How to Be a Gracious Host

Is ‘etiquette’ a word that has disappeared with the Victorian and 20th century way of life? Read on and be the host with the best…

Etiquette is all about the way you behave with people. This is especially true for an invited guest or a friend who just drops in. It is not very difficult to make people feel at home, to welcome them and to make them feel loved and comfortable.

A gracious host takes pride in being generous. She takes the trouble to earmark and to spend time interacting with family and friends. Often, we hear that somebody threw a great party. What made that party special? A good party does not happen just like that. You must plan so many things. It is not just the cooking and cleaning. It starts with the guest list, your invites by messages, emails or calls, keeping track of RSVP’s and the budget.

The plan

What is the reason for the party…a birthday, anniversary, career move, return hospitality or a festival?

  • As pero the reason, the theme can be factored in.
  • A great deal of money need not be spent to create a mood to match the theme.
  • Use resources at hand…table cloths and runners, plates, cutlery, food, flowers, lights, candles, music and seating arrangements.

Factor in the numbers…how many you can seat comfortably in the living, dining and spill over spaces. Get that number of chairs and seats – borrow from a kind neighbor if need be – so that people do not have to keep standing all the time from entry to exit. Even if it is a cocktail party, some comfortable seating should be available.

Add levels of seating…throw a mattress near a wall for extra seating. Leave enough space to mingle. Conversations can sparkle only if the dynamics of the different groups keep changing.

The invites

Once you have the list of invitees, do factor in an extra couple or two in case of refusals. Call them, send a message and politely ask for a RSVP.

At the beginning of the week of the party, send a reminder. Repeat a day before, and/or on the day of the party. Specify a time span…it will help you and the guests. Don’t forget to send your address, nearby landmark, a map, contact numbers, etc. They may be people who visit you regularly, but it is more helpful to a guest to have the info ready at hand.

Make sure to tell people not to bring presents if you don’t want to be embarrassed. If you are giving a return gift, shop and keep additional numbers in case there are extra people.

If kids are coming, plan their entertainment, age-appropriate gifts and food too!

Pre-party chores

Clean up the house. Change the linen, scrub the bathrooms, put away any mess and tidy up shelves. Don’t assume that you can close a door and hide stuff. People will stroll and explore!

Get your shopping done. Remember napkins, drinks, snacks, garbage bags, water, etc.

Menu and serving options

Plan your menu. Do be sure to provide equal number of choices for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. If a friend is vegan or allergic to particular foods and has mentioned it, do make sure that s/he is catered too…and not with just one dish.

Make sure that you can place your dishes in a way that there is no rush or queues waiting to be served. You can keep two sets of the dishes cooked on either side of your table to facilitate seamless service.

If you are passing starters around, get a professional to do so. Or, be ready to do it yourself and factor in the time. If a friend offers, grab the opportunity!

At the party

When you host a party, it is a projection of yourself, your talents and your personality. Your parties should be remembered with happiness, not as an event where you were frazzled and could not cope with the different elements.

At your party, you want to make your guests feel welcome and at home.

Avoid controversial topics. Do not invite people who cannot get along with each other. Split them to be entertained on two different occasions.

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Padmini Natarajan calls herself Dame Quixote for she is forever tilting at windmills! A storyteller, poet, columnist, blogger, editor and journalist, she has specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. She has worked for over 15 years as Part-time Language Editor and Writer of manuals, curriculum textbooks and other material with an E-education organization, EZVidya/Chrysalis that is aimed at empowering Teachers, Students and Parents. She taught Vedic Heritage at Kalavardini to children from the ages of 3 to 14 and written and directed skits and plays. She won the Gourmand Special Jury Award in Paris in 2009 as co-author of ‘Classic Tamil Brahmin Cuisine’. Her book of short stories - ‘Crossroads: Stories from South Indian Lives’ - has good reviews on Amazon. Padmini has been concerned with paying it forward with her involvement in organizations like Sneha, a suicide prevention NGO, Canstop, Cancer Support group and many women’s organizations. Her other passion was acting, on stage, TV and screen. She is a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff, a music maniac who listens to Golden Oldies and has a strong Facebook presence. Nowadays she is an armchair activist and world traveler from the safety of her home. Quite the hypochondriac, she is exploring spiritual enlightenment through Vedanta and loves to spout philosophical thoughts to unwary audiences.