When I go, I hope my tombstone reads: “He died hosting a dinner party”—not because a party killed me. Far from it! But because I love entertaining, and want nothing more than to host dinner parties for the rest of my life.
I get an incredible rush from the process of orchestrating a gathering of people I adore. Minus the cleaning up part, I love everything about it: inviting the guests (I love to mix our groups of friends), picking the menu, visiting the flower market for the seasonal best, setting the table, welcoming everyone inside, sharing a meal and a glass of wine (or more realistically, a bottle per person), seeing people I love in the glow of candlelight. There is nothing quite like it. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt this way.
I grew up surrounded by natural hosts, and I developed my knack for entertaining when I was young. My grandparents always had the most incredible dinners and holidays. Their china and crystal (my husband and I have same Waterford Kildare pattern at our home now) were always set at the large mahogany dining table, just waiting for guests.
Then there was Anna Jacobs, our across the street neighbor who loves to host and does it so effortlessly. I loved running across the street and helping her arrange flowers, cook, and set up the bar (I was in middle school but I was good at it!).
I think when I was younger my mom even tested me a bit. She would buy the typical supermarket flower bouquet at the grocery store and stick them in a vase the exact way they came. When no one was looking, I would cut the stems, add greenery and anything in bloom from our garden and make it look completely different. (I did this when no one was looking because I played football in middle school and I am sure I was the only boy on the team coming home after hitting drills to re-arrange floral displays… but that’s an entirely different blog post!)
My love of entertaining continued through high school, where I helped plan proms and school events, and on to college where my roommates and I often hosted parties that didn’t involve red Solo cups, but rather the upgraded clear plastic ones. I was even elected Social Chairman of my Furman University Sigma Chi fraternity chapter where I planned house parties and formals.
And I guess if you are reading this, then you know that my love for planning has continued on to my professional career. I now get to create experiences for our clients, our friends, and my family on a near-continuous basis.
People always ask “how do you do pull that off multiple nights a week?”
And my answer is always “be prepared.”
Maybe it’s the Eagle Scout in me, but as far as I’m concerned, the best events require their hosts to be two things: well organized, and graced with a sense of humor—things will go wrong, and when they do, you have to laugh them off, then make them right.
Cookbook author (and a dear friend) Anna Watson Carl shared a quote a few weeks back that stuck with me.
“Mood over food. Always. Remember that the people you are cooking for love you and are here to spend time with you. If your dish fails, preserve the mood—no over-apologizing! Just order pizza, pour more wine and laugh. Try again another day.”
I couldn't agree more.
It's so easy to fall into the trap of waiting for your house to be re-decorated, or for the perfect recipe or occasion, or until you “aren’t busy.” Let me tell you those circumstances may never come! I am the biggest advocate for inviting people over for take out and dusting off that china anyway. What are you “saving” it for? If you don't use it with those you love, who will you use it with? (Hint: the Queen of England isn’t coming to your house for dinner to use your Baccarat!)
If you were inclined to take Anna’s wisdom to heart, now that the holidays are upon us, how will you plan your gatherings differently? Even if you aren’t hosting a big party, why not host a dinner for no other reason than to celebrate the end of the year, the closing of one chapter and the opening of a new one?
In the coming posts, I’ll share some easy tips for entertaining, hosting, or planning your next event. But in the meantime, take advantage of the wisdom that some of my favorite people share daily about hosting. I'm fortunate enough to call the entertainers below friends, and they inspire me all the time to step up my game!
@gigigrimstad - I learn from Gigi with every post—like the one above! Her effortless style and impossibly chic taste always leave me inspired. And her swoon-worthy collection of antiques, vases, china, crystal and silver gives me something to aspire to.
@internationalgarden_nyc - While their social media presence may not be as active as some of the others featured here (sorry Chanida!), this talented team has been helping me create memorable experiences for more than 10 years. From corporate events, to over the top weddings, to intimate dinners in my home, these people are my family.
@ainttooproudtomeg - Meg’s amazing boards (see above) are worthy of a celebration, even if you're just celebrating making one of her boards and opening some good wine!
@colbywestdesign - We were lucky enough to have this amazingly talented, 6’7” gentle giant as our wedding florist. Colby can “bippity boppity boo” a pile of branches, leaves and flowers into the most gorgeous creation you have ever seen!
@mykameier - Myka’s etiquette tips (above) are easy to digest, relatable and will help you step up your game whether you are a guest or host. She also happens to be a great friend and I feel fortunate to have her on speed dial for any last minute table setting or etiquette questions.
@mcnabbroickevents - Jim McNabb gave me my start in the events world many years ago. He and his business partner, Jeff Roick, are pioneers in the event world and have been a part of some of the largest events ever produced. If it wasn’t for Jim taking a bet on me years ago, I wouldn't be where I am today.
@priyaparker - Priya’s book “The Art of Gathering” (shown above) had the greatest impact on me and my career. I highly recommend reading if you have any interest in hosting and bringing people together. And if you have the opportunity to attend one of her workshops or talks, go, go, go! I will be doing another post all about how Pryia’s book had a profound impact on me.