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The Basics of Entertaining

I'm fine-tuning a series about the Basics of Entertaining because, let's face it, if you're shaky on the basics, then knowing the difference between high tea and afternoon tea or serving unique cocktails won't save your party from turning into the sort that people talk about with a certain sense of thank goodness that's over.

First, some previously written SCS articles on the topic:

Avoiding the "Party Killers"
Making the Mood with Music
When to Hire Help

Secondly, I'd like to hear from you!  What are some of your sure-fire ways to please your guests?  Do you have a go-to playlist?  How do you break the ice with new guests?  Deal with small space?  Maybe you're a beginner and have questions - let's hear them!  You can comment below, or email me

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Reader Comments (7)

It might be a bit of a risk for some people....but the parties I've hosted that have been the most successful included some sort of game or activity. They have been anything from "bag tournaments" to very organized scavenger hunts and even talent shows. The risk comes in with possible blunders in this department; ie I played a musical game and the 3 people with no musical talent just wanted to leave. It's important to remember the size and background of the crowd.

I also make sure everyone has something they take home with them. We did a Day of The Dead party once and everyone took home a personalize cardboard tombstone. Even adults like a "goody bag".

April 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I like parties with "tradition" to them . . . it doesn't have to be a big deal, but that consistency makes it fun to return to them as a guest, and makes it easier to plan as the host. We have friends who host a pumpkin carving party every year and now that we've attended for several years, we have regular "friends" who we've met there and look forward to seeing once a year. I host a potluck brunch each year on the morning of our local garden walk, it shakes things up (a party at 9 am!) and gives everyone a good start to a long day.

For smaller groups, I like the idea of games. For our "Oscar Night" party every year, I have created a game called "Acceptance Speech Bingo" . . . that is always a big hit and gets people talking amongst themselves. I have to update it every year to reflect the current nominees, but it is pretty simple to play. Another game that is good when people are getting to know each other is to put a famous person's name on a tag on someone's back. Then, they can ask the other guests "yes or no" questions to figure out who they are. This is perfect for the Oscars party, because I always pick famous Oscar winners.

April 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMartyMcI

I usually end up serving some kind of food that someone's allergic to, or just plain hates. Advice?

April 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKiira

I love going to parties that have a couple different cocktails versus a fully stocked bar. Prosecco with pear juice or peach puree is really yummy. To break the ice, it's fun to play board or card games. My family really likes Sequence. It's fun for adults and kids alike.

Party music is a must! Lady Gaga is one of my faves right now :)

Also, your guests won't have any fun if it's too warm inside. Open windows or crank up the A/C. It's hard to have fun when you're sweaty!

April 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChanthana

Beth, very good advice re: remembering the background of the crowd. Parties are not "one size fits all"!

Marty, I agree that traditional events are fun!

Chanthana, you're right about the fully stocked bar...it can be intimidating! The prosecco with peach sounds delish. And a very good point about making sure it's not too hot...that's no fun.

Kiira, I assume you're asking about a dinner party scenario. It's always nice to ask if anyone has any dietary restrictions. If you don't know your guests very well, you might want to keep things simple the first time, or do a themed dinner (Indian, for instance) so that they know what to expect and can graciously turn down the invite if it's not their cup of tea.

April 30, 2009 | Registered CommenterJen @ SecondCitySoiree

What is the best way to mingle different groups at a party? For example, you have friends from several social networks that congrgate in their own area. What are some sure fire ways to get these groups to interact? Does the type of party matter? Music?

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan

I love the "Acceptance Speech Bingo." It's the first thing I've heard of that would make me want to go to an Oscar party!

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

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