Cassy is an avid entertainer, who along with her husband, enjoys having dinner parties, cooking and socializing with friends.
Having people over for dinner or hosting an event in your home should bring you great joy, not great anxiety. There is so much information available on how to host and what to cook, but not too much information on simple to-do's to keep your head from exploding.
What's your Why?
Many people love the idea of having friends over for dinner, or hosting a gathering of people for a celebratory reason. My husband and I have entertained for years and having friends over is high on our priority list for making our week complete. However, many people would rather have a cavity filled than host a dinner party. So if hosting is something you desire, you must ask yourself why?
Are you wanting to host a dinner party, an evening with girlfriends or just have another couple over? If it is more than another couple, is the reason to celebrate something, just to relax and have fun with friends or do you feel the pressure to reciprocate. There could be many reasons you host in your home and before you decide on a date, you need to make sure you know why you are hosting. This will help you move forward with details and decide on a game plan.
Dinner parties and eating at home increased during and post pandemic, and everyone was so excited to see each other in a safe environment. Pre-pandemic statistics from the Commercial Real Estate News showed the majority of Americans were spending a slightly higher amount, 50.3%, on eating out, than on buying food from the grocery store. But the rising food and fuel costs may add to a decline in that statistic.
Either way, having friends over for dinner can be, and should be fun! My husband and I have never feared hosting and have held events in our home with 4, to 54. I've also had the experience of working in the direct sales party industry and was the fly on the wall as many of my hosts welcomed people into their home. All these experiences have led me to have a simple check list of items I share with people when they tell me that hosting gives them social anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder affects about 5.3 million people in the United States.
Here are some simple things you can do to lessen your anxiety about hosting:
1) Think of a person or a home you absolutely love to visit, and think about why you love going there. For example, let's say you love going to Sally's house. What is the feeling you get at Sally's? What does Sally say to you when you arrive? What does Sally do for you to make you feel so comfortable?
Sally is now your hosting role-model and you can channel her warm, outgoing manner as you plan your upcoming party.
2) Put some thought into how you invite people. It doesn't need to be a lot of work or a formal invitation, but some creative language in a text can make your possible guest say 'that sounds fun.' Or if it's a celebratory event, grab some ready-made invites at the grocery or party store, and fill in the blanks. Just think how special they will feel to receive an invitation in the mail box.
3) Remind people! Whether you have heard from a guest or not, they appreciate the follow up and will not think you are bugging them. Everyone is busy and RSVPing may have slipped their mind. If they have RSVP'd yes, an enthusiastic reminder that you are excited to see them will be very welcome, and make sure to emphasize the date and time. RSVP means 'respond, si vou plait,' not just 'respond if you can make it. So, it's perfectly acceptable to remind a guest you are awaiting their reply and hoping they can make it.
4) When guests arrive, greet them with a smile and some sincere excitement they have arrived. Take their coat and hand bag, or immediately show them where they can place items. Point out which powder room they can use if necessary, and tell them to join you in the kitchen, back yard or wherever the party is happening. You are the director of this evening and they will appreciate being directed on where to go and what to do.
5) If other guests have arrived, do introductions and then immediately offer your guests a drink. If you have a self-serve bar, show guests the set up, and if there is anything they need, to please ask. Postpone any conversation until everyone has a beverage in hand, and then you can proceed with possible connections or a conversation starter. Not everyone arrives at one time, so you may need to do this several times.
6) Have a bowl of salty snacks on the counter or table prior to guests arriving. You may need a minute to finish an appetizer or take something from the oven, but your guests should always have something to nibble on. Julia Child always had a bowl of Gold Fish waiting when her guests arrived. How fun is that?
7) Try to have most of your food preparations done ahead of time so you can enjoy the party too. Guests shouldn't have to stand and watch you cook, or worse yet, listen to how busy you've been and didn't have time to get everything done. Think 'what would Sally do?' Make your guests feel welcome, make them feel the center of attention and make them feel happy they came.
8. Relax and have fun with your guests. It's not about having a gourmet meal or fancy table decorations, but about being a grateful host who is excited to have a fun evening with friends.
Simple, Not Fancy
To-Do's to Ta-Da!
Whether you are having another couple over for dinner or taking on a bigger party, the basics of making people feel comfortable doesn't change. Each time you host it will get easier and hopefully your social anxiety will diminish.
The tips listed above are basic, common sense steps we all know, but can sometimes forget if we are feeling a bit anxious. Keep thinking about your 'Sally' and why you enjoy going to her home and how you feel when you leave. We always think everything needs to be perfect, but it's really about everything being easy and comfortable. If you follow through with some simple to-do's, you will finish your evening with a feeling of ta-da!