A lot has changed since the 1950s, and we can be tempted to think that all of the customs then are completely outdated now, or even that they were old-fashioned and stuffy in the first place, so we should say good riddance. How wrong we would be!
A lot of the homemaking tips and tricks from the 1950s have been disregarded and labeled as antifeminist. When really, isn’t it good for women to have a large array of skills whether it be in the workplace, in the home, or, say, how to throw a good party? Knowing how to be a good hostess isn’t demeaning to women, and it doesn’t hold us back. It’s an important skill that will translate to general social skills that are only helpful to possess.
The essence of etiquette is making other people feel comfortable. So the job of a hostess is to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable time — after all she is the one who invited them over. If you aren’t used to having people over, then the task can feel daunting, but when you’re armed with tips for how to be a great hostess, it doesn’t have to be.
Have a Pitcher at the Ready
One of the first things that you should do when having people over is offer them something to drink. A simple glass of water will do, but having lemonade, soda, or even punch if you have time to throw it together (it usually only takes a couple minutes) can be a nice touch.
And if you’re having a larger group of people over, then a pitcher is nice to have because it shows that people are welcome to serve themselves. It will also clue you in when people want more to drink because, rather than having to check in on each person, you’ll be able to easily tell when a particular beverage is running low. Now your guests don’t have to feel awkward about asking for more to drink!
Prepare a Centerpiece
No matter how casual the table, it’s always nice to have some sort of centerpiece. A big part of ‘50s hostess advice was to make sure that the house looked its best when people come over. And that’s not just about cleaning. Having a vase of flowers on the table is a simple way to show you care about who you have over and that you took the time to make your home ready for their arrival.
And while your friends probably wouldn’t judge you for not doing so, think of it like this: It isn’t like your friends dropped in unannounced. You invited them! So make the occasion more special than any other night when you don’t have people over because it is.
Throw Together a Quick Appetizer
1950s cookbooks are filled with little appetizers that you can serve before the meal, and some of them are very creative. But they were never things that took tons of time to prepare. Thinking about what you will be serving in advance and planning an appetizer is a sure way to impress your guests and show them you care. At the end of the day, it’s all about the other person.
Plus, people eat at different times, so someone who eats much earlier than you might be a bit hungry when they arrive, so it would be nice to have something to tide them over until the meal.
Make What You Can Ahead
Another tip to keep in mind is that you’ll want to prepare what you’re making as much as you can before the guests arrive so you can spend more time talking and less time cooking.
If you’re serving a baked dish, prepare it all the way up to where you would bake it. Consider the bake time and when you want to serve the dish, and then plan to put it in the oven accordingly. Ina Garten’s cookbook Make It Ahead is great if you struggle with timing that sort of thing out.
Consider the Guest List
Remember that it all comes down to making everyone feel comfortable. Our friend groups can run in separate circles, so you’ll want to consider whether merging two different groups would be a good idea, or if the personalities would be too different and the evening could turn awkward.
Another big no-no is inviting someone and not giving them someone they know, or at least who you’re certain they have a lot in common with, to talk to. If you do decide to do the latter, make sure you take the initiative as the hostess to introduce them. But be ready to give an extra share of your conversation to that friend if they aren’t connecting as well as you thought. As the hostess, you’ll want to ensure they have a good time.
If you’re doing a more formal event where you have nametags at each place, don’t just put them randomly. Think about who gets along best. Additionally, if you know certain friends are shyer, take care not to sit them near the edge of the table where they could easily slip into just sitting on the outside of the conversation. Even if they aren’t keen on lots of talking, they’re bound to feel more included near the center of the table where the conversation is happening.
Plan an Activity
Sometimes parties are just eating and talking, which is totally okay. But depending on the length of the event, you’ll want to have an activity or two planned to keep your party from going stale.
The activity could be as simple as playing a favorite board game, Jenga, whatever you can think of. Or, if you have more time and a larger budget, it could be something more planned out like watercolor painting or decorating cookies. Use your imagination and knowledge of your friends to decide!
Show People You’re Interested in Them
Being a hostess is not the time to be antisocial. You certainly don’t want to dominate the conversation either, however, you’re the primary person responsible for making sure everyone feels included and welcomed. After all, who wants to go to a party where even the person who invited them isn’t paying them any attention? Smile, laugh at people’s jokes, actually listen when they talk, and respond thoughtfully. People want to be liked, so if you show them they are, they’ll have a great time.
Send out Invites
Okay, so maybe you don’t need to send out a formal invitation if the party is going to be more low-key. Evites are always easy! Or just text or call everyone. The key thing is to give everyone enough time to schedule it on their calendar. If you call last minute, people are more likely to already have plans.
Dress Code Is Key
Have you ever showed up somewhere and felt completely overdressed? Or maybe you dressed way too casually? You can help people avoid that conundrum of what to wear by telling them. It’s as simple as “oh, it’s a garden party, so wear a cute dress” or “it’s totally casual, so jeans and a t-shirt will work.” It’s one less thing for your guests to worry about when they’re getting ready.
The hostess tips of the 1950s aren’t so outdated after all. They’re simple tricks that everyone can use to host a fun and welcoming gathering. Just remember, the golden rule is the night should be about your guests and not about you.
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