Friends, I love to host. I truly love it - especially when the guests are good, nay, great guests. In fact, I'm known for my hosting skills (so was my mother, and her mother, and her mother; you get the gist). And one question I get asked on a fairly regular basis is "how do you do it?"*
*I'm excluding my BFFs here. We're all pretty incredible hosts, and have thrown many a dinner, a party, a brunch together. Definitely memories I treasure forever.
Hosting is an art that can be learned but it requires practice, and regular practice. I remember my first dinner parties, how stressed I was, how unrelaxed, and how it affected the evenings. I think if I had a couple of the tips I will list below, it would have been a little less stressful in the beginning.
The founder of Sophie Williamson Design and author of this blog post (basically me. Hi!) in her happy place: hosting a dinner party.
So without further ado, my ultimate tips for hosting an elegant, fun, relaxed and welcoming dinner, lunch, brunch - whichever tickles your fancy the most!
1. The food. It should be something that you've made before (I know, sounds obvious, but this is something I love to ignore to this day. Trying to make your first cheese soufflé ever for 12 starving dinner guests is not a good idea, trust me). Ideally, it's even a go to recipe that you can make in your sleep. If that is a five course plated dinner or one pot meal is really up to you; although I personally prefer the version where I can spend as much time with my guests as possible.
2. The apéro. Technically, this falls under food. But, we're here for my tricks, so here it is: serve a real apéro, like the Belgians and French do it. Dips, chips, pigs in blanket, the choices are endless. Pair this with free flow drinks and everyone is happy. Like this you can also avoid a starter, and just have a main and a dessert if you feel fancy (or a cheese platter after dinner, my husband's favorite "dessert").
3. The placement. I'm talking about who your guests sit next to at the dinner table. I know this is different in each culture but this is how we do it, and I think it can create great conversations. We never place couples next to each other but rather mix it up. I usually think about who has something in common (if they don't know each other), and try to mix it up.
4. The conversation. A good host introduces people when they first arrive, ideally with some kind of backstory. And if the placement doesn't work as well as hoped (which can always happen!), I try to create a conversation that includes everyone.
5. The decor and creating an atmosphere. I've you've been here for a while, you know that I love a good atmosphere. Indirect lighting, a ton of candles, a prettily set table, a good Spotify playlist - atmosphere created!
My darling friend Geraldine from Apponyi Design has an incredible talent for the cosiest spaces. This photo lives rent free in my head!
6. The mindset. My mother's mindset always was "Be your own best guest". And I think it is the best advice. This means to let things flow. Ask your guests to help: light the candles, get a new bottle of wine, choose the music. My favorite and most intimate conversations happen when helping to load the dishwasher after a dinner at a friend's house. So, go ahead and allow yourself to relax and enjoy - you didn't do all this prep for nothing!
I hope this little guide helps for your next dinner party. And if you have any other tips and tricks: drop them in the comments!