SOCIAL GRACES 201:Hostess With the Mostest and BIF
Some time ago, I wrote a post about French women not dating but always having suitors, and one of the arsenals in their bag of tricks is to host dinner parties and to invite single friends, male and female, over for food, drink, and good conversation. In honor of the beginning of your new year, I want to offer the suggestion of kicking up your entertaining game a notch and hosting some dinner or cocktail parties. (The Superbowl does not count.) I find this is a fun way to meet new people, and any opportunity to party a little is always a good reason in my book.
In this economy you might be wondering, who has extra funds to feed a group of people? Ah never fear, hosting a get together does not necessarily mean a 12 course meal (though if you have the time and means, go for it!). It could be as simple as hosting a cocktail hour (which is usually between the hours of 6 and 8 pm) when a few appetizers and drinks are served. You could serve a few wonderful tasting cheeses with fruit and a few bottles of wine that complement, or invite your friends a little later in the evening (after they have dinner on their own) for desserts and/or sweets (cookies, chocolates, cake, etc.).
The main point is to get together and have a great time. It also creates an opportunity for the single men to observe your domestic skills in entertaining and interacting as a hostess. (Don’t worry, no one is trying to push you back to the 50’s.) If you can’t cook, don’t worry, you can always cheat! (Buy store bought appetizers like mini quiches, taquitos, etc., heat them up and lay them out on nice platters with lots of flair!). If it makes you feel better, Jackie Kennedy Onassis was not a good cook, but she was great at arranging and menu planning and let others sweat in the kitchen. (Just so you know). If you have 3 or 4 girlfriends, you can also alternate between each other’s places so that one person is not doing all the hosting (and those who are not hosting the get together can help with set-up and/or clean up duty) and you can expand your circle of friends.
Now to plan a great dinner party large or small you need “BIF”, and that stands for Bar, Invitations, Food. BIF is the heart and soul of your dinner party so it is imperative that every part of “him” functions properly. The components that make up BIF are as follows.
When you are having an impromptu get together that will happen within a short period of time (1-7 days), a phone call to invite your guests is sufficient. If you are having a party within 2 weeks, an email invitation with a follow up phone call is sufficient. If you are having a party within 30 days or more, written invitations should be mailed out with a call the week before the event to confirm attendance. When sending out your invitations the following should be kept in mind:
1. The invitations themselves: Your invitations should reflect the theme of your party or your personality. For example, John Travolta is a licensed pilot and loves to fly, so when he celebrated his birthday a few years ago, his invitations looked like plane boarding passes. If you are having a tea party, your invitations could be shaped like tea cups or tea pots. If you are having a Mardi Gras themed event you can have a mask shaped invitation, or you can send out very simple invitations using your signature color, it just depends on how you want to express yourself.
2. The theme/occasion: Is it a surprise party? cocktail party (no dinner, just appetizers and drinks), wine and cheese? engagement? dessert only? Be as specific as possible so that your guests will know what to expect.
3. Date and time: If possible, try not to schedule your party near a major holiday–Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.–unless your party is in connection with a major holiday, as you have a good chance of receiving a lot of declined invitations. The time of your party will depend on what kind of party you are hosting: Cocktail (6-8pm), Brunch (11am-1pm), Tea (2pm-4pm,3pm-5pm, 4pm-6pm), dinner (7pm-until), Champagne and Dessert (8pm-10pm).
4. Location, Location, Location: If you have the party at your home or a restaurant, provide a map and directions. If you are hosting at your home or apartment, calculate before you send out your invitations how many people you can accommodate comfortably, and as a courtesy, you may want to inform your neighbors if they are in close proximity of your party in case the noise level rises way above normal.
5. Specific instructions: Maybe the bridal shower gifts should be housewares, lingerie, etc., or maybe you want your guests to wear a certain color, etc. Make sure you provide specific instructions clearly. I was invited to a birthday party where the host asked the guests to wear black. I did not read the instructions and wore a red dress (yikes!). It made for an uncomfortable evening for me. No blame to the hostess, I did not thoroughly read the invitation.