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How to Hostess: 101

Does the thought of throwing a dinner party make you antsy?  Do you know that you possess wonderful skills that could earn you the “Hostess of the Millennium” award, but you haven’t yet found a way to harness your power?  If that’s you, our “How to Hostess” articles are exactly what you need.

I, am a terrible hostess.  It’s just not my cup of tea, so to speak.  But, my twin-from-another-mother, Jennifer Dutcher, is amaze when it comes to hostessing.  When I watch her throw a dinner party, it becomes increasingly clear to me I did not receive the same genes she did…and not just because technically, we were born from different parents.  She is an absolute genius in the kitchen, so I have enlisted her to be our resident Hostess Expert.  Today, we’ll start by learning from her the specific steps that we can easily implement to throw our own successful dinner party….get ready to start writing your award speech.

Step 1: Determine What You are Hoping to Get Out of Your Dinner Party

The first thing Jennifer advises you to think about is what style of party are you looking to have.  Do you want a group of friends sitting around the table eating and laughing casually and comfortably for hours?  Or, do you want a restaurant-esque experience with multiple courses being efficiently served?  Other options to consider are:  a casual evening of just appetizers and drinks, an evening with enough time for a sit down dinner and an activity (such as a board game for the indoor type or football for the more rugged peeps).  Jennifer says that once she has a feel for what the ideal party entails, it’s easier to make other decisions.

Step 2: Serve What You’re Craving

In Jennifer’s words, she “looooove(s) food and cooking,” so she serves whatever it is she’s currently craving and excited about.  She instructs that whatever you choose, it’s essential to consider time management and logistics.  If she knows her main dish needs a lot of TLC, she plans only very simple side dishes or those that she can prepare in advance.

Step 3: Invite a Safety Couple

Jennifer has a simple invite rule: Dinner parties must have a minimum of three couples in attendance.  Half the fun of a party is obviously the food…or in my case, specifically the dessert.  But, the other half is the conversation!  And, that part will simply not be enjoyable if your entire invite list is “listeners” and there are no “talkers.”  Her advice is to always invite a “safety” couple, people that you know well, are social, and will help carry the conversation.  I say a bonus is a couple that not only carries the convo but is also wildly entertaining and offers panache!

Step 4: Avoid Stress!

This is such a super important tip from Jennifer!  She wisely notes that if you’re stressed out, your guests will likely notice.  I think a stressed hostess creates an uneasy environment that zips all of the fun out of the party.  Since dinner running late seems to be the potential stressor of a dinner party, Jennifer recommends setting out fun and easy snacks for her guests, such as pretzels and grapes.  That way, if your roast is not being timely, you don’t have to worry you’ve starved your guests.

Step 5: Delegate What You Don’t Like Doing

Even a highly skilled hostess like Jennifer doesn’t necessarily love all aspects of launching a successful dinner party.  If you can relate, it is not something to concern yourself about.  Simply delegate.  Jennifer shares that she dislikes baking and far too many times had thought, “I’ll just make an easy dessert,” but then spends “too much time making (and likely overcooking) a box of brownies.”  So, she has learned over the years to graciously say “yes” if someone offers to bring dessert.  If no one offers, have your favorite bakery on speed dial.  It will give you someone to thank in your acceptance speech.

Happy Hostessing :)

Andrea Graye