Yesterday was my birthday. The big 3-1. I was sort of dreading it. Not in a “woe is me, I’m getting older” sort of way, but rather a “Man, 31 means I have to start acting a lot more like an adult” way.
Last year for my 30th birthday I threw myself a little party. My friends came over mid-day. We drank lots of champagne and had a blast. I’m pretty sure, though I can’t confirm, that I did a cartwheel in the middle of my apartment. We chambonged the afternoon away, and the next day was rough…like, real rough. But it was okay, because 30 is an appropriate age to act like a bit of a fool. You’re an adult, but you still know how to have fun, and you don’t have to take yourself too seriously.
However, adding on that extra digit made my 30th birthday feel so juvenile. As my date of birth started to creep up and my family asked me how I wanted to celebrate, I felt like I had a very adult decision to make. No longer was it appropriate to bong glasses of champagne and attempt gymnastics in my home. No no, now there was a real threat of breaking something (like a bone, or a piece of furniture that wasn’t purchased from IKEA), or never ever recovering from my hangover.
Instead I opted for dinner with with my family and friends. Trust me, there was still plenty of champagne consumed, but mostly we just ate until we were stuffed to the brim. We went to a traditional Turkish restaurant and filled up on baba ganoush, lamb, and baklava. It was a pretty perfect way to ring in another year; good food, good company, and instead of reaching for a gatorade and Advil the next day, my 31 year old self was reaching for the Tums. That, my friends, is called growing up.
My parents used to throw lots of parties. I remember watching my mom float around the kitchen cooking and setting up, delicious smells filling the air. I’d peek through the banister as guests entered the house, smiling and laughing. I’d trot downstairs in my pj’s and sneak a few snacks with my sisters. My parents made it look so effortless and adulty, I couldn’t wait to grow up and throw parties like my mom and dad. Flash forward 20 years, and it’s now something I take great pleasure in.
I love having my friends gathered around the table, drinking wine, and having fun. What I’ve learned though, is while my parents made it look easy, there’s quite a bit of work involved. Hosting a party requires organization, lots of planning, and even more attention to detail. Back when I used to plan events for a living, inevitably something would slip through the cracks and I would learn quickly never to make that mistake again next time. The same goes for hosting in your home. There’s a million ways to make sure your party goes right, and here’s just a few tips to ensure your friends have a blast, and there are no party fouls.
1) Make your guests feel comfortable by taking out the guess work
Make your guests feel comfortable…duh. This seems obvious, right? But this is more than welcoming your guests in with a smile, and offering them a drink right away. This requires the attention to detail I’m talking about. This means having a predetermined spot for your guests’ coats to collect. This means having enough seats for every butt. This means having glassware sitting out and drinks readily accessible. You never want your guest to ask “Where should I put my coat” or “Can I get a glass of water.” Have all of this stuff accessible for them ahead of time. If you want your guests to use a coaster, make sure there are coasters out already. If you want them to help themselves to food, have the buffet ready to go. If you’re having a sit down dinner, have place cards set up so there’s no awkward moment of telling people where to sit. Your guests come over to your house to relax and enjoy, so let them do just that and take out all of the possible guess work.
2) Stage everything out strategically
When I was an event planner I would walk around the event space and pretend to fill my plate up at the buffet and then walk to my table, or pretend to stand in line at the bar so I could map out where everything fits and what will work. I recommend doing the same at home. Of course, you know your own home like the back of your hand, and chances are you’ve carried a plate of food from the kitchen to in front of the couch, but I find it beneficial to map out where everything will go and how your guests will get around. If you’re staging a buffet, it’s good to anticipate where the buffet will start and end. You may think it makes sense initially going left to right, but find that one area will get really congested and block space to the bar. Again, you want to make your guests feel at ease, and the smoother your service goes, the better.
3) Make it feel fancy
You don’t have to serve caviar from the Caspian Sea to show your friends a luxurious time, but if you’ve already taken the steps to work through every detail, why not go the extra mile and add a little flourish here and there. For example, flowers brighten up party and add a little or a lot of drama depending on the arrangement. But my favorite way to spruce up a party for your guests is in the bathroom. When we have guests over, we keep our guest bathroom stocked with some comfort items that friends can put to good use. We have hairspray, hand lotion, dental floss and the best and most important item of the bunch: Poo-Pouri. I’m sure you’ve seen the commercial, you spray Poo-Pouri over the toilet before you go numbero dos, and it completely masks the smell of your business. It’s a miracle product, and when a guest goes into our bathroom it either makes them laugh, puts them at ease, or both. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having to go at a party, and being worried that someone else is going to get a whiff. So maybe you don’t want your friends feeling SO comfortable at your house that they are ready to do that in your bathroom, but as my mother would say “When you’re window is open, there is no stopping it.” So at least you’ve made your friends’ party poopy experience stress free.
When it comes to party planning, the devil is in the details. Keep in mind these three steps to give good host, and your friends will be able to focus solely on how good of a time they are having…no stinky bathrooms, awkward moments, or long buffet lines will stand in their way! Cheers and Ciao!