Most of us have been there: The moment immediately before, during, or after a big party when you realize you got something completely wrong. Maybe it was a playlist that didn’t vibe, a burnt meal, or an uncomfortably quiet table. Sure, none of these scenarios are that big of a deal — at the end of the day, it’s just a party, after all. (And obviously, if your friends are good, they won’t hold it against you.) However, anyone who loves hosting would prefer not to commit major entertaining mistakes at their thoughtfully planned soirées; you want your party to be remembered because it was fun, not because you ran out of drinks. Fortunately, though, the biggest faux pas are easy to avoid — if you know what to look out for.
And yes, that’s the key. The potential blunders of a party tend to sneak up while the event is happening, rather than glare at you beforehand. Thus, TZR reached out to several professionals in the entertaining field to identify the most common ones for you. To ensure your next get together runs without a hitch, they not only identified frequent mistakes, but shared their expert advice on how to avoid them.
Party season is officially upon us, so there’s no better time to brush up on your hosting skills. Find out how to throw a fête that everyone loves (by learning what not to do) with the guidance ahead.
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Mistake #1: Not Having Enough Refreshments
Sofia Crokos, the founder of Sofia Crokos Events & Lifestyle, is one of multiple experts who told TZR that a major mistake when entertaining is not making enough food. “If the food is that good, guests are assured to want more, so I always ensure there’s enough to go around,” she says.
However, it’s not just the amount of food that’s important: Variety should be aplenty as well, says Sam Blumenthal, RD and culinary specialist at Miraval Austin. “Providing variety comes in many ways: seating options, types of utensils, sauces or dressings, etc.,” she shares. “Giving people options provides personalization, which is a small, meaningful detail that is always appreciated by guests.”
That also plays into the advice of Amber Mayfield, an event planner, founder of event company To Be Hosted, and publisher of While Entertaining Magazine, who says that it’s important to have options that accommodate everyone's dietary and sobriety preferences. “Ask guests to RSVP with their dietary restrictions,” she says. “And keep your bar stocked with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages!”
Mistake #2: Forgetting About Atmosphere
According to Blumenthal, parties are all about the atmosphere. And that doesn’t just mean creating a fun one — it also involves ensuring it’s not overwhelming. “Many people often overlook the fact that your atmosphere affects your stress levels,” she explains. “If there are too many moving pieces, guests can feel overwhelmed.” Thus, she says, focus on activating “the parasympathetic nervous system by expanding your atmosphere with details that highlight the essence of what you’re celebrating.” This can include many things, such as lighting a candle and playing music for a “fulfilling experience,” or buying decorations that make guests excited when they walk in the door.
Crokos emphasizes the importance of atmosphere as well, noting that both candle lighting and music are big contributors to the “vibe.” The former is important, she says, because “high ceiling lights blaring overhead are terrible.” As for the latter? It’s a great way to tailor the mood to the event and your guests, so keep those aspects in mind when creating or choosing your playlist.
Mistake #3: DIY-ing (When You Shouldn’t)
You may be tempted to make and do everything yourself — but as Yaz Quiles, founder and CEO of experiential agency POP! By Yaz, says, that’s often not the best route to go. “If you can’t cook, a dinner party may not be the time to test out the instructional video you just saw on YouTube,” she shares. Instead, she continues, consider hiring professionals to make the night go more smoothly. Having a chef cook or even ordering in and serving food on nice dinnerware could be a better approach if your kitchen skills are lacking. “Likewise, hiring a bartender can ease the stress of making cocktails, reduce costs on purchases, and alleviate the clean-up time.”
Mistake #4: Ignoring The Connection Aspect
At the end of the day, parties are about spending time with people. That’s undoubtedly why so many experts TZR spoke to pointed out the importance of fostering connection — and the fact that so many party hosts forget it.
To ensure it’s the main focus at your own soirée, there are a couple of actions you can take. According to Quiles, start by considering who your guests are, and tailoring the experience and activities to them and what they might be looking forward to. For example: “A group of friends who have not seen each other in a long time may long for conversation over a DJ who plays loud music,” she says.
Mayfield also recommends being intentional about your gathering conversations. “Write down some fun and interesting conversation starters on pieces of paper and put them in a small bowls on the table,” she suggests. “Then, guests can grab a topic whenever the table needs a reset!” Additionally, avoid making the event all about being “sharable” on social media. Instead, continues Mayfield, try to be present. “Make a ‘phone pile’ at the center of the table and enjoy each other's company. First one to reach for their phone has to do all the dishes!”
Finally, Blumenthal says to remember that sometimes, not everyone invited knows each other, and that many don’t feel comfortable introducing themselves. “To help ease this stressor, create a space where everyone can feel heard and seen if that’s what they desire,” she says. “For example, you can play an introductory game — something like ‘We’re Not Really Strangers’ is one of my favorites when getting to know someone new.”
Mistake #5: Hosting Without Planning
Though Quiles admits it seems pretty straightforward, organizing and planning is actually the “one step people tend to bypass.” To ensure you don’t commit this common misstep, she advises “taking a beat and fully flushing out your ideas with the amount of time to do each task.” Then, you can edit, shop, and determine where you need additional assistance (see: mistake number three). Doing this can help you avoid ending up with too many items, too little food, or just getting too overwhelmed in general.