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How to be the best hostess

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

6 Hot hosting tips

Hosting an event – be it a backyard barbecue, holiday bash or cocktail soirée – takes effort. Not only are you part of the party, you’re also overseeing it, which means thinking about more than where to get your next drink refill. Whether you’ve presided over your fair share of dinner parties or you’re a hosting novice, the party pros at SheKnows have put together some indispensable tips for making sure your next event – big or small – goes smoothly.

Summer party hostess

1Offer a signature beverage

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.

2Prep before guests arrive

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.

3Make introductions

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.

When you introduce people, don't just provide names. Offer something of interest about each person you're referring to – "This is Michael, he just got back from Ireland," or "Meet Stephanie; she runs her own catering business." That way when you move on to another set of people, the guests you've just introduced have a starting point for conversation.

4Mix and mingle

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.

5Focus on simplicity

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:

  • Instead of offering several finicky appetizers that need to be individually crafted, opt instead for large platters and bowls – chips and dip, veggies and hummus, cheese plates with fruit.
  • Stick to meals you know or have made before so you're not risking an unfamiliar recipe not turning out.
  • Instead of making drinks for everyone (as in endless varieties of mixed beverages), set up a bar station where everyone can serve themselves. You can even offer the ingredients for your signature drink on a note card so people can have a second one if they enjoyed it.
  • Think "less is more" when it comes to the components of your meal. Once you create your menu, think about editing out a few things if it's starting to look overwhelming.

6Enjoy yourself

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.

More party planning tips

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