Who is Eaddy Kiernan? Come next Monday, she’s a name you should know. A Vogue veteran, Kiernan is the magazine’s Director of Special Events. In other words, she’s the party-planning force behind the Met Gala, and the go-to woman for all aspects of the evening.
It’s a huge job, but Kiernan is known for handling such tasks with her characteristic grace and ease. So as the first Monday in May draws near, we asked Kiernan for a little bit of general hosting advice.
“It’s important to put a lot of consideration into how it will feel to someone entering your home,” Kiernan thoughtfully notes on a recent Friday afternoon. Having just walked in to Kiernan’s glowing office, this statement certainly rings true. “And to me,” Kiernan continues, “beyond having a sparkling guest list, the ambiance is so important when it comes to making guests feel comfortable.”
So what exactly does Kiernan recommend? “Dim the lighting, but not so much that people can’t see each other. I like lots of candlelight, and think fresh flowers are really important. Even making sure that you have flowers in your powder room can make a big difference.” Kiernan, for her own part, favors a good garden rose. But she doesn't necessarily believe that a professional arrangement is required. In fact, for the early risers, Kiernan highly recommends the Dutch Flower Line in New York’s flower district for fresh and affordable blooms. Choosing seasonal flowers, Kiernan also says, is a budget-friendly way to shop.
But as wonderful as candlelight and flowers often are, they’re not the only important details when it comes to planning a party. “Passing bite-size, and healthy, appetizers in the beginning is great—no one likes tapping their watch waiting for dinner to be served,” Kiernan says. “And if a guest is sitting on your couch, make sure that he or she has somewhere to put his or her drink.”
“A welcome cocktail is also always helpful,” Kiernan continues, “especially if it’s a larger celebration. That way, people don't feel like they have to wait on line for the bar.” Cocktail hour does, however, have its fair share of duties for a host, beyond providing a good glass of wine. “A really strong introduction is important,” Kiernan says. “If you know that your guests will have something in common, it’s important to flag that, because they might not naturally come across that fact themselves. I also think that if you see two people speaking to each other during cocktails, and you know that they are seated next to each other for dinner, it’s important to give them a heads up. That way, they won’t run out of talking points, or miss out on mingling with other people throughout the night.”
Excellent advice, and something that’s bound to resonate with anyone who’s ever realized this fact a little too late. As for that seating arrangement? “If you’re a tried-and-true entertainer, it might be worth investing in one of these really fabulous leather-bound seating charts,” Kiernan says. “They come with little cards that you can put out, and they’re beautiful enough that you can display them on a table so that guests can find their seats. But if you’re looking for something a little bit less expensive, I’ve found that pink and blue Post-its work extremely well. You can put them on a piece of paper, and adjust accordingly."
Kiernan may put a great deal of (necessary) thought into seating, but she isn’t exactly tethered to the dining room. “I really like moving the group to a new setting after dinner, to have some after-dinner festivities, whether it’s a dance party, or a game—I’m a big fan of salad bowl—to carry the night into the next phase.”
Once again, sage words of wisdom. But what is Kiernan‘s top tip? “I think it’s really important to have a mix of making your guests feel special and honored, but also comfortable,” Kiernan says. “It’s really about hitting that balance. My mom always serves M&M’s in these beautiful cut-crystal biscuit barrels at her dinner parties. People are always so surprised to see something more casual and familiar in an elegant piece, but I just think that it sets them at ease.”
This story originally appeared on Vogue.
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