12 Top Entertaining Questions, Answered
Hostess anxiety may not have an entry in the Physicians’ Desk Reference, but the symptoms are obvious: fear that no one will show up, worry that those who do will stand around and blink at one another in silence, utter certainty that your guests will go home hungry.
When you’re the hostess, your perfectionism spikes like a fever, but meeting your own high expectations (and the lesser ones of your guests) is not impossible. And you can probably get away with a lot less work than you think?a little artfully arranged takeout here, a simple flower arrangement there, a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and you’ve got yourself a cocktail party. Here, caterers, event planners, and etiquette experts answer your top questions.
How Much Wine to Serve
When hosting a party, figuring out how many bottles of wine to serve can be as daunting as choosing what food to prepare. Inevitably, youll have to do a bit of guesswork, but it is recommended having enough wine to serve 1.5 glasses per person, per hour.
Since there are five 250ml servings in a standard bottle of vino, youll need about one bottle for every three guests per hour (weve rounded up a bit to make sure you dont run out!).
To ensure you havesomething that suits everyones taste, we suggest serving one full-bodied white and one versatile redthat wont compete with each otherlike Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The Invitations: Should I mail invitations, or can I e-mail them?
Mailed invitations signal that an occasion is a special event, whereas an e-mail or a phone call is more casual, guests are more likely to R.S.V.P. to a written invitation. Whatever your method, it’s a good idea to extend invitations three to four weeks prior to the event. Remember that electronic invitations are appropriate only if your guest list consists of people who check e-mail frequently (this may not include your 80-year-old aunt).
How many people whom I invite will show up?
Obviously, the type of occasion and the guest list will affect the numbers. But for bigger parties, when you’ve invited close friends and distant acquaintances, a good rule of thumb is to expect 70 to 80 percent to show. Most people who are polite enough to R.S.V.P. are polite enough to show up (or call if they can’t). If someone who hasn’t R.S.V.P.’d arrives, be gracious and make room.
Do I have to tell my neighbour about our party in advance? And do I have to invite her?
It’s always polite to warn the neighbours before you entertain, especially if you expect a big crowd. If your party will be outdoors and the nostalgic music will definitely carry, or if your guests will take up a lot of street parking, it’s even more important to spread the word. We suggest saying something like “We’re having a party this Saturday, and things might get a little noisy?although we’ll try to keep it down, of course. People will be driving over, so please don’t have anyone towed!” (Make a joke out of this.) A few days’ notice is OK?any longer, and they might forget. If you don’t normally socialize with the neighbours, you’re under no obligation to invite them.
How do I gracefully tell people that I don’t want their kids at my party?
Deal with this delicate issue in person or over the phone, rather than specifying on the invitation that kids aren’t welcome. Most guests will realize that cocktails or a Saturday-night dinner party aren’t kid-friendly occasions, but if you’re concerned, you can always clarify your position when guests call to R.S.V.P. Say something like “It will be so nice for all of us to have some grown-up time for a change” or “I hope you won’t have any trouble finding a sitter on a Saturday night.”
I’ve invited people for drinks, and they’ve expected dinner. I’ve invited people for dinner, and they’ve shown up already “having had.” What time means drinks, and what time means dinner?
For a cocktail party on a Friday night, start at 6 or 6:30, so people can come straight after work and go for dinner afterward. A Saturday night cocktail party can start later, cocktail parties around the dinner hour are OK, as long as your invitation makes clear that dinner will not be served. Weekend dinner parties generally start between 7 and 8. Having drinks first allows all your guests time to arrive; let your invitation convey the details: “7 P.M. cocktails, 8 P.M. dinner.”
I don’t want to spend the night passing around hors d’oeuvres or replenishing the buffet. What can I serve that’s low-maintenance and good for setting down in one spot?
Bowls of spiced nuts and olives and oversize platters of antipasto or store-bought Middle Eastern specialties, like hummus with strips of pita and stuffed grape leaves, require almost no preparation and can be left out even in hot weather. Fruit and cheese platters will stay chilled if you serve them on a marble serving piece that’s been placed in the freezer overnight.
And don’t forget the ultimate way to lighten your cooking load: takeout!
How can I make my place look festive without spending a fortune on fresh flowers?
Placing a bunch of tulips, all the same color, in a small vase on the coffee table. Monochromatic arrangements are best because they’re easy and they always look pretty. And let mood lighting take care of the rest. Dim the lights and cluster about 20 tealight candles in votive glasses on a tabletop in your welcome area.
Crowded parties can get hot. I’d like to make my place welcoming, not sweltering. Is that possible?
Remember that more bodies mean more heat?so avoid inviting more people than your space can comfortably handle. Allow about 1.5 sq meter per guest. If you have central air-conditioning, set it a few degrees lower than normal before your party, then monitoring the temperature as the room fills up. Remember that as people drink?or eat spicy food?they tend to feel hotter.
Short of handing out name tags and staging trust falls, how can I get people to start talking to one another?
One of your responsibilities as a hostess is to make introductions that help people find common ground: “Joe, meet Samantha. She enrolled her dog in obedience school, too.” Traditional guidelines dictate introducing the “less important” person to the “more important” person, saying the more important person’s name first. The most important thing about an introduction is to make the introduction. Just do it! If you draw a blank on someone’s name, don’t use that as an excuse to skip an introduction. Just be honest and say, `I’ve drawn a blank.'” It also helps to appoint a friend to help get people chatting while you attend to other hostess duties.
How can I enjoy my company when the bubbling volcano of dishes awaits me?
Although common sense might dictate that you wash as you go, you should, in fact, spend minimal time cleaning while your guests are still there. Everybody gets stressed out by dirty dishes in the sink but part of entertaining is presenting an easy, simple, graceful style. This means not rushing to the kitchen to clean up before the guests depart. It’s perfectly fine to spend a few minutes clearing plates or organizing the kitchen, as long as you set your guests up in the other room and make sure they are chatting easily.