Monday, July 18, 2011

The secret to successful entertaining: making guests feel welcome

If you've ever hosted an outdoor party you know that what's important is how long your guests decide to stick around.

"Hosting a quality event is about being thoughtful," says Dawn Bryan, lifestyle expert/founder of Qualipedia, an online consumer guide and the author of, "The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving."
"It will not be measured by how much money and time you spend (whether you used Martha Stewart napkins) or by mimicking the Joneses up the block, but by how welcomed, comfortable and special each guest is made to feel."

As an expert in the field of etiquette and entertainment Bryan offers the following tips for hosting a party everyone will enjoy:

Preparation basics
* Be a guest at your own party - Plan ahead so you feel relaxed and happy to see everyone rather than stressed out and disappointed so many people did or did not show up.

* Consider the kind of party you would like to attend. Be creative and show off your talents as a cook or decorator but do not overestimate your capabilities or the time and resources available to you.

* Make a list and determine items and d├ęcor that can be prepared ahead of time. Is there anything you make that can be frozen? In making your list of food items jot down what serving platters, bowls or utensils will be needed to serve the dishes.

* Be ready 30 minutes before your guests are due to arrive.

Outdoor basics
* It's Michigan so have a backup plan in case of rain such as a tent or screen room.

* Clean the grill and make sure it's in working order or borrow one from the neighbor.

* If kids are invited include beverages and food they will enjoy and consider games or water toys to keep them entertained.

* Have containers available and marked for trash, disposables and recycling.

* Use your imagination when it comes to music. A live band (perhaps a relative who plays an instrument or sings) is always nice, especially if you have an area for dancing.

* If it's a formal affair consider soft background music. Google artists you like and put together a party CD featuring tunes you know your guests would enjoy. Again, put their likes or dislikes ahead of your own.

* For fun consider contests such as celebrity look-alikes or pie-eating. Maybe you know of someone who can do caricatures or face painting for the kids.

Beyond the basics
* Choose an original date such as Flag Day, then every year, make it your own.

* "Create a signature theme: a recipe, a season, a color, secret desire costumes or masks, jazz, salsa dancing, ping-pong tournament, all give imaginative impetus to your party," says Bryan. 

* Consider gift bags for the guests or a small memento related to your theme.

* If you have a lot of out-of-town guests consider sending them home with fresh bagels, a Danish and juice for their breakfast.

A host is like a general: calamities often reveal his genius -- Horace