LIVING

Twenty Common Mistakes Every Hostess Makes

Amy Adams as "Julie Powell" in Columbia Pictures' Julie & Julia.

(Original story published on Friday November 7th, 2014 on HGTV.ca.)

With all the hard work you put in organizing, planning and prepping for a dinner party, it’s all too easy to oversee the common mistakes we tend to make when hosting. So, to help your next one go off without a hitch, we’re highlighting 20 ways to ensure the evening is filled with great company, great ambiance, great food, and one heck of a great host.

Keep scrolling to find out the top twenty mistakes every hostess makes.

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1. Attempting a Maiden Voyage
It’s only natural to want to impress your guests by making a complicated meal, but choose your dishes wisely. If you’ve never made Julia Child’s Coq Au Vin, perhaps now’s not the time to test your cooking skills. Save it for a day without all the pressure for it to be perfect – and you have time to grab take-out if it’s a complete disaster.
Image courtesy of Julie and Julia

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2. Not Making Enough Ahead of Time
You may love the rush of a time crunch, but it’s never fun to be slaying over the stove while your guests mingle in the next room without you. Do your best to wash, chop, and prep as much as you can before the guests arrive.
Image courtesy of Ora

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3. Failing to Read the Instructions Thoroughly
Sure, you may have roasted a chicken the same way a dozen times, but you better re-read that list of ingredients to make sure you’re checking everything off your list. Oh look, you added beef sauteed with peas and onions to that trifle.
Image courtesy of Friends

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4. Not Practicing “Mise en Place”
It’s the sort of thing that has to happen to you for you to realize how important it is. Teach yourself to take out and prep all ingredients before you start cooking so you can see if you’re missing or short on anything before it’s too late.
Image courtesy of Lavida Comida

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5. Start Cooking Too Late
Get ready a little earlier so you can start cooking even earlier than you think. You don’t want to have to have a mad dash to have the meal finished at a reasonable hour.
Image courtesy of I Love Lucy

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6. Worrying Too Much About Dietary Restrictions
It’s important to ask guests ahead of time if they have any food allergies or dietary restrictions as you don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable or going hungry. However, you’re not a restaurant or a nutritionist, and special meals do not need to be prepared to meet every guests specific needs. Instead, just make sure a few options are available.
Image courtesy of Friends

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7. Donning an Old and Dirty Apron
You’re going to be dressed up for the dinner party so of course you’ll want to wear an apron to ensure you don’t spill anything on that new silk blouse. Invest in an option from Anthropologie or The Little Market that’s pretty enough you won’t mind leaving it on when guests arrive.
Image courtesy of Anthropologie

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8. Forgetting About the Table Setting
A beautifully set table makes any dinner party much more special, and it doesn’t have to be pricey. In the morning of the day of the party, jet out to the flower market and pick up some fresh blooms for a few personalized arrangements. Add a few candles to the table, bring out your favourite dishes, and that’s all you need. Just be sure to keep the flower arrangements low enough so guests can talk over them.
Image courtesy of Lauren Conrad

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9. Thinking a Seating Plan Doesn’t Matter
The rule is, if you’ve invited eight guests or fewer, allow them to sit wherever they like. With more than eight, give directions with place cards. Seating guests who have the most in common next to each other can help the conversation flow effortlessly in large parties.
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10. Forgetting to Light Candles (or Lighting Scented Candles)
Don’t underestimate the power of ambiance. And for that, you need candles. Since they’re inexpensive, candles are a great feature to sprinkle around your home for a touch of warmth. But, steer clear of scented candles anywhere food is being served.
Image courtesy of The Tale of Two Tings

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11. Not Having a Playlist
Make the evening more festive with a great selection of background music. It’s an easy way to prevent awkward silences during the meal, and can be conversation starters for the guests. Be sure to include a fun mix of music from the Top 40s to those good ol’ classics.
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12. Inviting Strangers
We know, you’ve been dying to introduce all your closest friends to each other, but a dinner party may not be the best place for them to meet. If you’re the only thing they have in common, the evening may be a tad uncomfortable.
Image courtesy of Bridget Jones’ Diary

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13. Relying Heavily on Guests
They may have offered to bring the wine, hors d’oeuvres or the dessert, but they could bring something else entirely. If it’s an essential item, like ice for the cocktails or the cake for a birthday celebration, it’s best to have a back up on hand.
Image courtesy of Seinfeld

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14. Not Keeping the Bar Menu Simple
Stick to wine and one signature cocktail to keep the evening simple and classy. Just ensure you have enough wine and cocktail glasses for everyone!
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15. Thinking Hors D’oeuvres Don’t Matter
It’s nice to have a cheese plate, crudité or charcuterie platter for when guests arrive, especially if there’s still awhile before dinner is ready or if guests have come from far. It will also give you some extra time to finish cooking, without the pressure of having starving guests in the other room.
Image courtesy of Food Network Canada

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16. Apologizing for the Food
Okay, maybe you burnt those vegetables a tad, or maybe the steak isn’t quite as tender as you’d like, but so what? Identifying the problems just make them more apparent. Talk about the positives and your guests are bound to see them too. Unless you’re serving blue soup, that is.
Image courtesy of Bridget Jones’ Diary 
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17. Not Accepting Help

You’ve just served a delicious meal to your guests, so let them help you clear the table! Grateful guests are happy to help. Just don’t let them do the dishes unless they’re pushy relatives (we’re looking at you, mom). Otherwise, you might be calling their bluff on a job they were only offering to be polite.
Image courtesy of Leave It to Beaver 
Amy Adams as "Julie Powell" in Columbia Pictures' Julie & Julia.
18. Not Serving Dessert
Whether it’s a fruit platter, a store-bought cake, or a lovely homemade treat, a dessert is a must, and a necessity for those of us with a severe sweet tooth. It’s also a great idea to offer coffee or tea with dessert.
Image courtesy of Julie and Julia 
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19. Having Too-High Expectations
Recognize and accept the fact that not everything will be perfect. Whether it’s a meal that’s not just right, or the conversations that became a little tense, be prepared to just go with the flow.
Image courtesy of Gossip Girl 
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20. Forgetting to Relax
Of course, hosting a dinner party can be very stressful. But don’t forget: The reason you decided to have one in the first place is to have a fun night with your friends. Make sure you relax and enjoy the good company, delicious food, and perfect ambiance you put together so nicely.
Image courtesy of Modern Family 

 

 

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