A Starter’s Guide To Hosting

Hosting guests doesn’t have to be scary - there’s a first time for everything

Hosting is a great way to get old friends together, or introduce new ones. However, if it’s your first rodeo, you may be asking yourself, “What do I serve?” “What music should I play?” “How will everyone interact with each other?” We know it seems like a lot - keep reading to ease your mind with tips and advice on what makes a great time.

Get an early start

“Write a prep list for the day of the party and always set the table hours before the guests arrive,” says chef Nasim Alikhani. For larger get togethers, Head of Brand Paris Smith suggests “breaking up the various preparation tasks over 2-3 days” so you’re not “scrambling to get everything done on the day of.” You can even “set the table the night before to relieve the pressure and just focus on cooking” says social media and content strategist Holly Liss.

What to serve

When it comes to the food, the first decision is what kind of soiree you’re throwing. For Chef Eden Grinshpan Nivron, its “family style all the way.” If you decide to go catered, Jasmyn Story recommends “requesting a sample of dishes and a description/photo of the plating” so you avoid surprises. If you go home cooked, consider a menu where most things can be prepared the day before, says chef Nasim Alikhani. Manager Beata Kanter echoes that “fuss-free” dishes allow you to devote more time to hosting. Nivron also believes in “easy to assemble dishes that can be prepared in advance,” because it allows you to focus on “making one complex dish that makes an impression.”

Maayan suggests “Think about the central dish that you want everyone to remember and don’t worry about overdoing side dishes or other courses.” she adds “I like to imagine how I’d describe the event in a one-dish description, i.e. Want to come over for spaghetti and meatballs tomorrow? or We’re having friends over for make-your-own-sushi, please come!”. Maayan also recommends using dessert as the focus of the event “on Valentines Day we like to have couples over to the house for Chocolate Fondue so it puts less pressure on everyone to have fancy dates. We do the chocolate fountain, have trays of dipping items, and play shmaltzy music.”

For Ariel Roman, hosting is a time to get “creative” in the kitchen and try out new “fruits & veggies from the farmers market.” Don’t be afraid to “take up an offer from friends when it comes to bringing lite snacks and beverage,” adds Roman.

Set the mood

According to chef Carolina Santos-Neves, “half the battle” is making your place look its best. For example, “get a candle and Google Home (or speaker) for the bathroom so it feels like you're in a restaurant,” says entrepreneur Puno Dostres. Marketer Kim Ing says she always has most fun dressing the table, “I’ve recently become obsessed with colorful printed table cloths,” and recommends the ones from Cologne & Cotton. Music is a must, “so have a good playlist prepared” says Maimoun founder, Mina Alyeshmerni. Consider adding some of Georgie Greville’s essential dinner party music, Khruangbin, to the playlist. Artist Maayan Zilberman emphasizes on the importances of creating a playlist “even if it’s a breakfast or something super casual”, she also names all of her playlists so that she can revisit them years later “it’ll bring me back to the event like it was yesterday.” Another tip, from Holly Liss, “always have fresh flowers by the bed, it just brightens up the room.”

An important tip from Maayan is to never start cleaning up till your guests leave as “nobody wants to feel like it’s time to go home before they are ready. The only exception here is when I have friends over and we end up in the kitchen, and we all share the cleaning together, in these cases it’s more of a bonding session.”

Focus on the drinks

For Mina Alyeshmerni, “getting everyone drunk” is the best way to ensure a great time, so “make sure beverages are full and refreshed” says Jill Lindsay. Consider a signature cocktail made with “tequila or mezcal for an up-beat vibe” says Georgie Greville, like a Paloma, comedian Sandi Marx’s go-to. Otherwise, you can always “spice up a signature cocktail with an additive like fruit or bitters,” suggests Jasmyn Story, who says to also make sure you name “the cocktail something that will spark joy within your friend group.” But if adding mixology to your to-do list is a little overwhelming, Kanter advises making the night “BYOB,” especially if you’re hosting a larger group

Mix groups of people

The most important part of any dinner party is the people. There’s a lot to consider when putting together a guest list. Paris Smith prefers bringing together friends “who may not know each other well, but have similar interests or experiences” because “people are more engaged when they are hearing information that is new to them and it makes for more lively conversations.” Jill Lindsay and marketer Dianna Cohen also emphasizes the opportunity of introducing and bringing together new people. Maayan Zilberman recommends bringing 8-12 people, combining friends from different circles.

As a host, your energy can set the tone for the night. “The best house parties are the ones where the human who gathered everyone together is having a good time themselves” says influencer Rachel Nguyen. Sandi Marx echoes that “guests are uncomfortable around a stressed out hostess and then start having childhood memories of being scolded for not helping with the dirty dishes.“ Most importantly, remember to “let loose and have fun,” says Rachel Nguyen.

Words by Mathilde Nielsen