Hosting is hard. You’re juggling not only producing food and drinks but also balancing a variety of personalities and remaining upbeat and welcoming throughout. I caught up with event planning expert Elizabeth Lutz of Glass Event Planning who shared her no-fail holiday entertaining tips. A hostess through and through, Liza is used to throwing fêtes for hundreds of people, the woman knows what she’s talking about when it comes to throwing a great bash (big or small).
1. Set your time and be clear about it with your guests. If you’re doing a cocktail party from 5PM-7PM for example, you’re going to want to have more food on hand because it’s right in the middle of dinner and people will be hungry. But if your party is from 7PM on people will know that they should have something to eat before and will expect only light apps.
2. You set the tone. If you’re acting awkward and floundering, guests will pick up on it and it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable. Do your best to keep your stress levels low and be a guest at your party too!
3. Flattering lighting is essential. Contained candles (you never want loose candles, unless you’re hosting a seated dinner) floor lamps, and dimmer switches can all create cozy and soft lighting.
4. Keep an eye on your guests. If you’re paying attention you can tell if people’s glasses need to be refilled, if they’re too hot/too cold, or if they’re looking for a trash can. Be there to help out when you see them searching for something.
5. Don’t skimp on apps. If you’re throwing a two-hour cocktail party, each guest is going to need about 14 apps. One appetizer counts as 1 oz. roughly (handy for calculating how much cheese you’d need). Also, when possible serve apps that taste great at room temp, so there’s no pressure.
6. Make sure your house smells great! But not scented. Don’t go overboard with the perfume or use scented candles, it can mess with the taste of the food. The smell of cooking food or baked goods always works to create a cozy feeling.
7. Offer them a drink first thing. Greeting guests with enthusiasm and a drink never hurts! Plus everyone is always more comfortable with a drink (or something) in their hands.
8. No one knows what you wanted the party to look or feel like. People freak out about entertaining because they want it to be perfect. The best advice? Nobody knows what you wanted it to be. What they do know is that they’re going to play off your energy. By the time your guests arrive, you need to have fun and be at peace. They don’t know that you meant to serve rolls but you burned them. The best parties take on a life of their own.
9. You gotta have music! Too loud or too soft, is no good. If it’s too loud then people can’t talk. Use Pandora or Spotify without commercials and pick something that is upbeat. You want people to be having fun!
10. Check in with yourself and rely on your five senses. Touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound will all be important, make sure they’re all engaged when you have guests over.