The Hosting Must-Have Guide: 10 Essentials for Great Gatherings
Whether you love having people over, or you're a reluctant host, we've got 10 hosting must-haves that will make hosting easier on you, which means a more enjoyable gathering for everyone.
We've all been to great (and not-so-great) gatherings. But what sets apart a good one from a wonderful one? It's all about intention, giving yourself plenty of time to make your space inviting and having some essential hosting tools at your fingertips.
10 essential hosting must-haves
“There are so many good reasons for coming together that often we don’t know precisely why we are doing so. You are not alone if you skip the first step in convening people meaningfully: committing to a bold, sharp purpose." - Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering
And we don't mean Game of Thrones or 1920s, though those could be fun - we're talking about intention here. As Priya Parker, the queen of gatherings tells us, think more about the why than the what.
2. Simple Tableware
Stick with white. White is classic and functional - it goes with any table setting, any time of year. Valentines? Thanksgiving? St. Patrick's Day? Your white plates get to be the canvass for the rest of your table decorations. You can add color and whimsy with additional pieces: dessert plates, condiment bowls, serving dishes, trays, candlestick holders. For the holidays we love these Pauline de Roussy de Sales Dessert Plates or these Emily Maude Twelve Days of Christmas Dessert Plates from Anthropologie.
Everything is better by candlelight. Don't underestimate the importance of the right lighting to help make you and your guests feel relaxed and comfortable. Ambiance is key to any gathering and is part of the intentionality of what you want to do with your get together. Is it a dinner party to introduce two people romantically? For business? Is it a game night with couples, just the guys or just the gals? Casual brunch with your girlfriends, or a networking breakfast? All of these gatherings can take candles. For a business or networking meeting, go with subtle - one or two scented candles poured in glass work great. We love Voluspa and Austin-based Slow North candles. For a romantic or luxurious evening, turn up the heat - tapers, votives, all kinds work. Tapers are a great way to add elegance to any get together - try Austin beekeeper, Raul Vergara's 100% beeswax candles from his Austin Honey Co.
4. Wine glasses: Red, White and Sparkling
Get your glasses washed, dried, out and ready to go before your guests arrive. If you're setting your table in advance, you can use one type and leave the others arranged on your countertop or sideboard, trading them out as necessary. You can also group the red glasses near the red wine, if you're doing more of a grazing style for serving.
5. Plenty of silverware and serving utensils.
Like your wine glasses, make sure all your cutlery is clean and ready to use ahead of time, because you always need more than one setting for each guest. If you've got silver-plated, polish the day before and store in a Ziplock or a polish cloth. You can either set your table in advance or use dedicated silverware holder like the one pictured above from Pottery Barn, or your own pitchers or vases (this is where the whimsy, elegance or sophistication can come in when paired with your white tableware) to hold each type of utensil for a buffet-style serve yourself gathering.
There is a reason every staged photograph of a room or table has flowers on it. They signify not only elegance, but intention. It takes time to cut them from your garden, select them from the flower market or just pick them up from your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Wherever you get them, flowers make a statement. Choose them with your guests and the intention of your gathering in mind.
7. Seasonal Decorations
Aside from flowers, a bit of seasonal decorations go a long way towards making your gathering look and feel special and intentional. Table runners are great ways to bring your decorations together and add texture and interest to your table or buffet. Natural seasonal items are fabulous too - pine cones, dried leaves or flowers, dried fruit like pomegranates, oranges, nuts, fresh tree boughs, summer grasses. Whatever is in season (even if you have to buy it from the grocery store. ) Of course you can create gorgeous tables from store bought items - glass or ceramic mini sculptures of fruit or veggies or holiday themed animals (think rabbits for Easter, pumpkins for Halloween and fall, you get the idea) and holiday lights. Don't underestimate the power of some casually strung holiday lights. They make everything more festive.
Even more than candles and flowers, music sets the tone (pun intended) for your guests. If it's a business meeting, very quiet or no music is appropriate. But otherwise, it's your chance to play DJ. Creating a playlist just for this event, gives you the opportunity to be intentional about how the mood shifts through the evening. If it's a special occasion, you can share the playlist with your guests so they can remember what a fabulous host you were every time they listen.
9. Raised serving trays
Especially if you're serving buffet style or you've just got appetizers or desserts to display, these are fantastic. Mixing up the height on your serving dishes and dessert stands is a great way to create drama and gorgeous, Instagram-worthy spreads. Try something like the ones pictured above from Frontgate.
10. Seating, layout and comfort
If you've hosted very many gatherings, you will have noticed that people will pool together in the smallest space in the house - or where the food and drinks are. Encourage your guests to connect in a way that serves your theme. Do you need a few intimate spaces for conversations? A big open space for dancing? Group seating to play a game? Move your furniture around to fit the intentions of your gathering. If it's warm out, make sure the AC works or there are fans if you'll be outside. If it's cool, add inviting throw blankets and pillows to your chairs and couches. The space you create will inform how your guests interact with you, one another and the event you have planned for them.
One of the best things about having everything ready before hand, is that when your guests arrive, you can spend your time attending to them, and truly hosting your soirée, brunch, danceathon, networking event, whatever gathering you've planned, and not in the kitchen washing and drying glasses and silverware.
Here's to having one of your best gatherings yet! If you used any of our tips or made an Instagrammable table or decor, tag us @drinkboxt and share your brilliance.