When entertaining or hosting a function it’s important to remember that all the fine china and crystal in the world cannot replace the graciousness and warmth your guests will experience from you – it’s what ensures they will have a memorable evening.
Here are 6 tips to be a great hostess when you next host a lunch or dinner party to remember:
1. Plan your guest list and invitation
- Give at least 3 week’s notice when inviting guests, especially at very busy times such as the end of the year.
- Enquire as to any allergies, religious dietary requirements, likes and dislikes when guests reply to your invitation.
- Invite people who are likely to be interesting to one another. Don’t seat two people next to each other that have opposing views on politics, religion etc, the resultant fireworks might frighten your other guests.
2. Give your guests a warm welcome
- When guests arrive ensure you are the first to welcome them. Indicate where they can sit – don’t abandon them and rush off to the kitchen.
- Introduce all your guests. Don’t assume they have all met. Your introductions should provide additional information to get the conversation flowing “James went to varsity with Derek” or “Alison and I are both originally from P.E.”
- Keep pets and children out of sight – not everyone finds small or furry things cute.
- If you have guests that smoke – indicate to them where they may smoke such as on the veranda or garden. Provide ashtrays.
3. Serve pre-dinner drinks and snacks
- Guests should be offered a drink within 15 minutes of arriving.
- Have snacks on offer to ensure that your guests don’t faint with hunger or the drinks go to their head too quickly.
4. Consider how you want to seat your guests
- If it’s a formal sit down dinner – use place cards to indicate seating arrangements. At a more informal meal indicate to your guests where you want them seated.
- Seat people that have common interests together – like similar hobbies, professions or business interests.
- Its customary to sit male and female alternated at formal parties. Less formal – play it by ear e.g. a very shy individual pair him with a caring extrovert. Exercise your common sense when pairing people at parties.
- The host and hostess usually sit at either end of the table (with hostess closest to the kitchen).
- If guests swap their name place cards, ignore it. Your job is to be the caring host.
5. Serve your main course with style
- Serve dinner no later than 90 minutes after the time indicated on the invitation.
- Don’t be overly ambitious with your meal. A simple, well put together menu, far outweighs an elaborate one that is not tasty or too adventurous for most palates.
- Don’t make excuses for your meal such as “It usually turns out much better than this”
- Food is served from the left and plates are removed from the right.
- The table is usually cleared of everything except glasses before dessert is served.
6. Let your guests know when dinner is finished
- The hostess signals dinner is finished by placing her napkin on the table and saying something like “Let’s move into the living room for some coffee or after dinner drinks”
The number one rule for any host is to keep your guests happy and not needing anything. Pay attention to any problems that might arise and come up with a quick solution.
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