Become the Consummate Host

Ten Tips for Taking Party Hosting to New Heights

1. Clear the Space

Elbow room is not something to take lightly. When your guests are eating, they’ll have trouble enjoying themselves if you try to wedge too many chairs around the table. The same rule applies throughout the rest of your living space. Declutter. Move piles and loose objects to closets or closed bedrooms. This’ll make your space look larger and let people flow easily from one area to another.

2. Cool Off Early

When a bunch of people come together in a room (or two), one thing you can count on is the place heating up. This is especially true if we’re talking about a summer soiree. So whether you’re working with a window AC, ductless air conditioning or central air, turn on the cool early—and crank it a little lower than you think you need to.

3. Make Some Noise

Curated noise, that is. While hitting play on Pandora isn't a bad way to go, nothing beats a playlist crafted especially for that occasion. As you select songs, think about the mood you want to set and conversation about interior design or with a handful of friends dancing on your coffee table?). And no matter how esoteric your musical tastes might be, don't forget to throw in a few crowd favorites that everyone will recognize.

4. Light the Place Right

Too often overlooked, lighting can set the tone for an event that takes place after the sun has gone done. Avoid overhead lights and bright bulbs, as well as illuminating a room just one central light. Instead, a combination of standing and table lamps combined with candles can make a place feel warm, welcoming and distinct.

5. Serve Up a Signature Cocktail

Your guests will know you mean business if they arrive to find a signature cocktail on the menu. Whether you’re hosting a midday brunch or an evening party, a specially selected cocktail helps make the night memorable. Need some suggestions? Let the team at MarthaStewart.com get you started. (And don’t forget to concoct a non-alcoholic alternative for the drivers and abstainers among your crew.)

6. Create a Rhythm

Whether you’re serving up a full meal or laying out a light spread of snacks and finger foods, deliver your edibles in waves. This results in a series of mini-events that keep people excited, active and interacting.

7. Give Guests a Hand (Towel)

We’ve all been there before: About to exit the bathroom, hands washed—and the only thing you can find to dry your mitts off with is the host’s big shower towel. Or maybe a single hand towel that’s soaking from over-use. This is not how you want to treat your guests (or their hands). So next time you throw a shindig, make sure you have hand towels aplenty. And a full dispenser of soap, too.

8. Make Connections

First thing’s first: Get out of the kitchen. Too often, hosts spend half the night in the kitchen prepping and serving—and then prepping some more. Instead, have as much ready in advance as you can. This ensures you’ll have time for meaningful conversations with each of your guests. On top of that, you’ll be able to make introductions and mix up the crowd so that all your college friends aren’t congregating in one corner while all your work folks are hanging out in the other.

9. Stay Nimble

One of the tickets to successful hosting is effective observing. Is your crowd more subdued than you expected? Antsy? Hungry? Thirsty? Keep an eye on the temperature of the room and be ready to make small adjustments that’ll make a big difference. Stock some back-up snacks in the fridge and a few extra bottles of vino in your electric wine cellar. Have a board game handy that can handle your entire crowd. Don’t sweat it if every detail doesn’t play out exactly as you imagined it.

10. Enjoy Yourself

It’s true that stellar parties require planning, preparation and usually a little bit of management. But don’t let that get in the way of having some fun. Get your ducks (and drinks) in a row, then kick back and enjoy a great time among friends.

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