We love the idea of preparing a signature cocktail to offer guests as they arrive. It's a simple and elegant way to make people feel welcome, and there's a certain charm to walking into a party and being handed an unexpected drink you wouldn't normally have. Most people don't make cocktails at home, so having one at a dinner party or barbecue is a novelty for many. The key here is to make something you can make in a large batch so you're not fiddling with ice and shakers – or worse, the blender – when you should be greeting guests.
We've all been there – chopping, mixing and sautéing while guests are having a great time. Hosting an event doesn't mean catering it. You're not the chef, waitress and bartender all rolled into one (well, you might be, but don't let guests see that!) so instead of slaving away in front of the stove when you'd much rather be sipping chardonnay on the patio, prep as much as possible the day before and the day of the party before anyone shows up. That way you'll be ready to enjoy yourself when guests arrive rather than being able to escape the kitchen for just a few minutes at a time.
One of the most important jobs of the hostess is to make sure people who don't know each other are introduced. Obviously this isn't an issue if it's a small gathering and everyone knows each other, but everything runs a lot smoother if initial introductions are made by the host.
This one may seem obvious, but as we mentioned above, some hosts end up tied to the stove or sink for most of the party, so we figured a reminder to get out there and mingle couldn't hurt. Not only will you have more fun if you're out among your guests, it's also a good way to make sure everyone else is mingling and no one is getting left out. As you move through the party, you can engage anyone who seems a bit lost and connect people whom you feel would get along well.
When you plan your menu, avoid the temptation to impress. Sure, you want people to know you're a powerhouse in the kitchen or that you mix a mean cocktail, but the more complicated you make things the more stress you'll be under the whole night. Here are some simplicity hints:
Most important, have fun. It's your party after all, and if you're not enjoying yourself, your guests will notice -- not to mention everyone will be more at ease if they know you're relaxed and having a good time. People pick up on stress, so as long as you're organized and prepped in advance you should be able to avoid anxiety and let loose.
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