Want to be the best host in town? These tips from 1950s housewives will teach you how to be a good host and have parties everyone will want to go to.
Entertaining has changed so much over the last several decades. It has gotten a lot less formal and it seems more and more we go places to spend time with others instead of hosting in our own homes.
I do like a lot about more relaxed entertaining but we are also forgetting how to entertain in a more formal setting. Even if that isn’t something you want to do regularly it can be fun to have a more formal dinner party or a cocktail party from time to time, so it’s nice to know who to host one.
When it comes to hosting parties there are few that were better at it than the 1950s housewife. I could spend hours looking at the cocktail dresses from the 1950s. And it was the decade for cocktail parties that’s for sure.
Apartment Therapy has a fun post all about 1950s cocktail parties. It kind of makes me want to host one! I wonder what my friends would think if they got a party invite in the mail with no other contact from me. Maybe we will have to find out sometime.
Even if you have no desire to host a cocktail party or dinner party or even a more casual party, it’s fun to learn how the 1950s housewives did it. These tips for being a good hostess come from different magazines and books from the 1950s. They are the same tips the women of the 1950s would have been reading.
How to be a Good Host
Deciding on the Type of Party to Have
There are so many options for the kind of party you can have. Each one has the potential for fun. There are formal and informal parties, indoor or outdoor. Some move freely inside and outside.
A party may also involve a full meal, more of a light meal like morning coffee or afternoon tea, or no meal may be served at all. You could also just serve dessert or light refreshments.
Parties can honor someone like a birthday party, a new home, or welcoming someone to the neighborhood. And don’t forget the holiday parties! Or maybe the party is just for friends to get together and have fun.
Not every party is for everyone. If you have limited dining space a full meal may not be a good idea. If your backyard is tiny then an outdoor party may be off the list.
The first step is figuring out what types of parties would work well for you and your home and then what you think your guest will enjoy.
Making the Guest List
Before you can even send out your invitations you need a proper guest list. Deciding who goes on the list can be a challenge all on its own.
You want to have a well-balanced guest list. Don’t only pick people that know each other. It’s more exciting when people can enjoy meeting new people. You never know your party may spark a new romance!
Also, be sure not to only invite introverts or just extroverts. A nice balance of the two leads to a better party.
Inviting the Guests
The way you invite your guests should give them an indication of the kind of party you are hosting.
If it’s a very significant occasion like a bridal shower or birthday this should be made clear and these invites should always be written and not telephoned.
Written invitations are always in good taste but are not always necessary for less formal parties.
If you are going to be inviting your guests by telephone the calls should be made ten to two weeks before the party. Be sure to clue your guests in on what kind of party it will be.
Even if your invite is casual be sure to be clear about the time and date. Being vague can lead to confusion and early guests.
Creating the Right Atmosphere
It’s the duty of the host to set a good party mood and keep it going. This can be challenging because people so often arrive at parties wrapped up in their own problems.
The party doesn’t need to be fancy, the main components are setting and lighting.
Make sure that you will have enough places for people to sit. For a casual party, you can even throw some pillows on the rug for some extra sitting.
You don’t want harsh direct lighting either, try lamps or even better firelight or candles.
To help get things started it’s nice to have some activities that help break the ice. Dancing, games, and even lively conversation are all ways you can help make people feel they have a part.
Even just a night listening to music can be enjoyable for the right crowd.
When you are planning your party put yourself in your guest’s shoes and think about what they will enjoy.
Have an Adaptable Schedule
Timing is very important when it comes to a good party. A good host always keeps its finger on the pulse ready to slow things down or move things along.
Don’t be too concerned with a time table as that can make guests feel rushed. Instead, pay attention to the room and see when it feels right to move on to the next thing.
Figure Out What to Serve
The food will depend on what kind of party you are hosting, the time of day, ages, preferences of your guests, and your budget.
Take all of these things into consideration when planning your food. And don’t forget to also consider how long it will take you to make the food. It’s a good idea to plan as many dishes as possible that can be made ahead of time.
Get Things Done Now
The more tasks you can get done ahead of time the more time you can take to be relaxed and composed for your party.
You want to arrange your schedule so all cleaning is done ahead of time and your home looks just the way you want it for the party.
Have your menu ready and everything you need down to salt and pepper. Check every recipe for all the ingredients and never shop on the day of the party.
Using your menu as a guide check that you have all the serving dishes you will need on hand. If you are missing pieces see if you can borrow some from a friend or family member. Be sure to write down who you borrowed items from so you can get them back in a timely manner.
Inspect your plates, cups, saucers, and all other dishes you will be using for chips and other issues. Make sure you have enough of everything.
Make sure all your linens are clean and ironed. You won’t want to be rushing to clean items at the last minute.
Make sure your powder room has fresh soap, clean hand towels, plenty of toilet paper, and a box of tissues.
Inspect your coat closet and clear it out if needed. Make sure you have enough hangers for coats as well.
Decide what you will be wearing and have it cleaned if needed. Don’t choose anything with billowing sleeves or skirts and nothing too tight. You don’t want your fashion to get in the way in the kitchen.
Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Party
A successful party is planned so the person doing the entertaining can enjoy the party as much as the guests.
This means you should keep your parties simple enough you don’t have to fuss too much during the actual party. Nobody has a good time when the host is stressed and rushing around.
One thing that surprised me while reading a lot of the hosting guides from the 1950s is the fact that even then they stressed not trying to do it all and that you want to be able to enjoy the party as well.
They also talk about how parties were becoming more casual and relaxed. It’s funny to think of that now since a 1950s cocktail party or dinner party seems quite formal by today’s standards.
While a lot of these tips won’t apply to our more casual gatherings today some do and they are good things to keep in mind in case you do want to have a more formal party.
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And here are even more 1950s inspired posts that you can read and enjoy!