Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it. - Danny Kaye

Thursday, November 18, 2010

101 Party "Do's & Don'ts...well, not THAT many!

As I stated in my intro, this is a place where from time to time I will write about anything and EVERYTHING.  Tonight I thought I'd take a moment to ponder on some of the gatherings (dinner parties, engagement parties, drop-ins, etc.) that I've hosted over the last three and a half years...since purchasing my home in early 2007.  I have enjoyed playing host on many occasions for small get-togethers that ended early in the evening and large parties that ended late into the night...some of which have actually been quite recently.

I was flipping through the magazine House Beautiful last night when I came across a two-page article entitled "101 Party Do's & Don'ts".  That's right, truly 101 ideas, suggestions, comments and even demands of what to do, have, say, plan, wear, serve & decorate when hosting...and so I read...(but don't worry, I'm only picking out my top 12 to discuss and highlight tonight).

And so it begins...
#8 - "Don't come to a party empty-handed." - Jayne Michaels, designer

This one is a good one to start with as I believe almost any time I've shown up for a dinner party in the last 4-5 years I have almost always prepped ahead (or on the drive over) to pick up a bottle of vino to have for myself or to share with/give to the host(s)/hostess(s).  I think this is a good rule of thumb no matter if you're getting together with two people for appetizers or for a dinner of eight. 

#14 - "The perfect number for a dinner party is six to eight.  You want festive conversation, but not so many people that the conversations are always split up." - Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, The

Well funny that I just ended my last pick with the thought of 'dinner of eight'.  I have to agree with Sara Kate and say that when hosting a dinner party the slightly-lower the number, the better.  Having hosted 'supper clubs' at my house in the past, I came to the realization that the kitchen is the highlighted spot of the night.  It's where the cocktail glasses are located, where the wine is generally kept and where the remaining prep work takes place.  However, during those large dinner party gatherings, I would notice how not only the conversations were all over the room, but the room would always grow louder and louder and louder...making it somewhat difficult to follow along with any one conversation let alone hear one.

#17 - "Don't be late." - David Serrano, co-owner Downtown & Outside Downtown

Ok, so I'll be honest...I've been late to functions on more than one occasion in my life, however the older I've gotten the more I've come to respect the decency of being on time.  I grew up in a household where we were generally walking into church late almost every week but I've noticed even my parents have gotten better at that over time, too.  My husband on the other hand is the kind of guy that says he'll be somewhere at 7:00 and shows up at 6:55...not my style...I actually don’t mind being a few minutes "fashionably late".  But to a hosted event?  I say the closer to start time the better for never know how much time, energy and prep work will go into certain events...

#30 - "Turn off cell phones!" - Joan Michaels, designer

One of my top picks of the night!!  I know we are in the age and era of iphones, ipads, Droids and more, but this is one of the most annoying and rude things you can do to someone who has invited you over when the purpose was to spend quality time with YOU.  Way too often I find myself wanting to glance at my cell phone for either the time or to check that last e-mail that came in after work hours, but I have tried to make a conscious effort in recent months to respect others and wait until I leave an invited situation before checking my technology updates.  Seriously, one way to show a host/hostess that you really aren't having a good time, that you'd really prefer to be anywhere else than where you are, or that you just simply are tired, is to pull out your cell phone and text, e-mail or even make a call.  Really, think before you text…at least through dinner.

#43 - "Make a home-cooked meal, even if it's just a bowl of chili and a salad with garlic bread.  There's nothing better than simple and delicious." - Lisa Fine, textile designer

Agreed.  And actually, I did just that...three weeks ago!  I have recently hosted a few dinner parties in which I incorporated my new wedding china (thanks to family & friends), but my most recent dinner party get-together involved two huge pots of home-cooked chili, cheesy cornbread, a fun spider-web appetizer themed by the time of year (Halloween; thanks to my friend Ellen), and a simple dessert (cupcakes).  The funny part is that I think everyone enjoyed this meal just as much if not more than other meals I've served in the past which involved more time and energy.  So, with that being said, feel free to throw together a simple yet warm & inviting get-together that doesn't cause much stress or prep work!

#48 - "Ask people ahead of time for their food preferences: Do they eat meat? Do they drink? Do they have any food allergies? It sounds stupid but believe me, nowadays these can ruin a dinner party." - Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, designer

Well, he's right!  This has absolutely happened to me before...and to a very dear friend!  I had forgotten that a friend who was coming from out of town to stay for the weekend didn't eat meat (red meat).  Way to go, Meredith!  The night before she came, David asked me specifically if our friends both ate steak (she and her husband) and I replied with slightly less than 100% confidence "yes".  Sure enough, cooking time came around the next night and LUCKILY we had some chicken in the freezer!  I felt terrible that not only had I not remembered her food preferences, but I wasn't really prepared since I took a guess!  Next time I throw a dinner party, I will be sure to know how all of my guests 'take their steak'.

#66 - "Separate couples when seating a dinner." - Monique Lhuillier, fashion designer

Alright, I'm doing my very first "reader poll question".  What do you think?  I have never heard this suggestion before but it's now gotten me intrigued.  I guess it depends on the type of party, the number of guests and who the guests are that may attend.  If everyone knows everyone really well, I say go for it, but if it's a first time for most, keep it trouble-free...what are your thoughts?

#72 - Don't cancel a dinner invitation the day of the dinner unless you are on an IV drip in the hospital." - Harry Slatkin, fragrance guru

Well I wouldn't maybe go as far as to say the only excuse is being in the hospital like Harry states, but I would agree that canceling either on the day-of or on the hour-of a dinner party can come across rude and disrespectful.  And I can actually attest to that because I've had a friend cancel on me when I planned a dinner party via a text that was sent to me 15 minutes after the suggested time to arrive...go figure.  It wasn't the end of the world by any means, but just be honest if something comes up and maybe follow up with an e-mail the next day.

#74 - "Handwritten thank-you notes after being entertained are a must." - Grant K. Gibson, designer

As I just finished my last pick with "follow up with an e-mail the next day" I might agree that this suggestion is going above and beyond (in a good way).  Generally I don't feel that it's necessary to write thank-you notes for every invite you receive to be entertained, but again, a simple e-mail that follows up the event is a very nice gesture.  I've had friends do that before just for dinners I've hosted and it was a very classy touch.  It made me feel that they really enjoyed themselves. 

#78 - "As a host, don't sit at the head of the table - presumptuous and archaic." - Darryl Carter, designer

So maybe I have a second question for my reader(s)...what do you think?  I have generally sat at the head of the table when I've hosted dinner parties (or the seat closest to the kitchen), but that's what I thought was the "right thing to do"  I guess I could switch things up a bit on the next go-round.

#89 - "Never underestimate the power of a great powder room.  It is your gift to your guests.  Every detail will be noticed, and it will reveal much about you, so DON'T skimp." - Windsor Smith, designer 

Well, I don't actually have a powder room although I hope to some day...but I have a hall bathroom that is always used by guests.  I think I surprised myself by picking this one as one of my favorites but then again, my husband and I try to make a diligent effort of having clean, fresh towels in our hall bath before any guests arrive to visit or stay the night.  It's one way to make your guests think your entire house is clean and spotless if you showcase that one room (and it may be the only privacy a guest has in the course of an evening).  I recently hosted an engagement party at my house and my friend who was in charge of the decor (flowers) decided to put a bud vase on the sink in the hall bath to make it more attractive...and we added a candle votive, too.  I think those tiny touches go a long way with guests!

And lastly...

#90 - "Ever notice how guests love to gather in the kitchen?  To disperse the crowd, place a bar somewhere in the corner of your living room and rearrange furniture to create a few different conversation spots." - Cassandra Lavalle, interior/event designer

Although we touched on the subject of the kitchen earlier, I think I could go both ways on this one.  I agree that the kitchen is the place people feel most comfortable to gather but sometimes you want to change things up for your guests so they don't feel as though they need to step in to help cook or clean up, right?  If you have the perfect kitchen, this may never be an issue, but sometimes I like to have the evening flow into the rest of my house and so by serving dessert or appetizers in a room away from the kitchen and/or dinner location, you're sure to have people notice the other paint colors around the the very least.

So that was my first attempt at writing about some interests I have with hosting, cooking, decorating and entertaining.  Be on the lookout for my invite next week…we’re having “dinner and a movie” and YOU’RE INVITED!!


Kate said...

love this, myrn. and i'm jealous that I'VE never attending a jewell house party! :)

as for your "reader polls," those are toughies. i never really "seat" people when i serve as host, as i prefer to let everyone do what makes them most comfy. that being said, i attended an engagement party once where i knew no one and was separated from dan. i was quite nervous, but had such a great time! so i don't know - weight the pros and cons i guess?

sitting at the head of the table, i think, is sometimes just a necessary thing. it's not like we have regal tables that stretch for feet and feet down the hall - the head of the table of your table and mine are much more like the actual "table" than the other seats.

so ultimately, i think, go with your gut. you know what works!

Haley said...

Hey hey, I noticed you snuck me into the first blog entry. ;) Meredith, this is great! Trust me, I know what it's like to sit behind a desk all day long. I feel like the computer/office is sucking the life out of me both creatively and physically. I'm glad that you've found an outlet! I'm in the process of doing the same.
As for the readers poll question - I've never thought about separating couples before...I think that would be fun actually. (I sound like such a swinger don't I?)

Talk soon!