“Do I have to invite significant others?”, “Do I need to pay for my plate?”, “Speeches??” are all questions that seem to follow people when they are planning a wedding. However, most of us don’t regularly host weddings but rather casual get-togethers at home with friends and family. This final post in my etiquette series is all about hosting casual parties yourself, and to make the best of it for you and your guests. A little bit of etiquette can go a long way to easy, smooth, and successful parties at home, and make your guests feel that much more comfortable!
Great Get-Togethers: Casual Gatherings and Elegant Parties at Home from Anna and Lizzie Post is one of my favourite etiquette books out there! It is incredibly useful, because I think that a lot of us do end up hosting casual get-togethers at home but it can sometimes be a tad overwhelming to think of all the things you need to think of. What I love about the Emily Post Institute today is that they very much focus on useful etiquette and what makes sense for normal people in today’s day and age- it’s incredibly accessible and flexible.
1) Plan Ahead
If you are anything like my group of friends, you are busy and booked up for 4-6 weeks ahead even when you think that you have a ton of time to spare at first thought. For dinner parties, birthday parties, anniversaries, and really any get-together, reach out to your guests at least 4-6 weeks ahead of when you plan to have the event. You don’t need to send specific invitations more than 3 weeks ahead but do do a general check-in to see if it’s a good date overall or if you should reconsider/move it. An invitation to a casual party at home doesn’t need to be anything fancy, an email invitation will do, but make sure to send all specific details for guests to have ahead of time. (If it is a party in honour of someone, do ensure that you have checked that they are available for the party. It seems straight forward, but is forgotten more than you think…)
Check with all guests on your intended party date(s) and send out an invitation with an RSVP 2-3 weeks ahead of time!
2) Choose Your Meal Wisely
If you have a theme for your party, I would recommend having your food somewhat match the theme- if your theme is Paris at night but you serve tacos, people may be slightly confused. I personally believe that parties are the perfect place to get creative with your food and try new things, so this is good opportunity to spend some time on Pinterest looking up new recipes to try! When you are checking in with people for the date, also ask if there are any dietary restrictions that you should know about. (Most people who do have allergies/restrictions will know to mention it, but as the host, it’s a nice reminder.) Make sure that you plan proportions correctly; I always plan for the number of guests plus 2 more in case of any last minute additions or mishaps. Lizzie and Anna also have a great recommendation for when the food is running short- FHB, or Family Hold Back. Your close family can take smaller portions and wait for all of the other guests to try the dishes before going in.
When planning your meal, take theme, number of guests, and dietary restrictions into account!
3) Finishing Touches
When it comes to parties, I remember three things- was the food tasty, was there somewhere comfortable to sit to chat/play games/eat/do whatever, and was there anything unique? If you are hosting said Paris at night party, a quiet playlist of French classics is a great touch to finish off the party. If it’s a birthday party, a candle or two is a nice touch for the birthday person! And if you are dying to host a fiesta, maybe it’s time to finally get that pinata you have been dreaming of. I’m a big fan of DIY and dollar store options for these finishing touches, they don’t have to break the bank and you don’t have to spend hours and hours transforming your home (we know it’s your home), but it can make your guests feel special and gives them something that will really stand out for them.
Don’t leave a party unfinished- all of the end details should have as much thought as the date and the food! They don’t have to be anything big but guests will remember them.
4) Truly Act the Host
As the host, it is your job to run the party and ensure that all of your guests are happy, comfortable, and enjoying themselves. If you are making the food, make sure that everything is already made prior to guests arriving, as you should be greeting and spending time with them rather than stuck in the kitchen! If someone is making the food for you, make sure that they have any instructions needed ahead of time. When guests arrive, introduce them to the other guests to avoid awkward moments later in the party! (Include a piece of information with their name, as that can make it easier to remember.) Make sure to have somewhere that guests may put their glasses down (with coasters) if it is a standing party. Have clean hand towels, fresh soap, and lots of toilet paper in the washroom so that people don’t have to come and ask if there is more.
As the host, you are there to be the social conductor of the party- you can make sure that your guests have what they need to feel comfortable and to enjoy the party!
What is your go-to meal for hosting parties? And as a bonus, is there any other etiquette you would like to see here in the future?