If Southern hosts had to choose an entertaining motto, they may be inclined to borrow one from the Girl Scouts: “Be prepared.” Whether it’s a highfalutin soiree at the club or a casual backyard barbecue, seasoned Southern hosts know better than to wing it (though, in a pinch, we’re pretty good at doing that too). But if you’re new to the entertaining game, don’t fret. We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve, and if you ask nicely, we’ll gladly share our hosting how tos. Here are the top five entertaining commandments that every Southern host and hostess swears by.
Know your limits.
For born entertainers, throwing a party is easy, breezy: They can type “hors d’oeuvres” without using spellcheck and stir up a pitcher of cocktails without missing a beat. For others, creating an invitation only invites stress, and prepackaged dips and ready-made salads are a veritable lifesaver. There’s no shame in either, but it’s important to know which camp you’re in and plan accordingly. For entertaining amateurs, delegation can be your best friend.
Think like a guest.
Before your guests arrive, do a dry run of your own party. Is the music too loud for easy conversation? Does the buffet line flow smoothly? Is the sweet tea chilling? Is the Keurig K-Duo Essentials brewer ready for that first warm cup or carafe of requested coffee? Will guests have a place to stash their coats and bags? A short walk-through on your own will help you troubleshoot party problems before they ever arise. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to do one last sweep of the space and make sure the dog hasn’t dragged your ratty slippers into the living room…again.
Set the tone.
Be it a casual or formal affair, it’s up to you to create an atmosphere that makes guests feel at home. A strong cocktail and a good playlist certainly help, but if you’re relaxed and having fun, your guests will too. The best hosts are the ones who seem like they’re actually enjoying themselves.
Always expect the unexpected (company).
A hallmark of an A+ hostess is that she graciously welcomes anyone who shows up at her door—even those guests she hadn’t planned on. But it’s easy to be hospitable when you’ve got an emergency stash of drinks and ready-to-serve snacks on hand for those surprise arrivals. Giving someone a cold glass of iced tea or a freshly brewed coffee from the Keurig brewer right after they walk in the door says, “I’m glad you’re here, and there’s a place for you at the table.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
No matter how much prep and planning you put in ahead of time, something will almost always go wrong: Flowers wilt; pound cakes fall; and sometimes, it rains. But what matters most is how you handle the hiccups. If the flowers wilt, grab some greenery from the backyard. If the pound cake falls, call the bakery. If it starts to rain, well, we hope you vacuumed today. When things come up, just put on a smile, fix the situation as best you can, and carry on. Chances are, your guests won’t even notice something went wrong.
WATCH: Is It Proper to Open and Serve the Bottle of Wine a Guest Brings?
For those of us who aren’t skilled in the cooking/baking/candlestick-making department, a bottle of wine may seem like an obvious choice for a hostess gift. That said, showing up to a dinner party with a bottle of wine can cause quite the etiquette conundrum for your host. Here’s how to avoid any awkwardness, whether you’re attending the party or hosting it.