COURTESY OF HAUTELIVING
THE NEW YORK CITY WHITNEY (MUSEUM) GALA
FRIENDS OF THE NEW YORK CITY HIGHLINE EVENT
As a host/hostess, your goal isn't creating an event, it's creating an experience. Lighting may not seem imperative in creating an event but in creating an experience it's key. You have to consider all the senses to create an experience. Candles are the most flattering light. When people look good, they feel good...when people feel good, they drink and talk and mingle and engage. The best lighting approach is to have some overhead light, some side light and candle light. However many candles you think you need, triple that amount.
Surprise is a host/hostesses best ally. The most sophisticated events are those that represent the personality of the host/hostess. Be yourself and be confident. Don't try to create a "fancy" event that isn't you. Instead, pick out the elements that are you and present them in a high/low mix. Pigs in a blanket can be incredibly chic served on a vintage tray (and invest in gourmet mustard on the side), even Popeye's fried chicken can be sophisticated if you serve it on a beautiful tray. It's not about only serving high-end, it's about the way you serve it. Think about the little elements that bring a high-end approach to casual, everyday food.
Often I will seat a table with one name on the front and another on the back. Halfway through the meal everyone turns over their placecard and moves to a new seat. It's a great way to keep people talking and engaged in the evening. Family style meals also create that intimacy among strangers. Just passing and sharing food puts someone subconsciously outside of their boundaries into a more open headspace.
A party can be an amazing time but it can also be incredibly stressful for a host/hostess if all the guests don't know each other. Your goal is to encourage guests to interact with each other throughout the night so as the host you can mingle between groups. Encourage this interaction by creating "moment" around the party that involve the guests having to engage. A self-serve bar cart encourages "water cooler" conversation and assistance as guests mix drinks. I also love the "two part cocktail," mix up a cocktail in two pitchers with half the ingredients in one and half in the other, guests need to blend the two on their own to complete the drink. This allows guests to talk while making drinks for one and other.
Your guests are there to spend time with you and to see you having a good time. If your head is in the oven (literally or figuratively) all night, you'll transfer your stress to your guests. You're spending time and money to have guests over, you should enjoy it. The best way to put your mind at ease is to have everything prepped in advance and have someone at the party to look after drinks. Look into local bartending schools who'll offer inexpensive rates to have someone in charge so you can relax and focus on your guests.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF VAN WYCK AND BECKY BYRON