Amateur's guide to being a genius hostess

Nov 27, 2014 at 8:56 a.m. ET
Image: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/OJO+/Getty Images

Don't fret if you're missing the Martha Stewart gene. With these hostessing tips, your guests will be none the wiser.

You can trust me on this. I've thrown, like, three parties — and I received almost zero complaints.

1. Fancify everything

Give even the most boring dish a fancy name on a tiny placard (see #2), and your guests will rave about your cooking. Frozen croissant rolls turn into "crumpets" and Vienna sausages are obviously "beef pâté." It's all about the tiny placard, folks.

2. When in doubt, go tiny

Fact of life: People love tiny things. Don't believe me? There's only one thing better than a pie, and that's a tiny pie. There's only one thing better than a hamburger, and that's a tiny hamburger. Serve 500 tiny hamburgers, and I promise your guests will be super-impressed by your hostessing abilities.

3. Make oddball garnish choices

Forget parsley garnishes — now is the time to woo your guests with your random tastes. Embellish a cocktail with thinly sliced cucumber, or make a mojito with mint leaves frozen into the ice cubes. Mind = blown.

4. There's no such thing as garish

A single pinwheel or strand of holiday lights is a sad look at a party. But you know what's an awesome look? Seventy-five pinwheels decorated with 8,000 holiday lights. Garish decor is impossible, so pick up your decorative goods with guns a-blazin'.

5. An open bar is your friend

Booze rocks.

6. Multiple bars, actually

Booze, however, isn't the only thing that rocks when it's served in a bar format. In fact, go crazy with your bar theme. Include a hot dog bar, a nacho bar, an ice cream sundae bar, a cookie-decorating bar and a popcorn bar. People love buffets as long as they're themed and called bars. It must be related to how much we love booze.

7. Skip the text message invite

It's not a party if you text message your friends to come over to watch Scandal. A night with friends turns into a party if you've sent an invite at least a day in advance, and not in the form of a text message. Try Evite, people. It's easy.

8. Throw money at your guests

Or gifts. Guests love gifts, and they'll forgive a million party mishaps as long as you send them home with a favor. Fresh out of ideas? We love the idea of a (tiny) bottle of wine for a party favor. It requires essentially no thought, which is the best kind of gift.

9. When it comes to themes, go big or go home

If you're serious about a holiday party, for instance, guests are going to need to see an 11-foot Christmas tree and a giant inflatable snow globe in your front yard. There's no other way.

10. Step out of the kitchen and enjoy

Here's the most important tip: You're not Martha Stewart, so it's OK to give up already. Step out of the kitchen, serve what you want and remember that your guests are there to see you, not your mint ice cubes. Although, admittedly, the ice cubes are super cute.

More hostessing tips

Quick canapes for the busy hostess
In a pickle: What to do with an unexpected guest
Our guide to knowing exactly how much to serve at a party

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