Entertaining for the first time? Follow our tips and tricks for a successful and flawless gathering.
1. Should I mail invitations, or can I e-mail them? Whatever your method, it's a good idea to extend invitations three to four weeks prior to the event. Remember that electronic invitations are appropriate only if your guest list consists of people who check e-mail frequently.
2. How many people whom I invite will show up? Obviously, the type of occasion and the guest list will affect the numbers. But for bigger parties a good rule of thumb is to expect 70 to 80 percent to show," Most people who are polite enough to R.S.V.P. are polite enough to show up (or call if they can't). If someone who hasn't R.S.V.P.'d arrives, be gracious and make room. Most important, dont invite more people than your place can handle. 3. Do I have to tell my neighbor about our party in advance? It's always polite to warn the neighbours before you entertain, especially if you expect a big crowd. If your party will be outdoors and the music will definitely carry, or if your guests will take up a lot of street parking, it's even more important to spread the word. A few days' notice is OK. If you don't normally socialize with the neighbors, you're under no obligation to invite them. 4. How do I gracefully tell people that I don't want their kids at my party? Deal with this delicate issue in person or over the phone, rather than specifying on the invitation that kids aren't welcome. Most guests will realize that cocktails or a Saturday-night dinner party aren't kid-friendly occasions, but if you're concerned, you can always clarify your position when guests call to R.S.V.P. Say something like "It will be so nice for all of us to have some grown-up time for a change" or "I hope you won't have any trouble finding a sitter on a Saturday night.
5. What time means drinks, and what time means dinner? For a cocktail party on a Friday night, start at 6 or 6:30, so people can come straight after work and go for dinner afterward. Weekend dinner parties generally start between 7 and 8. Having drinks first allows all your guests time to arrive; let your invitation convey the details: "7 P.M. cocktails, 8 P.M. dinner."
6. How much alcohol, and what kind, should I have on hand?
Instead of stocking a full bar for your next cocktail party, have a short list of red and white wines, sparkling and still water, and three specialty cocktails. Plan on serving approximately two drinks per person for a two- to three-hour party. Remember to stock non-alchohol drinks and mocktails. When serving wine with dinner, figure on two glasses per person. One bottle holds at least four glasses; you'll need two bottles for every four people. Fine-tune the formula based on what you know about your guests. Stock enough ice. Be prepared with a variety of glasses to cover the various drinks you plan on serving. Have twice as much glasses on hand as quests. A good host will make alternative travel arrangements for a guest who has exceeded the alchohol limit or simply help to sober up before driving.
7. When do I hire a Bartender?
Hire a bartender if you're having 40 or more guests. You want everybody to have a drink in hand soon after they enter. It's something to hold on to that makes people feel comfortable. Having a professional behind the bar eliminates messy amateur drinkmixing, and frees you up for more important things.
8. I don't want to spend the night passing around snacks or replenishing the buffet. What can I serve that's low-maintenance? Bowls of warm spiced nuts and olives and oversize platters of antipasto require almost no preparation and can be left out even in hot weather. Fruit and cheese platters will stay chilled if you serve them on a marble serving piece that's been placed in the freezer overnight. Simply order from caterer or restaurant - Sushi, Mexican and Thai are crowd-pleasing take-out options. Be sure to opt for take-out options that you have tried out.
9. How can I make my place look festive without spending a fortune on fresh flowers? Minamalistic arrangements are best because they're easy and they always look pretty. Let soft mood lighting take care of the rest. Dim the lights and cluster about 20 tealight candles in votive glasses on a tabletop in your welcome area. 10. How do I manage cleaning up without abandoning my guests? Spend minimal time cleaning while your guests are still there. Everybody gets stressed out by dirty dishes in the sink. Rushing to the kitchen to clean up for more than 15 minutes before the guests depart is rude and unsociable. It's perfectly fine to spend a few minutes clearing plates or organizing the kitchen as long as you set your guests up in the other room and make sure they are chatting easily. A definate no no is expecting guests to help washing or clearing dishes.