No, it’s not cats in costumes (although that helps).
It’s not about lighting or decorations or even food.
I’ll give you a clue, from Regina Thomashauer, author of Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts:
In the context of a holiday party (or any party, for that matter), the kindest thing a hostess can do for her guests is to have a genuinely fantastic time, no matter the circumstance. This one factor has the power to set the tone for the party much better than the food, decorations, timing or tunes.
If you’re having a good time, it frees up the energy and attention of your guests so they can have a good time too.
Think about it. How much fun is a dinner party when the hostess is frazzled? If you’re rushed and stressed, your guests feel like they are a burden to you, and they start thinking about ways they can make you feel better.
Let’s say the unthinkable happens: the tray of bacon-wrapped chestnuts—the one and only appetizer—burns, rendering it completely inedible. A hostess can wallow in the failure, wiping frustrated tears as the nearest guests to try to console her (at the expense of their own good time) . . . or she can laugh, toss the pan in the snow and ask who would like a some regular old toast and jam with their eggnog. Which party sounds like more fun?
If you’re planning on hosting a party this holiday, and you want it to be a smashing success, add this task to your to-do list:
Have a genuinely good time
like it’s your job.
Because, luckily for you, it is. You deserve to be having a blast at all times . . . for your own good, and for everybody else’s, too.
In my mind, putting this into action requires three parts: planning ahead, realistic expectations, and making pleasure a priority.
Planning ahead means I won’t have to deal with last-minute surprises or embarrass myself by answering the door in curlers when the first guest arrives (yes I still use hot rollers to curl my hair). For me, this involves:
- Giving myself plenty of time to clean the house, and get myself primped and ready, even if it means canceling other commitments the days before the party
- Prepping as much food ahead of time as I can
- Setting up a self-serve cocktail table for when guests arrive
- Doublechecking the shopping list days ahead of time to make sure I have what I need
While you’re making your plans, do yourself a favor and get down off the Perfect Hostess pedestal. You don’t have to host the Party of the Year that will rival the best of the best pictures you’ve seen online; you need to make your guests feel welcomed, give them tasty food and drinks, and provide an environment where they can be merry.
I keep my expectations in check by:
- Limiting myself to one new or elaborate food item to serve (the rest are simple, or things I’m already super comfortable with)
- Asking for help when I need it (that’s a BIG one)
- Focusing on simple decorations that are quick to set up. (Last year, my Christmas table was decorated with mason jars filled with water, a few cranberries from the freezer and a floating candle in each.)
When the plans are in place and you’ve got your mind right, all that’s left is to have a great time. Here’s how I promote my own good time:
- Dressing in my very favorite festive clothes and accessories
- Wearing a really cute apron so my party clothes don’t get dirty
- Great music before and during the party
- Dropping whatever I’m doing to greet every single guest with a smile and hug
- Leaving the dishes for later, if I’m tired and want to just sit down and chat