Throwing a party doesn’t need to be stressful. What it is: time to reconnect, relax, and have fun with your favorite people. What it isn’t: you, too exhausted to enjoy it. Here, top entertaining experts and event planners share tips on how to create a gathering with a relaxed, joyous energy that will give everyone (including you!) something to celebrate.
Don’t worry about creating an Instagram-worthy space. “Focus on the feeling of your party,” Quiles says. “You want guests to feel great because they’ve met so many people. They’re looking for connection points and not 10-foot flower arrangements.” Try her strategies to help everyone have a good time.
MAKE IT A GROUP EFFORT.
Music is a great way to include everyone, but it can be hard to come up with a playlist on your own, Quiles says. “Instead, start a Spotify playlist and invite your guests to add songs to it. That way, everybody feels like they’ve participated. Plus, you can turn it into a party favor afterward. Just send everyone the QR Code or URL, and they’ll have something to remember the party by.”
DON’T BE AFRAID TO DELEGATE.
“Put down on paper the things that need to be accomplished,” Quiles says. “Then, if you feel like it’s too much, delegate tasks. You might think: My crowd likes cocktails, but I don’t have time to make mixed drinks. You could hire a bartender for the night and that person can take care of everything you have no idea how to do, like how much beer or wine to buy.”
BIGGER IS NOT BETTER.
“In my opinion, it’s not always best to throw one big party,” Quiles says. “Especially now, people are looking for more intimate experiences. And that might mean not just fewer guests overall but a gathering with like-minded people. For example, if you want to have a party with dancing, invite people you know are going to really enjoy that.”
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT.
“I want my guests to feel seen and heard without having to say a word,” Quiles says. “That’s what sets the right tone the moment they walk in the door.” It’s the smaller things that make the biggest difference, she adds. “If you’re expecting me to take off my shoes, do you have some slippers? Or maybe it’s a pashmina people can use if they get cold and keep as a party favor. To me, that little extra touch—it’s like, oh man, they really thought about me in this scenario.”
FIND YOUR SANCTUARY.
“I make sure to have quiet spaces at my events,” Quiles says. “By this I mean creating a safe space for the person who gets filled with anxiety being around a lot of people or noise. It could be something as simple as making a lounge area in your bedroom and saying to guests, you are welcome in here. Personally, I love what I call my kitchen moment. I find joy in straightening things up, being behind the scenes, observing what people are doing, and what’s making them happy.” Find that moment that brings you joy.
Founder of A Little Day Brunch, a company that creates social events and experiences to bring women together.
“Hosting people is a very kind thing to do,” Little says. “You’re opening your home and putting real work into a party. You need to thank and appreciate yourself, instead of chasing some perfectionist standard.” Here are her tips for doing that.
BASE YOUR THEME AROUND YOUR BUDGET.
Once you know your budget, that will help you decide how many people to invite, as well as the theme and the menu. “To keep the expense down, you might decide to have a cocktail party instead of a sit-down dinner,” Little says. “Think about your party goal. If it’s about creating good energy, maybe you host a wellness brunch at your apartment for friends and have someone come in to teach you how to make candles or do a sound bath.”
BE PLAYFUL WITH A PURPOSE.
“It’s always nice to have some type of game or discussion topic at the dinner table, especially for the holidays,” Little says. “For instance, what was something that you discovered about yourself this year? What was the one thing that you did this year that you never thought that you’d do? Or what is something that you really look forward to doing next year? You’d be surprised how people open up to something so simple. And when one person opens up, it’s like a domino effect. People feel safe, and then the walls start coming down.”
SET A HAPPY TONE.
“You can’t control everything at an event, no matter how much you plan,” Little points out. “Things happen. What you can control is how you respond. You, as the host, set the tone for everything. If you’re frantic, your guests are also going to feel frantic, and you don’t want to pass that energy around. But if you’re happy and calm, that positive feeling will be radiated out to everyone.”
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
In all the hustle and bustle, don’t forget you. “Give yourself enough time to get ready, so you’re not trying to get things done as people are showing up,” Little says. “During the party, remember to say kind things to yourself.” She advises setting a timer one hour into the party with a message. “It might say something like, ‘you’re doing a great job, your guests are having a great time. Relax. Have fun,’” she says. “And remember, your guests are going to feel a lot of love for you for hosting. Let yourself feel that love and enjoy it.”
GIVE YOUR GUESTS A SAY.
“Do a vibe check during the event,” Little advises. “How are things going? Maybe you have an activity planned, but if guests don’t want to do it, you have to be OK with that. The group will let you know exactly what they want to do. You’re letting them choose their own journey and experience at your event. You provided the canvas, and now it’s OK to let them take the paintbrush and do with it as they want.”
AMBER MAYFIELD HEWETT
Founder and CEO of To Be Hosted and creator of The Little Black Book of Entertaining.
As hosts, we can put too much pressure on ourselves, Hewett says. “When people start doing circus tricks trying to be something they’re not, that’s when they get stressed out,” she notes. These are her ideas for keeping your gathering true to you.
BE AS PRESENT AS POSSIBLE.
“As the host, you should be with your guests,” Hewett says. “That’s why having a plan, along with a menu that’s simple to execute, is so important. If the host is talking and laughing and introducing folks, instead of in the kitchen, worried about the pie in the oven, everyone will have a better time. It all starts with you. Remind yourself to stay cool and embrace the ebb and flow of the party. That will help you parlay a relaxed feeling to your guests so you can be present for them.”
DO LESS, NOT MORE.
Yes, it’s your party, but you don’t have to do it all. “When I host, I don’t go in thinking I have to cook everything,” Hewett says. “Instead, I have a balance of home-cooked things I really like to make, and the rest is store-bought, or from a local baker, or ordered from a restaurant. Take the pressure off yourself to do everything and be everything. Only do the things that make you feel joy.”
BE INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR GUEST LIST.
“A gathering that’s fun and relaxing is really about who you’re inviting,” Hewett says. “You want to make sure you’re happy and comfortable with everybody that’s going to be there. Fill your list with the people who are a joy to host. You don’t need to entertain guests that have a standard that doesn’t match who you are as a person.”
CREATE A MAP, BUT BE FLEXIBLE.
Make a basic road map for the event. “You can say to yourself, I want people to come at 7 and mix and mingle until 7:45, and then we can sit down for dinner,” Hewett says. “And dinner might go for an hour and a half, and afterward, if it feels like people need something to do, I can bring out some games. If not, I can turn up the music. Thinking through how the experience might go, and having different scenarios in mind ahead of time, takes the pressure off because it gives you options.”
FIND YOUR ANCHOR.
Be thoughtful about the party’s theme. “I like ones that are connected to feelings,” Hewett says. For instance, if you want the party to have a homefor- the-holidays vibe, build your theme off that. “You could play Christmas movies and set up a hot chocolate bar because that’s what feels like home to you and your guests,” Hewett says. Not only that, “a good theme sends you down a fun creativity rabbit hole. It gives you an anchor for planning everything else.”