advance.
If only a few guests are staying over and they are in the guest rooms, prep the rooms right. In each guest room I have: bottled water and mints on the nightstand, towels, washcloth, extra blanket, room heater, luggage rack, reading lamp, 2 choices of pillows, extra toothpaste, different types of soap, guest bathrobes, night lights, flashlights, a dish to put their jewelry in, saline solution in case someone wears contact lenses, hair dryer, spare socks and even girls and boys underwear in case they forgot.
I also give them the Wi-Fi-guest password in case they want to go on the Internet at night. For the morning I have a variety of breakfast foods, both cold and hot, and gluten and dairy free options. And even though I personally don’t drink coffee, I have a variety of kinds so they can help themselves, along with sugar, honey, milk, cream, and Stevia to give them a choice of how they like it. I also have a wide variety of teas.
I also let them know where to put the towels, or if they need to strip the bed afterwards. Hey–I want to be a good host, not a maid service.
BE A HAPPY HOST
Now with all that said, happiness breeds happiness. Remember to breathe and have fun at your own party! A frazzled host is not good for the guests.
DEPARTING…IT’S A MOM THING
Send them home with leftovers, give them energy drinks, water or coffee for the road and, if it’s late at night, have them text you they made it home OK. Once everyone is present and accounted for…head to sleep. You earned it!
GRATITUDE…THE LAST WORD
If guests bring gifts, keep a list so you can send personalized thank you notes later. If it’s a holiday party, just send out a text telling them you were happy they were able to join you or how much fun you had seeing them. Then sit back and relax knowing your guests will look forward to your party next year.