The holidays are here, and chances are you have your fair share of parties to attend. You know the rules: Bring a bottle of wine and follow up with a thank-you note. But what if you're the one throwing the bash? We talked to partygoers from around the country and found out what they have to say about hosting dos and don'ts. If you're planning to open up your home this season, read on to learn everything your guests are too polite to tell you.
1. Put some thought into the food you serve-and how you serve it.
Any holiday party guest will appreciate being served a full meal, but if there's nowhere to sit and eat, it can be more trouble than it's worth. If you're planning to serve a buffet meal, your party guests need enough surfaces to eat on. "How can you cut meat without putting down your plate?!" asks Doug from Atlanta. Maghan from Gainesville, Florida, seconds that: "Not planning the wineglass-plate-fork scenario makes it awkward for everyone. Either have plenty of seating and wineglass surfaces, or commit wholeheartedly to finger foods."
2. Be upfront about the guest list.
"I find it annoying when people hide the guest list on Evites," says Agnes* from New York City. "I want to find out if I'm going to know people there or if I should bring a friend." She also wishes hosts understood that it's helpful for guests to know the size of the party, which influences whether they plan to drop by, be on time or arrange to travel with friends.
3. Make sure there's enough room for everyone to mingle.
You don't have to have a huge house to create a welcoming atmosphere-you just have to be smart about how you set up the party. "An overcrowded [food] display is a real turnoff," says Brynn from New York City. She wishes hosts would avoid a stampede at the appetizer table by creating separate areas for the drink and food stations as well as remembering to leave trash receptacles in clear view.
4. Make an effort!
"If you don't care to make things festive, then don't bother throwing a party," says Brynn. "The holidays are special, and should be treated that way." She wishes every host would encourage guests to dress up, throw on seasonal tunes and decorate the house. According to Maghan, a hostess should remember that lighting is crucial for setting the mood and creating a party atmosphere: "Bad overhead lighting is such a mood-killer! If it's at night, well-placed lighting is invaluable."
5. Don't forget about the bathroom.
Partygoers have serious gripes about the state of the restrooms at holiday bashes. Marie* from New York City says, "Cleaning your bathroom is just as important as making the perfect cheese plate or holiday punch. Nothing will tarnish my impression faster than a bathroom straight out of a gas station with empty toilet paper rolls to boot." Leslie* from Chicago also stresses the importance of keeping the bathroom stocked with toilet paper: "Don't make your guests have to come out and awkwardly ask for more."
6. Don't try too hard.
Organized party games and icebreakers are fine in theory, but unless your gang is gung-ho about playing, they just end up making people feel uncomfortable. "Forced party games are a clear sign of desperation. If guests can't simply enjoy each other's company, you should maybe reconsider your friends," says Allie from Seattle.
7. Make it clear whether kids are welcome or not.
Agnes remembers one party she attended where a couple arrived with a newborn baby and the woman proceeded to breastfeed in the middle of the room. "That might be fine if everyone else has babies or kids in tow, but in a room full of 23-year-olds, it was very odd," she says. To play it safe, specify "adults only" or "kids welcome" on the invitation.
8. Keep Fido and Fluffy out of sight.
For an allergic guest, a surprise four-legged partygoer can ruin the night. Consider keeping pets in another room or having someone watch them for the night. Even if none of your friends is allergic, there's no guarantee they'll love your furry friends as much as you do. Maghan puts it this way: "Your dog is not that adorable. The slobber and scrapes [guests will be subject to] aren't cute at all."
9. Don't be a neat freak.
Parties get messy. No matter how hard hosts may try to prevent it, people will spill their drinks or leave a ring on the coffee table. "I hate being told that red wine won't be served because the hostess doesn't want stains anywhere," says Brooke from Los Angeles. "If you're that uptight, don't have a party!" Brynn dislikes having to take off her shoes before entering a party. "Nobody likes walking around in someone else's house barefoot or in just stockings. If the tenants downstairs will throw a fit over too much clicking and clacking, then perhaps you shouldn't be having a party. If it's your white rugs you're worried about, maybe you can splurge on a few area rugs for the occasion."
10. If you can't afford a party, don't have one.
Chances are your guests will bring a hostess gift to your shindig-and you really shouldn't ask for anything beyond that. Luba from Atlanta hates when hosts ask her to bring specific items to their party or request donations to cover the party costs. Isabel from San Francisco recalls a particularly uncomfortable situation in which a host asked for financial contributions the day after her party. "It's tacky to invite people over for a party and send a follow-up email the next day asking each guest to contribute cash commensurate with how much they ate or drank. Just ask us to bring over some wine instead."
*Names have been changed.
Photo: © Luke Stettner/Getty Images
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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