1.YES, USE PLACE CARDS. Say my name, say my name. Place cards take the uncertainty out of where to sit, and create the perfect opportunity to mix up party goers who don’t know each other well. Even when hosting the closest of friends, switching around the usual suspects can make the conversation more lively.
Break them up. Our favorite swap-a-roo? Mix up couples, while still keeping genders equally distributed throughout the table; each half will have their chance to shine in the convo at opposite ends of the table rather than one of them listening while the other shares their joint stories. Love them for their separate identities as much as you love them as Kimye.
Everyone’s favorite word: me. It doesn’t have to be profesh to be perfect. A scribbled name is still, a name. And the person attached to said epithet will feel loved and known just by it being there. Grab a decent pen and don’t overthink it. Just write it down.
Self-Sacrifice.While we all aspire to our dinner parties to be 100% made up of top notch guests, there’s always going to be the occasional obligatory invite to Aunt Marge (hello, stories we’ve heard on repeat since age 8) ….or Brian from the office (word count: zero). Putting thought into who you saddle with them is key in making sure everybody enjoys the night. Pro tip: always sacrifice yourself up first before plopping an unwitting guest next to good old Marge.
2. DELEGATE TO DOMINATE. Buy it. Make it. Buy it. If you’ve decided to cook the main event, take the opportunity to celebrate local makers by leaning on store bought or easy to assemble appetizers and desserts. In the infinite wisdom of domestic goddess the Barefoot Contessa (or, as we call her, “Auntie Ina”), don't make too many dishes--make two or three and buy the rest — or assemble the rest." Some of our go-tos include setting artisan popcorn next to the ice bucket (you’d be shocked how homemade popcorn seems exotic to adults) creating a mezze platter of hummus, assorted sliced veggies, artisan crackers and pickles or a charcuterie board of favorite cheeses, olives, preserved lemons and cured meat. Don’t over think it—when guests arrive they simply want a cold cocktail and something to nibble. For dessert, grab assorted dark chocolate bites, something from a local bakery or ask that guest who wants to help to surprise you with the final sweet bite.
3. DON’T FORGET THE ICE.
You can never have enough ice. Use an ice bucket or punch bowl for wine and champagne and if you are having a large party, consider filling your sink (if centrally located) with ice to use for mixers, beers and water bottles. Once the party is over simply pull the stopper.
4. IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME. Consider the flow of your space. Hate that guests congregate in your tiny kitchen? Move the drinks to the bar cart in the entry and the appetizers to the living room. Put out snacks and drinks wherever you want your guests to congregate pre-dinner. We also like to place little nibbles throughout the space to encourage guests to roam. During the holidays a good snack or spiced nut mix is perfect to place on coffee tables and consoles.
5. DON’T GET CAUGHT IN YOUR SPANX. There’s always going to be that one party goer who “was in the neighborhood” and rings the bell a skosh early. Consider it a compliment that they just cannot wait to see you, and be prepared, meaning, give yourself enough time to get ready (read: dressed), pour yourself a cocktail and dim the lights at least 30 min before party time. We also suggest having a task in mind for that early arrived guest to keep them occupied ...like lighting candles, opening wine bottles or filling water glasses.
6. GOLD STAR FOR AD
ULTING. It may not be glamorous, but we think it’s a must: empty your dishwasher, washing machine and sink before your party- your post party self will thank you. There will inevitably be guests who want to help you clean up post dinner. If you’ve got dirty laundry in the wash and plates in the dishwasher you’ve not only got a cleaning flow issue but a gross issue! Do yourself a favor and have these empty pre-party so clean up is a non-embarrassing breeze.
7. OPEN THE DOOR LIKE A DOUBLE-FISTING GODDESS. Start your party off on the right foot, and take head to Auntie Ina "If the hostess is stressed, everybody’s going to be stressed”. Put guests at ease by having a drink ready and poured for them when they arrive - and join them if they arrived solo! We love a self-serve drink station-- make sure to have all the wine selections uncorked and ready to avoid guests standing around waiting for you to open it out of courtesy. If you prepare a barcart, make sure you have a small ice bucket with tongs, a few garnishes in a bowl (lemon twists. lime wedges and mint springs are our simple -yet fancy! -go-tos) and perhaps a favorite recipe for a great G&T or seasonal favorite scribbled on a card. Also be sure to have some festive looking non alcoholic drinks and mixers on hand for those who choose not to imbibe but still love a festive mocktail!
8. AIN’T NOTHING WRONG WITH A BOXED CAKE. Our grandma’s way of saying you don’t have to be a chef to host a party. Set a pretty table, pour the wine, and by all means order Postmates. The point is to enjoy time with friends, not to launch your food network career. And if you do feel like baking a la the domestic goddess that you are, consider a zhuzh on a box cake to kick it up a notch. See our post for a few of our favorite swaps.
9. SLATHER ME IN CANDLELIGHT. It’s all about that layered lighting. Dim. Dim. Dim. Set the mood by turning the overhead lights off and ancillary lighting on. Lighting is definitely worth evaluating well in advance of your party date in case you need to make any changes (ie do you own a lamp??). We pile on allllll the candles on the table (unscented so as not to mix with food smells) and turn the lights as low as they’ll go. Keep the mood going by thinking beyond the dining room - your kitchen, living room and powder bath should be treated to layered lighting as well.
10. HEY MR(S) DJ PUT A RECORD ON.
Nothing says deadbeat party like a silent one. Make sure you’ve got your playlist locked in well before guests arrive (and a device to play it from, other than your phone). Music 100% sets the mood so make sure your tunes match the vibe you’re going for. Not sure where to start? Check out TTIB on Spotify!
11. HOLD OUT YOUR FINGERS: AND NOW YOU KNOW Bread/drink. Ok so in reality, you don’t need to be that formal. We rarely set out bread plates. But we do always serve wine! If you need tips on how to set the table, check out our guide! If you’re going for a traditional setting, we’d suggest putting the fork/knife in the correct spot. But don’t be afraid to mix it up! We also love our flatware tied up in string or stacked on top of our napkin on the plate. Create whatever kind of place setting matches the vibe you’re going for with the party.
12. EVERYBODY LOVES A SWAG BAG. Send them home with something. We like to keep little to-go boxes on hand to send guests home with goodies at the end of the night - whether that be leftovers, dessert or maybe even a to-go cup of coffee. You’ll look like you’ve really got your shit together, and they’ll wake up to some more yum.
13. SMALL SPACES AIN’T NO THANG. Just because you’re in a small space doesn’t mean you can’t host. If we all waited until our homes were “perfect enough”/“big enough” we’d die waiting! We’ve held everything from a byo-chair party (before we had dining furniture) to an Asian inspired floor cushion dinner party around an oversized coffee table. As long as you’re intentional about what kind of setting you create for your guests there’s no reason anyone can’t host.
14. YOU’RE GOOD ENOUGH FOR REAL NAPKINS, GIRL.
Real napkins look like real effort. There are plenty of cute paper napkins out there but we like to think that real napkins and plates signals to your guests that they were worth the effort. And it’s not even that hard! We’re big on the knotted napkin look - no ironing required. And if you really want the look effort free, look for our official roll out of TTIB rentals in 2020 - literally no fuss, just fancy.
15. NO SERIOUSLY, DON’T FORGET THE ICE. Enough said.