Its amazingly surprising, how many people withdraw from entertaining at home out of Fear – Fear born out of social insecurity; fear of not getting it right, fear of what is appropriate; fear of not having the matching silverware; the ‘right’ stemware and even fear of rejection or being talked about; and so they entertain in public spaces!
Well, public spaces has its place and time for entertaining, but when it comes to the ‘Cementing” factor – the best place to entertain, is really, ones home!
You see, at home, you get to observe your guests (potential friends and or business associates) in a more relaxed setting where, you the host is in charge, and so you can set the stage for the nature of the ’gathering’ – whether it will be lighthearted in nature or heavy on the side of protocol, where all mind their Ps and Qs and God forbid, you use a fish knife to butter your roll. Whatever your choice in format, most authorities on the subject suggests, entertaining at home set the hosts apart, from those who chose to do so in public spaces.
There’s one universal truth however, when it comes to entertaining, and that Truth is, even the most accomplished of hosts and or hostesses, ‘suffer’ from these “Fears”. The difference between them and most however, is that they do not allow their fears to imprison them.
Another truth is, most people who are invited out, accept the invitation, not because of what they anticipate the hosts to be serving, but because they hope they will have a good time, in the company of others, and so look forward to the ‘outing’ and not necessarily to the ‘fare’.
So, if you are a relatively young person/couple, just coming into your own professionally and socially, there is absolutely nothing to fear, when it comes to entertaining at home, in fact, the economy considered, it might just be the smartest and more practical thing to do.
So, here are a few pointers, for the worrisome new hosts, who are desirous of entertaining but always shy away from doing so, because of fear of it flopping.
1.Plan around a theme: By planning around a theme (recommended for big celebratory functions), you cut the risk factors by half or more, as that theme can be around libations, food, games, or even dress, and gives life to the concept of participation and this will serve to make guests relax, instead of thinking they are on show, so must be on their best behaviour.
2. Be Meticulously About Guestlist: When it comes to a party or any gathering, it is crucial that your guestlist is ‘amicable’ and not one where hostilities is likely to breakout between warring factions because as host you failed to do your homework. Because you happen to like Joe and Sandra, Mary and Louise, Max and Henrietta, does not mean they all like each other or can sit at the same dining table or occupy the same dancing space and not result in open warfare! So, before you issue invites, get up to speed on who’s on speaking-terms with whom and or who is not on good terms with whom, to avoid stress.
3. Designate The Party Area(s): Designate an area for your event – your home should never be an open free-for-all, so you need to designate your party area, and make sure that this is communicated to guests, upon arrival by ushering them into that space, rather than allowing them to roam…Some guests will use the opportunity if its their first time, to try and ‘faas’, by asking for a tour but as host you must expertly guide your social traffic to the designated space, by politely refusing to conduct tours, as this will take you away from your main duties.
4. Manage Powder Room(s) is always clean and accessible: Sometimes, the “Powder-room” is that one deal-breaker, in making or breaking a party. While two is advisable, one, suitably monitored and managed, will do just fine. It needs to be stocked, with extra everything tho, and the extras placed in a conspicuous place to prevent a drag on your time, or that of your support team, and thus help in preventing ‘accidents’.
5. Be Aware Of The Dietary Trends Or Habits Of Those You invite: As stated in our introduction, more often than not, Food, is not the primary concern of those asked out, but being au fait with their dietary/culinary tastes, will go a far way in making any occasion a success.
A time old tradition to circumvent a culinary disaster is: If You plan on serving meat, add a fish dish; or serve red and white meat; or a stew, to balance your fried meat; or a neutral dish such as Ackee ‘n’ Saltfish, that might appeal to all.
For the Vegans, solicit suggestions, if none is forthcoming, be creative, offer more than just a green-salad; go to town with beans, fruits, nuts and vegetables.
6. Manage Your Bar: Apart from food, drinks can be the most challenging aspect of entertaining at home. Usually, the anxiety begins with trying to determine just how much liquor is really needed.
Well this is where the professional consultation, such as our next suggestion comes in as a good waiter, can advise you how to manage and cope. But like in all things, Simplicity, is your best ally. Keep it simple, instead of going Full-Bar, go for a Fun-bar. A Full-bar will entail all the traditional stock – Rum (red and white), Gin, Vodka, Scotch, at least one Brandy, Wine (red and white); and a bottle of Baileys, Campari etc., etc.
A Fun-Bar, say one in which you serve one drink all night is way less taxing with no need for Chasers and or other mixes, so you keep it clean and easy. For small intimate gatherings, I recommend a Prosseco, Sparklingly Rose Or A Champagne Bar. You will find, this is way less expensive as the Full-bar and easier to manage in terms of stemware etc.
But whether or not you opt for the Full-bar or the Fun-bar, I recommend that as host, you prepare a welcoming Cocktail as your Signature drink, which you present to each guest upon arrival. Dependent on the crowd, you might find that the Signature drink will stand you in good stead, if it’s interesting enough, as most guests will not switch, but will continue with the same drink for the duration and thus reducing your bar exposure.
7. If You are expecting 8 -10 People, Get Help: Whatever the occasion, if you have invited 8 – 10 People to your home, engage the services of a Waiter/Waitress. For all the familiarity with those you have invited, if you have to attend to them all, you will ruin your own party, as you are essentially the glue that should hold it together. If you are busy fetching and carrying, you run the risk of reigning on your own parade. To avoid this, hire professional help, this will help not only in the smooth flow of the occasion but will also help in the post party clean up and restoration.
And the unwritten rule here for Help, is that for every 10 Guests, add a waiter – so 10, you hire one 20, you hire two, etc.
8. Prepare A Checklist: A checklist of things to do, items to secure, who’s responsible for what, is always recommended as this will be its own progress-report, leading up to and for the duration of the function. This checklist can include such things as: prepare musical play-list; get extra ice; arrange ride for staff after event (if they dont drive); and dessert…As often, in the heat of planning some vital components are overlooked to the detriment of the party.
9. Do Not OverReach: Now remember, your guests are not coming for your culinary prowess, if that’s a part of the offering, they will consider that a bonus, as they are coming primarily for an evening out and light entertainment. In this respect, be comfortable in our own skin and in your own home. Do not cook or serve anything to impress! Whatever you serve, or do, must be within the confines of your comfort zone. If your speciality is cow-foot, serve it up, just give prior notice it will be a cowfoot evening. Do not strain your own talents and the patience of your guest by attempting to prepare and serve dishes you are not familiar with, as now is not the time for experiments.
10. Own Your Event: Now, having hosted guests to what was a superb evening, Own your event at the end of it. Depending on the nature of the event, how about presenting your guests with a ‘little-supmuh’, when they take their leave?
That ‘little-supmuh’ does not have to be a grand gesture but a token of your appreciation for their attendance and can be a slice of your evening’s dessert, say for example you did serve scrumptious bread-pudding, and you would have held one back in the oven, just for this moment; or bud from your gardens?
Such a gesture will most definitely set you apart from all others and make of you not only fast bon vivant, in the eyes of the beholder, but also crown you with a mark of distinction!
Now, these 10-party-pointers are in no way a guarantee that you will have a fabulous party. What they are however, is a guarantee that your evening will be less chaotic and thus easier to manage. The success of your event however will depend on how well you assembled your guestlist; your own flair and attitude, and your ability to keep your guests engaged…amongst and with themselves.
All things being equal however, you should have a fabulous time, with the best part being, if managed properly, an evening at home will cost you a mere fraction of what it would, in a public space – where you compete with others for air, attention and service. So, go ahead, give it a try, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, especially the reputation of being a good host!
So, why not…