11 Best Tips to be a Great Party Hostess

This past year on the blog I had a monthly “Tips to be a Great Party Host” series. Each month I interviewed somebody in my life or internet that I admire for being an excellent part host or hostess. Each month they answered questions about their party hosting style, why they love party planning, their go-to recipes & dishes, whether or not they decorate, the best party they ever hosted, their biggest party challenge, and my favorite question: what’s your best tip for someone who wants to be a great party host(ess)?

As we go into the New Year, if party hosting is something that you’ve thought about trying, but didn’t know where to start, here are the best tips from some of the best.


Tip from Chrystina at Chrystina Noel

Chrystina blogs at Chrystina Noel (right here!) about hosting parties, handmade greeting cards and how to stay in touch. The best party I’ve ever hosted was my 25th birthday party boozy brunch. You can check out my complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. My best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

Give everybody all the details ahead of time. Tell them the who, where, why, when, what, but also make sure to include logistical things that will make it easier for them. Should they eat before they get there? Should they bring anything? Can they bring a plus one? Is there a theme? Is there a dress code? Where should they park? Are there any tricks to finding your street? The more details you can give someone ahead of time the more comfortable they will feel when they walk in the door.

Chrystina

Tip from Chrystina’s Mom

This is my mom. I’ve been telling her that she should start a blog for a long time, but she’s just not biting. The best party she’s ever hosted was a fathers’ day luncheon where there were a honey tasting. You can read her complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. Her best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

Relax and enjoy the moment – that’s the reason you are entertaining in the first place.

Chrystina’s Mom

Tip from Jessica at Sweet Love & Ginger

This is Jessica, she blogs at Sweet Love and Ginger. She’s an engineer living in the great northeast with her husband, Chuck, and their dog, Brody. She’s all about real, good food and good times with awesome people. She says that every party is the best party so long as there are happy people, food, and music. You can read her complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. Her best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

Just start. Don’t think too much. Just invite people over and keep it simple, or invite your closest friend and try something crazy. The only way to overcome the fear and figure out what works is to start doing it.


Tip from Beth at Recipes for Success

This is Beth. I sang in church choir with Beth for a long time, and man, she throws wonderful parties. She blogs at Recipes for Success about maintaining a healthy lifestyle for herself and her family. The best party she’s ever hosted was her wedding (and believe me, it was damn good). You can read her complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. Her best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

Do everything in your power to give yourself a chance to enjoy the party too. Yes, hosting a party is a lot of work but if you do some prepping in advance and plan your day right, you don’t have to spend the entire day in the kitchen while everyone else is having fun in the living room.


Tip from Brigette at Brigette I. Design

Meet Brigette! She is a graphic designer specializing in logo/identity and non-profit graphic design. (She also just won a board game creation competition which is just cool.) The best party she’s ever hosted is her annual New Year’s Eve soiree, complete with folks dressing to the nines, New Years resolution sheets, and a classic silver/gold/black and stars motif. You can read her complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. Her best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

Don’t be afraid to go big with your ideas, but also try to keep it simple when possible – party planning should be fun!


Tip from Heidi at Parties for Pennies

Heidi blogs are Parties for Pennies. She adores entertaining, champagne, and watermelon bubblegum. I love the way that she breaks down even the most elaborate parties into pieces that feel do-able for someone who hasn’t done it before. The best party she ever hosted was a Mad Men themed 40th birthday party for her husband. You can read her complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. Her best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

Have fun with the decorations and food, but remember to keep the focus on your guests! The best hostess, in my book, is one where guests leave saying, “I felt so special and loved.”


Tip from Sarah at Pretty Providence

Meet Sarah! She is one-half of the duo that runs the blog, Pretty Providence. It’s a frugal lifestyle blog where she and her best friend Jessica share cheap and easy recipes, crafts, home decor DIYs, thrifty tips, and afforadable fashion. The best party she ever hosted was her nephew’s Star Wars birthday party. You can read her complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. Her best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

Collect white serving dishes, they go with everything! You can find great ones at thrift stores, keep your eyes peeled.


Tip from Andy at Plum Deluxe

This is Andy. He is the founder & creator of Plum Deluxe, which is a place on the internet (and in real life) that combines delicious tea and moments that matter. It comes with a subscription service, a motivational podcast, and a weekly newsletter. He does it all. The best party he’s ever hosted was a dinner party brunch complete with a bloody mary bar and homemade biscuits. You can read his complete set of host tips and tricks here. His best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

People don’t care about how clean your house is. They care about being heard, connecting with like-minded people. So make time to listen. Have some thoughtful conversation starters. Connect people. Worry more about deep connection than dust bunnies.


Tip from Nida at Mommy 411

This is Nida. She blogs at Mommy 411 about motherhood, family life, and party tips. The past few times I’ve visited Georgia was to attend the fantastic first birthday parties of her adorable children. So much fun. She says that these two birthday parties were the two best parties she has ever hosted. (And I have the proof for it right here and here.) You can read her complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. Her best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

PLAN PLAN PLAN. From ribbons to centerpieces everything requires details. And in my opinion, details is what makes a party fabulous. Go the extra mile and do the effort; results will show on there own. Hosting a great party requires a lot of hard work, so make sure you work days/weeks ahead of time.


Tip from Lauren at Lauren Caselli Events

Meet Lauren! I met her at The Yellow Conference in Los Angeles this year. She is the owner of Lauren Caselli Events. She believes that live events have unparalleled power, and I have to say that I totally agree with her (and that’s why she’s a wonderful hostess). The best party she’s ever hosted was a networking event for female entrepreneurs called The Boss Lady Bash. You can read her complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. Her best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

Understand that your guests’ comfort is important, and try to walk through your part from the perspective of the guest. When they walk in, is there a convenient place to hang their coat? If not, have someone taking coats and placing them in a bedroom (a great job for a partner!). Are the plates in a spot that makes sense? Is there enough glassware or plastic cups so people don’t have to hunt for glasses? Think about what people are going to need before they have to ask, so you can relax during the event (or if you’re me, run around and clean up after people).


Tip from Johanna

And finally. Last, but never least, Johanna. Johanna and I have been friends for over 10 years now. Through that time I have been to countless parties, and I’m still always impressed by exactly how much she is able to pull off, and how much she has it down to a science. The best party she’s ever hosted was her husband’s 30th birthday, which was an around the world Epcot tour right in her own house. You can read about that party and her complete set of hostess tips and tricks here. Her best party tip for those who want to be a great host is:

Cover the big things first then worry about the smaller things. Only you will know if something that you had planned didn’t come to fruition by party time. Don’t forget to have fun! It’s easy to get too wrapped up in the details.

– Johanna

 

And that’s it. 11 great tips for you to consider in your journey towards becoming the best host or hostess you can be.

I’m super excited to share next year’s hostess series with you all. A lot of times I feel like I’m writing to people who already love to host parties, but I want to make sure to include some of the tips and tricks for people who are looking to start hosting parties and don’t know where to begin. I have a list of a few questions to answer so far, but if you can think of any additional ones, please let me know in the comments below.

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

As promised, here’s a look at a simple Christmas table setting I put together. The past few table settings (Halloween, and Thanksgiving) I have been doing were for a full meal, but for Christmas I decided to go with a Christmas Tea Party table setting.

Instead of focusing on what items I started with before setting the table this time, I’m going to focus on the process.

Talk a walk around the house.

Get an idea of what you’re looking for in your head. I knew that I was looking for things that were red, green, and white. When I took a walk around the house I realized exactly how easy this was going to be. All of my kitchen accessories are red, and it was really easy to find red, green, white, silver, and gold teas to serve on the tray.

Mix patterns with solids

Once I chose to use my Christmas dishes (which I’ve never actually) had the chance to use before, I knew that the cups needed to be pretty plain. A dark  green would have been best, but I decided that the white ones had a clean, sleek look.

Add some nature

Bringing the outdoors in is a great way to make your table feel balanced. There were excellent intentions of getting greenery for this table. I went to Trader Joe’s. I bought flowers and greenery. I left them at the office. Then I couldn’t find time to get back to the office before setting the table. It sounds a lot like what happens during a real party, not going to lie. So I decided to use the large pine cones that Ben got at Sequoia National Park. They’ve got a nice winter vibe to them.

Use what you already have

I didn’t buy very much for this table setting (only the flowers, which never made it home). I had the plates and the napkins downstairs. I used a few of the candy canes and Andes mints from the hot chocolate bar. I’m still using the nametags I made last year (and will continue to until I run out). When I went downstairs I found the tree stump serving platter that I’ve been looking for an excuse to use which nicely complements the pine cones. And the tea tray I had bought for afternoon tea; I just added a little bit of ribbon to it. (There’s a chance I need to work on my ribbon skills.

Make the table functional

After the last party I had where I decorated the table nicely and the second the party started we moved everything off the table I’ve been a little weary of going over the top again. I tried to keep the center of the table pretty clear so that all we needed to move was the pine cones to create some extra space. It also means that people can see each other easier.

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

In my walk around the house I did pull out a few things to use that I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate. They were: a silver platter, Mardi Gras beads, candles, and a red vase.

I love this (fake) silver platter. I just wish it had more height to it. I may need to buy some of those small cake stands so that I can change the levels of my dishes to add more dimension to the table. Also, it kind of clashed with the rectangular white plate.

As for the Mardi Gras beads, I couldn’t figure out a pretty way to lay them down. If I had more or ones that matched I might have been able to put them in some vases or make a chain to drape them all the way across the table.

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel
A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

I also tried to use both extra tall candles and super short candles. I couldn’t use the extra tall ones because they’re not white. (I should really buy some white candles, they seem like they would be useful.) And the short candles, yet again, didn’t seem to add enough height to the table. (And sometimes they still seem like a hazard.)

Also. My intention was totally to use this red vase. (Or at least a vase.) But then I forgot the flowers at the office and I couldn’t figure out what else to put in them. If I had branches I could cut off the bottom of a tree or sticks outside I think those would have worked nicely. Unfortunately, we got our tree about 6 hours too late and I live in the city.

A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel
A Simple Christmas Tea Party Table Setting via Chrystina Noel

That said, I’m sure all of these items will get to be used soon. I’m excited to keep sharing these tables with you. I hope they inspire you to add a little festivity to your own Christmas parties this year. Can’t wait to start working on a New Year’s table for y’all. I hope not to forget the flowers this time.

PS. This table cloth situation. I actually can’t get the wrinkles out of it. My iron hates me and my dryer doesn’t get hot enough to produce steam. Anybody have any suggestions?

A Hot Chocolate Bar

Last weekend was the 14th Annual Christmas Cookie Swap. The guest list includes people from all different points of my life, and this year I took it to a new extreme. There were people with whom I went to middle school, high school, and college. There were some family members, some of my sister’s friends I’ve gotten to know over the years, and the lady who lives downstairs – and at one point my neighbors I have grown up with (all 6 of them) came over to crash the party (who were, of course, welcomed wholeheartedly). It was quite the crew.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been trying hard to step up my party game in the past few months. I’ve been working on setting the whole stage, putting consideration into decorating, and planning out activities for the party. That said, this party doesn’t take place at my house, I couldn’t find any flowers that felt Christmas-y enough at Trader Joe’s, and the activities for this party have always kind of been laid out: eat cookies and sing Christmas carols. Exhibit A:

A Christmas Cookie Swap & a Hot Chocolate Bar via Chrystina Noel

Of course, y’all already knew about the party favor bags. I set those up in the entrance way so that people would see them before they left. In retrospect, I probably should have made a sign that said, “take one of these when you leave.” But they looked great, and the people I remembered to tell were excited to take a treat bag when they left.

A Christmas Cookie Swap & a Hot Chocolate Bar via Chrystina Noel

The biggest addition to the party this year was a spiked hot chocolate bar. They’re all the rage on Pinterest these days. (Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D, Exhibit E)

5 Steps to Make a Hot Chocolate Bar

  1. Lay out the mugs.
  2. Don’t forget to buy the hot chocolate.
  3. Make a sign. I found a chalk board in the children’s play drawer in my kitchen. It was hot pink so I covered the edges of it in green wrapping paper.
  4. Add in some flavors. Flavors can be alcoholic: godiva liquor, kahlua, baileys, vanilla vodka or non alcoholic: candy canes, peppermints, and marshmallows.
  5. Pour on the toppings. Don’t forget the whipped cream, but then remember that you can decorate the whipped cream with sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, or chocolate shavings.

Here’s how it turned out:

A Christmas Cookie Swap & a Hot Chocolate Bar via Chrystina Noel

A Christmas Cookie Swap & a Hot Chocolate Bar via Chrystina Noel

A Christmas Cookie Swap & a Hot Chocolate Bar via Chrystina Noel

A Christmas Cookie Swap & a Hot Chocolate Bar via Chrystina Noel

I’ve learned through the years that not everyone is going to want to use the hot chocolate bar. And not all of the toppings are going to get used – especially with wine to drink. So setting out only a few glasses was absolutely alright. One thing I would consider doing differently is having the hot chocolate pre-made as opposed to needing to turn the kettle on every time we wanted a cup, but I think it went well for the first year. Maybe next year I’ll get one of those pendant banners that are all the rage. We’ll see.

The food staple of this party is always the stuffed breads. The party starts at 7, so most people have eaten ahead of time, but the stuffed breads are a great way to tide people over and provide some balance to all of the cookies for the swap. Ben suggested getting pretzels in Philadelphia before we left to take to Connecticut. They were a big hit! That said, 21 pretzels was far too many, next year I would do 15. Yet again, not everybody wants a pretzel.

A Christmas Cookie Swap & a Hot Chocolate Bar via Chrystina Noel

And then there were a few new additions to our line-up. I’ve been on a chili kick recently, so we had chili available for anybody who wanted it. Then I bought two cheeses (the delice de bourgogne was gone by the end of the night), carrots, and hummus.

A Christmas Cookie Swap & a Hot Chocolate Bar via Chrystina Noel

The final touch I added this year was cookie name tags. Usually we just make people guess what type of cookies they are, but I think putting out the signs really helped this year. From year’s past I’ve learned that what happens is everybody brings about cookies, we all eat cookies while we are there, and then most people don’t take any cookies when they leave so I end up with a bunch. So this year I told everybody not to aim for only 30 cookies. (I still had a lot left over…)

A Christmas Cookie Swap & a Hot Chocolate Bar via Chrystina Noel

I never actually took a picture of the table full of cookies because I was too caught up in the hustle and bustle of saying hello, getting people drinks, attempting to figure out what was wrong with the bottle of chardonnay I opened and offered to my friends fiancee that I met for the first time, and putting on a Christmas performance with Biz and Kerry (usually we have more than just 3 people around the piano, but this year it was 3 people around the piano and about 15 watching… it made me wish we had rehearsed…).

Anyway. That’s it. I hope you’re inspired to make your own hot chocolate bar! It was fun!

Holiday Party Favors

Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel

This post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods. All opinions are my own.

Guys. I’m so excited to be partnering with Uncommon Goods on this post today. Why? (a) Because I’ve been thinking about doing holiday party favors for my annual Christmas party for years and for some reason never made it happen. Until now. (b) Because Uncommon Goods is a company that focuses on handmade, recycled, and organic products – as well as on making a positive impact on the world – all of which things I absolutely love about them.  (c) Because Uncommon Goods tries really hard to make the shopping experience easy.

For example: Does anybody remember this post where I explain how hard it is to buy gifts for my dad? Or this post where I did it again? Well, Uncommon Goods has a few lists that are a great starting place for solving this problem. For example: click here for gifts for dads, click here for gifts for husbands, and click here for gifts just for men in general. Super helpful.

When I went online and started checking out what they had in stock for the holiday I found some adorable handmade Christmas ornaments that would be perfect for the party favor bags. There were hedgehogs and lions and monkeys and penguins (oh my!).

(That said, I’m currently a little made at myself that I missed the T-Rex and giraffe ornaments…)

Anyway. Take a look at how cute the ornaments that did show up at my door are:

Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel

And then I put them together and made an entire fluffy zoo of Christmas tree ornaments. (Anybody else saying “It’s so fluffy!” in their head right now?)

Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel

In addition to the ornaments I included a few pieces of holiday candy. As far as I’m concerned you can never get enough peppermint bark, Lindt truffles are where it’s at, Dove chocolate is the best chocolate, and candy canes make the best hot chocolate stirrers. (This was a very curated batch of candy, clearly.)

Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel

To wrap the goodies I kept it simple and went with cellophane bags (that I’ve probably had for 8 years), white ribbon (ditto), and the tags that I put on the party favors at the Chrystina Noel Christmas Party last year. (Yes, after last year’s Christmas party I took all of the tags off of the favors that weren’t needed and kept them because they were too adorable to part with. I’m glad I got a chance to use them again this year!)

Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel

All I did was take the tape off, add a “for” on the top of the card, and punched a hole in the upper-left-hand corner. I thought they came out pretty cute! (Yes, I made one for myself…)

Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel

Here’s a look at what fun goodies went in each package:

Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel

One thing I would do differently next time is make sure that the bags that I bought were three-dimensional. These bags turned out to be two-dimensional, which made it really difficult to put the hedgehogs and lion inside. (The penguins and monkeys fit okay.) I had a lot of fun deciding which animals fit my friend’s personalities. We’ll see how they think I did! Here’s how the finalized bags turned out:

Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel Christmas Party Favors featuring Uncommon Goods ornaments via Chrystina Noel

These holiday party favors were a lot of fun to put together, and I can’t wait to give them out at the party. Maybe I can keep this up for the 15th Annual Christmas party next year too. We’ll see.

Do you do any party favors for holiday parties? I’d love to get more ideas for years to come!