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How to be a Great HostessI have a love-hate relationship with being a hostess.  I love to have people around me laughing and having a great time, but also feel immense pressure to create the perfect atmosphere to encourage this.  There is no better feeling than the one of satisfaction when people leave an event you hosted having enjoyed themselves, but the preparation and planning can be can be very stressful.

There are numerous little tricks and tips to being a great hostess, but these are the ones I have found to work time and time again whether I am hosting a New Year’s Eve Party or having a couple of friends over for dinner. Take the time to make things special, but don’t kill yourself in the process.  Remember, your loved ones are coming to see you, not to be wowed by Martha Stewart-style macron trees and chocolate fountains.

1.  Divide and conquer.  Whether co-hosting with a spouse or friend, make a list of what needs to get done and delegate as appropriate.  Doing it all yourself will not make you a hero to your guests, it will just make you a cranky host.  Besides, your fella is much more up to date on the best gluten-free beers than you are, so why not let him make the trip to the liquor store to stock up?

2. Keep areas visible to your guests clean and forget about the rest.  Unless you are hosting a house-warming, your guests will not been in every room of your home, so there is no need to obsessively clean every nook and cranny.  Focus on having a clean entryway, guest bathroom and entertaining area.  The rest can wait.

3.  Flowers and candles make every occasion a little more special.  Whether you light some basic IKEA tea-lights or your new favourite candle (mine can be found here), adding candlelight to a room is a great way to set a relaxed yet festive mood. Similarly, flowers add colour and life to a room and you don’t need to go all out with elaborate arrangements.  A simple vase or two at strategic places (dinner table, end tables, mantles) will be enough.  Tip: Make sure to set flowers and candles in places where they can’t be knocked over!

4.  Be clear with guests on what to bring.  I once hosted a party where a guest not only came 1 hour early (major faux pas!)  but also brought plates full of appetizers that I had no room for.  It was a sweet gesture but food was wasted and there is nothing worse than that.  Looking back, I should have been much more clear on what I needed that guest to bring and what I had already taken care of.  On the other hand, we all have that one friend who seems to eat and drink the most but never brings anything to share.  Assign this person to bring something specific – i.e. a bottle of red wine, pie from their favorite bakery for dessert – and hope that they don’t “forget”!

5. Have everything ready before guests arrive.  There is nothing worse than running around for cups, a bottle opener or serving platters when your guests have arrived.  You want to be able to relax and enjoy your time with them, not feel like a butler.  Configure your set up and put out any non-food items the night before.  On the day of, do all your food prep and cooking beforehand as much as you can.  For anything that needs to be cooked last-minute, have everything you need set up and ready to go.  This will reduce the time you spend away from your guests, and hopefully increase the time you spend having fun with them.

This is what has worked for me, but what are your favorite tips for being a hostess?  Would love to hear what you do to make a special night for your guests that you get to enjoy too!