We've all seen it on TV and in movies: the perfect dinner party with great food, a beautiful dining room, and, of course, the perfect hostess. It can be a lot of pressure! With all of the preparation that goes into hosting a party, it's not unusual to have some anxieties about how successful it will be.
But the most important part about throwing a party is not only that your guests enjoy themselves, but that you enjoy yourself too. Try some of these tips the next time you throw a party and you'll flourish in your role as a hostess.
1. Give yourself lots of time
As soon as you decide you're going to throw a party, start planning. Draw up a guest list, send out invites, get a head count, and start thinking about what food you'll serve and how you'll be decorating. Being prepared takes a lot of the stress out of hosting an event and will let you enjoy yourself more when the day arrives. On the day, make sure you're giving yourself enough time to complete your tasks for the event, whether it's doing a final clean of your home, setting the table, or doing some last-minute food and drink prep.
2. Keep the guest list small
If you don't like the idea of throwing a huge party, don't! Keep your guest list small if you're more comfortable in small groups. Doing this will also allow you to invite your closest friends, making for a more enjoyable evening with people you're closest to. There may come a time in your life when you have to throw a bigger party than you're used to, but starting off small is a great start.
3. Simplify your menu
One of the best tricks for being a great hostess goes hand in hand with planning ahead: do as much preparation before your party as possible. Try choosing a menu that doesn't require you to be stuck in the kitchen the whole time. Make some appetizers, salads, and desserts the day of (or even the day before), so all you have to do once your guests arrive is heat the food in the oven and put some finishing touches on the meal.
4. Don't cook something new
Throwing a dinner party is not the time for debuting a new recipe, especially if you're someone who gets anxious. Your dinner party is more likely to be successful if you cook something you've made before, you know is going to turn out well, and you know tastes great. By all means, if you want to try something new, just make sure you try it at least once before the day of your dinner party. Worrying how a new dish will turn out will only add to the pressure.
5. Invite a close friend over early
It's easy to get anxious or nervous before social situations, especially when you feel the pressure to throw a great party. To ease yourself into it, ask a close friend to come over early. They can help with setting up the party and prepping any food that you need help with, but having someone there will also make you more comfortable before everyone else starts to arrive. Having someone to chat with and laugh with before people start arriving can really help you loosen up and get you into the socializing spirit, especially if it's someone you're close with.
6. Make sure your house smells good and has enough lighting
Lighting is important for setting the mood of the party, so make sure you've tested out your lighting a couple of evenings before to make sure it's adequate and is giving off the right vibes. Similarly, scents help set the tone as well. If you're feeling anxious, try calming yourself with some lavender essential oil — it will be soothing and inviting for your guests as well!
7. Set boundaries
Your home is your happy place, and most people are willing to respect your space and the rules you set. But it's up to you to let people know what's off limits in your home. Ask people to take their shoes off when they arrive if that's important to you, keep doors shut to off-limits rooms, and establish any other rules upfront with your guests. If you don't tell them, they won't know.
8. Enlist some help
Hosting a party doesn't mean you have to take on every little thing yourself. If it makes it easier for you, ask some people to bring extra appetizers or desserts to lighten your load. If someone asks if you need help in the kitchen, you don't have to be a martyr. Having someone to help will make you feel more relaxed, and you'll get to do some socializing instead of being stuck in the kitchen by yourself. And don't be afraid to ask people to help with the cleanup!
There will likely always be one or two people you're not quite as familiar with at your dinner party, whether it's your partner's friend from work or a friend's significant other. Make an effort to chat with everyone at your party, even if it's just for a few minutes. Your job as the hostess is to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome, and this is the best way to do that. And don't worry about awkward silences — that's what music is for!