By Olivia Rogine, Community & Experiences Lead at GNI

Hosting is hard – so hard, in fact, that it’s literally a job (specifically, mine). I’ve planned dinners, conferences, parties, panel discussions, and beyond, but no matter how much professional experience I have, I always get a little host anxiety on the day of an event I’m planning in the comfort of my own home. Will anyone even come? Will I have enough food if everyone actually does show up? Hosting is a delicate balance and an art form, and after years of practice, I have some (read: many) learnings to share.

Things to think about as a host

Sure, I could give you a laundry list of hosting “must-haves”, but the reality is, most things are actually “nice-to-haves” – especially when, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you’re spending quality time with your people. You can get by without the matching dinnerware, fancy gold plated serving spoons, and most things you see in a photo of a staged table that makes you think to yourself “I can’t do that.”

I’m here to say - Yes. You. Can.

The Logistics

When it comes to logistics, I follow one golden rule - maximize space, minimize work. What that really boils down to is:

How can you best work with the space you’ve got? For example, are you hosting in an area with limited counter space? Same. Try to utilize multifunctional (think tiered and turning) serving plates to create more surfaces to place food on, without compromising an extra precious inch of your dinner table.

This cheeseboard is everything, this Lazy Susan helps prevent people from throwing elbows at the table, and this dessert stand is my small-space pride and joy.

What are the things that you can task to your guests? Before you think about making a fancy batch cocktail, I’ll be the first to suggest a fun DIY drink station with no preparation. (Trust me on this one.) Plus, who doesn’t love using a shaker and playing bartender?

Pro tip: Print out a few select drink recipes so your guests have some direction. I’m also a huge fan of a dip station! hors d’oeuvres don’t have to be stressful. Place some nuts, hummus, and dried fruit in assorted bowls on a coffee table and call it a day! Also here are some of my favorite items for facilitating a DIY drink station at basically any event I host:

The Ambiance

The question you should always ask yourself before anyone walks through your door is “What can I do to make everyone’s life (mine included!) easier?” From there, everything else will follow. My answer to that question usually goes something like this:

1.) Make being a guest simple. Before I host anyone in my personal life (or professional life for that matter), I think of my door pitch for when guests arrive. It can go a little something like “Welcome! Thanks so much for coming. Feel free to drop your coat with me and grab a drink! All food is labeled so enjoy accordingly!”. If you’re a shoes-off household, this is also a perfect time to mention that. A little upfront direction makes life easier for everyone.

Other common questions likely to come up: Whether you have a phone charger (this is my favorite Wireless charger and I also love this dock) and if that dish has nuts in it. I’m a big fan of Tent cards for this exact reason.

2.) Keep guests cozy and busy. Now for the fun part! What is the vibe you’re going for? Lively and vibrant? Low-key and warm? Something in between? Any space can be transformed with three things - lighting, music, and an activity (or lack thereof).

The Aftermath

Wastefulness is one of my many pet peeves. While we all strive to estimate serving sizes to guest count, it’s nearly impossible to get it spot on without a little extra, because that’s what good hosts do - we prepare! So instead of kicking yourself for overpreparing, how about preparing for your over preparing?

All joking aside, waste around the holidays is real. In our ideal world, there would be none and when there was, everyone would have their own tupperware in hand, ready to bring leftovers to their own fridges. Instead, let me be real. They will take your Tupperware. ALL. OF IT. If you’re reading this, I have a feeling that you’re the kind of person that cherishes your Tupperware. That is why I cannot recommend takeout containers and some nice wine plugs enough. Save that wine for yourself if you so choose - you deserve it after a long day of hosting.

Things to think about as a guest

A Personal Token of Thanks

If you’ve hosted, you know what it’s like to accumulate a small haul of Trader Joe’s wine plucked right before checkout at the end of an evening of hosting. As well-intentioned as it is, and we’ve all been there, the Charles Shaw red blend doesn’t hit quite the way it did during Friendsgivings in our college years.

That’s why I love putting in a little more thought. Hosting is hard and I like to show my appreciation! The next time you’re on the lookout for a thoughtful host gift, consider something off the beaten path. I personally have found that giving (and receiving) some special non alcoholic beverages and fancy olive olive that I typically wouldn’t purchase myself is both special and thoughtful - just like the host in question. Some of my favorite ideas: Seedlip, Haus, Brightland.

A Thank You Note

All formalities aside, thank you cards are not dead. Please, please, please keep them alive with me. This is the pack I’m currently using.The team loves this simple set, and these floral note cards too.

Don’t Fight the Host

If you leave with something, let it be - graciousness and generosity are what qualify you to be the best host (and guest). The most important thing is that you spend time together (maybe even without phones?!) – NOT who’s taking home the most pumpkin pie.

What are your hosting pro-tips? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 👇

Photo by Brooke Lark via Unsplash