Being the Perfect Hostess

Though Emily Post’s advice in the 1920’s was addressed to a different era, the fundamentals like common sense and common courtesy are elements still pertinent today. With our busy schedules today it takes a lot of work, just as much now as back then, to make a dinner party or weekend a success. The key is in the planning and preparation. You do not want to appear or feel stressed out. With the proper planning and preparation everyone will have a good time including yourself. In order for your guests to have a good time, you need to also.

Emily Post addressed several classifications; mealtime parties, weekend visits, uninvited guests, single women, lingering guests, liquor problems and unexpected gifts. While some of her information is a bit dated, the basics are still the same.

Mealtime Parties ~ Be ready* ahead of time, don’t plan on anyone being late. *Ready means not answering the door in your cleaning clothes with the dust cloth in hand, having the table set as well as the appetizers and cocktails ready to be served at the invitation time.

If this is a larger occasion with assigned seating, be sure to seat guests next to others that they will have things in common. Be especially aware if you have invited children how their placement will affect the mood of the affair.

If you have invited everyone for a backyard BBQ, don’t wear formal wear and diamonds! You want to put your guests at ease. While events today tend to be more casual, your job as hostess is still to put your guests at ease.

Make sure you mingle with all your guests and not keep yourself secluded in the kitchen.

Keep an eye on your guests refreshments. Make sure to offer more as necessary so they don’t feel awkward asking.

Weekend Visits ~ Communication is the key to a good weekend visit. Be sure to cover all your bases in the invitation. Let your guests know if they need their swimming suits or more formal dress for a special night. Let them know what equipment you have on hand if you’re planning on a day of tennis or golfing, etc…

When your guests first arrive be sure to give them a tour including where their room, the bathroom, towels and such are located. I like to also keep a small basket of essential toiletries (small sample shampoos, soaps, a toothbrush and traveling toothpaste) hung in the guest room. I also make sure there are always empty drawers and plenty of “real” hangers hanging in the closet. By real I mean hangers that are not the throw aways from the cleaners that won’t support a suit coat.

I also like to place fresh flowers in their room before they arrive. This isn’t sometimes possible in the winter and so I have a bright and cheery silk arrangement in there also.

If something is off limits be sure to say so up front. Maybe you have told them to make themselves at home and help themselves to whatever they like. You have a special dessert planned though that will use the fresh strawberries. They will not know to not eat the strawberries unless you have said so up front.

Share your plans by giving your guests a basic time line regarding what time you’ll be serving breakfast or leaving for the lake, etc…

If your guests are family or really good friends, don’t be afraid to ask for help when necessary. This will also make them feel more relaxed and promote a more relaxed atmosphere for the weekend.

Uninvited Guests ~ It is like Murphy’s law that an unexpected guest will always show up at the most inconvenient time. Other than normal common courtesy, you have no obligation to an unannounced visitor.

You do have several choices when they arrive at mealtime. If the meal will stretch to include additional portions invite them to stay if you would like. If it will not, feel free to explain to them that you were just about to eat and would they mind stopping by later. If you are on your way out to an appointment or another dinner engagement it is okay to let them know that if they would call first next time they are in the neighborhood you would be sure to be available to see them. All of this is at your discretion based on your relationship with the guests. You naturally always allow more leeway with family and close friends, but it is still your choice.

Single Women ~ In today’s world, this is not the problem it once was. Nowadays this pertains primarily to older women who may not want to arrive or depart by themselves. An attentive hostess will foresee this and ask someone near her if they would mind picking her up and bring her with them and then seeing her home also.

Lingering Guests ~ The best and effective way to end a party at the appropriate time is to close the bar. You could also stifle a hidden yawn, suggest to your spouse that you go to bed to allow your guests to get home or jokingly suggest your guests drop the kids off at school on their way home. You know your guests best and need to decide the best course of action.

Liquor Problems ~ This is pretty much the same today as it was then. As the host you are responsible for seeing that a drunken guest gets home safely. Their car keys should be taken away and discretion used based on each situation.

Unexpected (FOOD such as wine or cakes) Gifts ~ While it is thoughtful, it does not require a priority if it is unexpected. If you have already purchased a wine that coordinates with your menu or prepared a dessert for the meal yours should take precedence. Be sure to thank the donor and tell them how much you will enjoy their gift.

“What are the little things you do to make your guests feel at home?”