How To Be A Jolly Good Host

I have attended plenty of lekker parties; I have attended even more dismal do’s. I have attended nice soirees but even more mediocre and just plan awkward braais. I have smiled and felt my heart warm when watching attentive hosts; but more often gawked at terrible, absent-minded hosts. And so, for these reasons and the fact that ‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly, now and well, always (except before 10 am in morning… unless you are a psychopath) – this blog post was created.

Here is how to be a jolly good host at office parties, home do’s, braais and any event really…

Tight Invite

A pretty, cute or fun invite (even designed on your phone, email or Canva) really sets the tone for your party – even if it eventually ends up as a WhatsApp-sent pic. A good host always makes sure all the details are there: the start and end time, the exact address (with instructions if there are any trippy traps en-route), what to bring (not everything let’s just get that straight), RSVP date, whether it is an open/closed invite, if it is a dress up or themed jol, what the occassion is and the like. Keep it fun and witty but informative – and set the tone of your party.

You can totally skip this part – but good hosts always create an air of excitement for their guests.

Theme It, Like It’s Hot

Unfortunately, the majority of souls don’t like dress up themes (uncultured swine) but this doesn’t mean you have to completely ditch themes. Choosing colours, eras, countries, seasonal events (Valentine’s Day, Christmas, New Years, Earth Hour) – can all be great themes even if no one dresses up. For example, if you do a kiddie’s theme you can use colourful serviettes, buy throwback treats like Tinkies, Jolly Jammers, Zoo Biscuits, Smarties and make colourful punch – just to name a few examples. And if you throw in a few props – perhaps for kiddie’s theme specifically: with party hats, bubbles, slinkies, slime and putty – you’re setting your party up for victory. Props are super to establish a theme and an easy way to break the ice with guests.

PS. You don’t have to blow your budget to make your braai, party or event stand out. But it is the small details, subtle themes and little extras that makes you the jolliest host of all.

The Host Not A Guest

When you are hosting a party, you can’t expect your guests to sponsor the party. In South Africa, it is pretty standard that guests generally bring their own drinks and if it is not a special occasion like just a normal braai – then guests can bring meat. But this is already pushing it.

Don’t host a party (especially like a birthday party where people must bring presents nogals too) and expect your guests to bring ice, charcoal, firelighters, tjop, dop, a plate of eats to share, chips, chairs, wood, a few cheeses and Salticrax. If you can’t afford at the very least snacks, ice, a few cooldrinks, dessert, the sides, wood, charcoal and firelighters and seats for your guests – don’t host a party. And I kid you not, I have been invited to a party where I had this extensive list of items to bring. Needless to say, I didn’t go.

Grand Openings

You’d think that greeting people and making them feel special are obvious. Nope – it’s not. Greet people at the door with a smile, show them where to go, where they can put their stuff, where you’ll be sitting and just give them an idea where the most important places are (where the kitchen and the loo are etc).

Introduce people by name and a thing they have in common even if they have met before – this could avoid the awkwardness if someone is terrible with names and will spark a conversation while you are ushering the other guests in. Example “Jodie, you remember Tyler – I believe the last time you guys just loved talking about your dogs”. Or “Mandi this is Anchen. Anchen this is Mandi. You two will love each other because you both have a thing for tequila and MasterChef”.

Ice-Ice Baby and Cool Baths

We live in sunny South Africa – emphasis on sunny. So, whether it’s winter or not, you need to either make sure there is plenty of fridge space to store drinks, or an ice-cold water bath where people can pop their drinks in and then have additional ice for drinks available.  The best thing to do is go to Plasticland or Crazy Store and buy big plastic trunks, fill them with a few bags of ice and a couple of litres of cold water – voila; you are the perfect host.

Punch It Up

Listen, a punch and/or welcome drink are the best ice-breakers. Punches are an inexpensive and easy way to ensure that your guests have drinks all night – “a help yourself cocktail”. You can make two – one non-alcoholic one (no-fun) and one adult one (boozy) – if you drink booze. Whatever you do – don’t just free pour different amounts of all kinds of liquids in your bowl! The Google machine, Huisgenoot or your Auntie Pam has trusted recipes that won’t kill your guests.

Snack Attack

Have an array of snacks awaiting your guests that they can enjoy upon arrival. Try think of what each one loves and try to get a snack that hits the spot for every guest. Themed food will also elevate your party and Pinterest is a goldmine for ideas. Easy and yummy snacks like Sparkle and Pretzel Crack will get and keep your guests talking about your party for centuries to come.

Take It Easy Cook

If you will be cooking and baking for your guests, make sure that you spend minimal time away from your them. My favourite is something like Nachos or Nacho Dips – fairly simple, delicious, a crowd favourite, interactive and easy to prep beforehand. Or just get some pizza delivered! Rather impress your guests with your attentive hosting skills than trying to be the next Nigella and everyone is awkwardly waiting for you to appear after going AWOL for hours.

PS. If you are hosting a braai and everyone has brought their own meat– it’s your duty to make sure that all the meat gets braai’ed. Single ladies often suffer because they leave their meat with all the other meat but then no one bothers to take it with “because they have their meat mos – so who cares about that steak just lying there in the kitchen”. Seriously –  it is swak, swak hosting skills if you don’t make sure everyone’s meat is braai’ed.

Mingle With All The Singles

A host should be watching guests from the moment they enter the front door – not like a peeping tom, or hovering over them like a bat with a beady eye – but subtly glancing over. Seeing who is feeling awkward, left out, staring at their phones, no one speaking to them. It’s absolutely a host’s duty to make sure everyone is comfortable and having a good time – and a good host will approach the people who are by themselves or who are uneasy and make sure everyone pulls them into the conversation and makes them feel comfortable. Especially, the introverts!

Glass Half-Full

While the unobtrusive beady eye is watching that guests are all comfortable, the other eye must look whether the drink glasses are half-full. Any dangerously low glass must immediately be addressed by the host – “Can I top that up for you?”. If the person says: “just now” make sure you follow up “now now” and don’t forget. No person should have a dry moment from the second they step into your realm – until they are ushered into their cars.

Hit The Game Plan

Everyone has been at the braai where the fire is only started at ten and ready at quarter to two and the hangriness is palpable. Just don’t be that guy (or gal). Plan ahead of time – when snacks will happen, when the main meal/happenings will take place, when nightcaps/A.B.F’s will occur and when it is ta-ta time. And then, stick to it. This way you leave your guests satisfied and with a small bit of wanting more when it is home time.

Ditch the Hogs and Also Hags

Parties and events often bring out weird dynamics. There often is that one person that hogs (or tries) to hog all the attention, who talks over others or interrupts others to tell their story. Once the hog has finished, revert to the person or people who were talking and say “Sorry, you were saying…”. And if the hog continues, say: “Hang on Hog {use their name}, I just want to quickly hear the end of the story”.

And then there are the hags… the hags are the people who love, thrive on and seek negativity like a compass needle seeks true north. They don’t even discriminate… they’ll moan about politics, religion, people, kids, animals, crime, the petrol price, the country’s future. These hags need to be stopped. A party is not the place for negative nellies. Stop everyone in their tracks and just say – “Let’s not go there tonight guys; we have great company, snacks and I’d appreciate it, if we just have a good time and leave the rants for Facebook”.

First Rate Farewell

Nothing ends the night as well as one final surprise. A letter of thanks. A Sweetie Pie. Leftovers in a takeaway box. A brownie in a box. A mint with a note. A little souvenir. One little surprise at the end and a hearty greeting and final thanks will make your guests feel like celebrities. And will ensure that you are labelled the “host of hosts” and the person that made them feel special.

Being a jolly good host or the “host-of-hosts” is so much more than being the person who throws awesome parties. It is about making others feel special, loved and that they matter. Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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