‘Tis the season for festive fun! Chances are you’re going to be hosting and/or attending several parties — here’s how to do it with style, grace and finesse…
When it comes to the last word on parties, no one’s more qualified to sound off than always-impeccably-turned-out Olga Iserlis, with her formidable reputation for pulling off the most glamorous and talked-about bashes in town.
She also wrote and published a coffee table book “Save The Date” by Olga Iserlis last year, which provides tips and ideas on party themes and variations, and the do’s and don’ts of event planning.
Here, Olga shares her insights on hosting classy:
“Let the guest feel special in being invited to your party; request the ‘pleasure of their company’ at your party,” says Olga.
Wording should also be clear and concise.
‘The event will commence on (date) and at (time).
Dress Code: Creative/Original’.”
Small, casual sit-down dinners at one’s home can be extended to invitees over the phone or even by email, though the host should invite each guest with a personal introduction or anecdote, expressing how much they want the guest to come.
Being a hostess with the mostest:
It’s all in the state of mind — how and what you want to project to your guests,
how much time you are willing and able to dedicate to the preparation process;
whom are you inviting; the size of the party; whether it’s a sit-down affair, cocktails, a picnic, a ‘come over and watch a movie with us’ event.
Whatever it is, your lightness of energy and comfort zone is important in the process.
Setting dress codes:
They should always be appropriate to the setting — don’t torture your guests! You don’t want them to sink their heels into your muddy backyard, or ruin their evening gowns and tuxes with dirt and sweat in an outdoor setting.
However, do challenge and excite them with a wacky theme that promises some outrageous costumes and fun. Of course, don’t intimidate them to the point that they won’t want to put in the effort; “dress code: invisible” might be a bit too challenging, for example.
Nevertheless, that element of surprise and creativity will ensure that your party is the talk of the town, and a good laugh in pictures the next day.
Planning the menu:
Offer enough variety or alternatives so vegans don’t end up confronted with only steak, and the lactose-intolerant aren’t faced with a dairy-heavy spread.
If you’re having a small sit-down dinner, all the more you should get to know your friends’ dietary requirements or allergies, and cater around those.
Better still, there are the expert options: chefs from known restaurants around town can be invited to cook at your home parties.
Greet guests at the door when they arrive, and establish an easy-going welcoming mood from the beginning. A ‘Welcome … so glad you have made it’ sets the tone perfectly.
Throughout the event, connect with all your guests. Make sure they’re introduced to one another. Spark conversation with everyone, drawing people in whenever they are near.
For larger parties, work the room more efficiently, going around the tables and making meaningful small talk to all – usually consisting of general questions, but with a touch of special or personal history in between.
Be mindful to mix around the room and stop to have a few deep conversations too. But remember to give your attention back to the room if someone toasts you or your party — I’ve seen hosts ignore their own thank-you toast!
Always be diplomatic and friendly with seating plans to give maximum sociability and conversation. Make sure you invite a good crowd to this type of intimate event – you do not want a roomful of strangers who end up leaving after a silent, awkward meal. If possible, prepare little place cards if you feel that people might not have enough time to get to know each other’s name during the cocktail time, but don’t stress if you have no time for that.
Never ignore the golden rule:
To make sure the evening proceeds smoothly and doesn’t end prematurely, NEVER run out of drinks. Soda is a sad replacement for bubbly, and grape juice will leave a sour taste in the mouth of your average wino partygoer. No matter how good a job you do with the food or décor, the lack of drinks will be the bane of the evening.
Always be calm and gracious:
Be ready for all kinds of possible scenarios, and embrace each situation with poise, calm and a smile on her face — whether people spill or break things, if someone posts something rude on Instagram, such as “Lovely party, but I got food poisoning”, an unflattering shot of you, or even tags the party location so your address becomes public knowledge. “Finesse and a touch of humour” would be my answer.
Most important is to choose the reaction or, perhaps, non-reaction in social media disasters, as it might be escalated to the level of ‘national alert’. I would approach the person on a private basis; send an apology note or a bouquet of flowers (if the food poisoning is the reason), and make yourself a note to think twice next time before inviting him/her again.
And of course, how to be a perfect guest:
What to wear
The differentiation between Gala and home party is evident, and the choice for attire will not be difficult.
Fashion is only one form of self-representation, so have a sense of lightness and humour when dressing up. The idea of spending an excess of time on petty superficial appearances is almost humorous in itself! Spend that energy developing your inner self, and that confidence will bring you endless charm and natural grace.
Dress your own style. When in doubt, opt for classic elegance with a fun twist. This was Audrey Hepburn’s way, and I fully vouch for its undying effectiveness.
Opinions about your political views should be kept to a very close and comfortable likeminded group of friends.
Gifts for the host
Bringing flowers is a nice gesture, but requires the host’s immediate attention away from the party. A bottle of wine or a box of chocolates would be preferable.
Switching place cards is a huge Don’t in social etiquette especially since the host would have taken time to plan the seating according to the guests’ social dynamics.