6 Thankfully Simple Ways to Be a More Relaxed Host

published Nov 17, 2022
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There’s a chill in the air and the holidays are almost upon us. The days of meeting in the park for a casual picnic or lounging al fresco with a cool drink are behind us until next spring, and the invites are rolling in for holiday parties, Friendsgivings, and all of the cozy gatherings that make the dark days of winter a little brighter. 

And it’s all fun and sequined outfits until you decide to take the plunge and host a little get-together yourself. All of a sudden, you’re worried about oven timelines, ounces of wine per guest calculations, and hoping the playlist you choose hits the right sophisticated soiree note. 

But don’t worry! All of the perfect details are nice, but throwing a successful Thanksgiving dinner or holiday cocktail party doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are six simple ways you can be a more relaxed host. And remember, the number one way is just to relax yourself. “If you’re relaxed, your guests will be relaxed. Guests definitely can pick up on your vibe. So the less you have to do, the more relaxed your guests will feel,” says publicist Jordanna Stephen, who not only knows how to put on a successful event, but also loves entertaining at home. I’ll take her word for it — and the word of these other event experts.

Don’t be tempted to grow the guest list.

Event planner Sofia Crokos knows how to throw a sophisticated celebration, paying attention to every detail. But when it comes to her own soirees, she has a simple tip to keep it stress-free. “I keep the guest list small and hyper-tailored to avoid becoming overwhelmed by food and beverage preparation, as well as the following clean-up efforts,” says Crokos. 

“Don’t try to host a lot of people, you’ll be too frazzled trying to entertain the masses. Keep your numbers small,” adds Stephen. “This way your budget, menu, and everything else is manageable.”

Plus, your guests will have more room to move, the space won’t get too loud, and you won’t have to stress about whether you bought enough wine or if your charcuterie board is going to run out. And, those friends that didn’t make the cut this time? It’s an excuse to throw another party!

Invest in a few reliably beautiful entertaining pieces.

When you know you have what you need on hand, entertaining becomes effortless. That doesn’t mean you need a different set of serving pieces for every holiday or event. Instead, invest in a few seasonless items that you can pull out again and again. 

First up, for all the board fans out there, Crokos says, “I recommend an olive wood block for either cheese, crostini, or bread display. I love working with natural elements to place food on.” 

Add in a white glazed serving platter that is just as functional for a dinner party as it is a Friday night at home. “I love a beautiful white canvas background to display canapés or vegetables for dinner,” notes Crokos.

Lastly, choose beautiful glassware, whether it’s sparkling cut glass, handmade pottery, or, the practical choice, something unbreakable. You don’t need a different glass for every cocktail. Instead, choose a multipurpose drinking vessel (and don’t hesitate to use it for your morning OJ, too!). 

Pick out your outfit beforehand.

To keep things stress-free day-of and avoid tearing apart her closet thinking, “I have nothing to wear!” Stephen likes to choose her outfit ahead of time.

“It might not be your first day back at school, but give it the same energy. Choose an outfit that you’ll feel comfortable, chic, and confident in,” says Stephen. Don’t forget, you may be pulling things in and out of the oven or pouring drinks, so choose something that can take a spill or two and still look polished (it’s the old Lilly Pulitzer founded her line while trying to hide juice stains adage).

Decorate the day before.

Stephen says, “Try to set the table and decorate as much as you can the day before. You might think you’ll have time to do it before the guests arrive, but what could go wrong goes wrong.” 

She continues, “It’s good to have as much spare time saved up the day of for incidentals.” If you have to run out to the store to pick up last-minute ice or more cheese, you don’t want to be stressed about what’s at home waiting to be done. 

While cooking after guests arrive — or even giving them chopping and dicing tasks — can make them feel needed and at ease, still setting up while they walk in the door can make guests feed off your own anxiety.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

Just keep it simple.

“Keep your theme, decor, menu, and even your guests simple. Honestly, people just want to come together and have a good time,” says Stephen. Something as simple as crock pot chili for a Saturday afternoon get-together, wine and cheese for a Friday evening, or a cook-it-all-day pot roast will keep guests happy. All they want is to eat good food, have a drink or two, and laugh together. And you can provide that without breaking the budget or your stress level. 

Let the event flow.

“The key to being a relaxed host is to be prepared. Any event that is intentional and experiential will be enjoyed by your guests. Decide on how you want to appeal to your guests’ senses,” says Lyndsey Moore of The Lynden Lane Co. Light a few candles, opt for a seating arrangement that encourages conversation and flowing throughout the space (hint: putting everyone in one conversation circle typically doesn’t work!), and put on a playlist in the background. 

With the ambiance in place, you’ll feel like you’ve got it all under control — and so will your guests.