There are few things as fun and relaxing as a lekker kuier at home with friends. I’m a little over the party scene at the moment so I’m spending more time at home (and other people’s homes), and watching guests and hosts interact reminded me of the little touches that make a get together extra special for everyone involved.
Finishing up a salad can be a casual way of getting some girls together for a fat chat, but don’t be the host that frantically runs around apologising for everything for the first hour – it makes everyone feel uncomfortable.
I like setting out a couple of different types of glasses, an ice bucket, bottle openers, ashtrays, serviettes, plates and some snacks to start so nobody has to ask for those things. I do most of the major food prep beforehad, and then just assemble/finish things as necessary.
Also empty your bins, pack away the dishes and make space in the fridge.
Bring your own
We’re very much a bring your own booze/whatever else culture and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I like having a couple of bottles of wine (or some form of a cocktail jug if I’m feeling frisky), some beers, sparkling water and juice on hand. I put this out with the glasses or tell everyone where they can find it.
If you are providing everything and guests ask what they can bring, do allocate something small and specific – you can ask them to bring a jar of olives, some ice, biscuits for a cheese plate, etc. I often feel a little awkward to show up empty handed, and bringing something useful eases that.
Know your crowd
I’m very much a planner and I was amazed to see how well a friend handled unexpected guests (two people brought dates) recently – by the end of the evening neither of them even knew that they weren’t expected, and we had all made some new friends.
Be sure to introduce them to other guests, and check in with them once or twice during the course of the day/evening without making a fuss. When our hostess did this she discovered one of the ‘dates’ were freezing and she could give her a scarf and a jacket.
I almost find slightly bigger crowds easier, since it’s ok if people split into smaller groups at stages. If there are five or six people and one of them haven’t spoken in an hour, you’re going to have to make some effort to try and include them in the conversation. This is my least favourite part of hosting as I almost always say the wrong thing when I try to make people feel comfortable.
Whether they’re not in a great mood or plainly just not a talkative person, it’s sometimes easier to ask the person to do something (help you with wine/food prep etc) than trying to drag a conversation out of them. I know this because I’ve also been the uncomfortable guest, and forced small talk tends to make it worse.
Check your bathroom before guests arrive to ensure there’s soap, plenty of toilet paper and a hand towel – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to ask strangers where they keep the TP. Do check the bathroom again periodically to ensure that nothing needs to be cleaned or replenished.
Set the mood
A couple of candles and a fresh-smelling home go a long way – when I have friends over they always comment on this. I string up some fairy lights, light my candles, switch on the air purifier and scent the room with essential oils. If I arrive at someone’s house and I can see little touches like the above I always feel as if they actually want me there.
Play it cool
The majority of our friends are casual, easy-going people – which is the only type of people I would want to host for, to be honest. If you’re nervous or you find yourself with a difficult crowd, try not to sweat the small stuff – an anxious host is a buzzkill. You can worry about the dishes and the spilled candle wax later – I find that everything tends to fall in place as soon as people start relaxing.
Well, except for that one New Years’ Eve when I served 14 people raw potato bake…
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