How To Be A Host: House Party Etiquette

How To Be A Host

Etiquette expert Elaine Swann teaches us how to be an exceptional host.

Nearly seven months after bars and clubs were ordered to close, Angelenos are tired of virtual events and FaceTime happy hours. Craving opportunities to socialize in-person, partygoers have pivoted to hosting gatherings at home. 

Yet, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, “Individual and family gatherings or parties of any size aren’t allowed.” In fact, just last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti cracked down on house parties by shutting off water and power to mansions in the Hollywood Hills where large events were erupting

Still LA is inching toward recovery, and it’s only a matter of time until COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings will be lifted. To prepare for that day, Loop Magazine asked etiquette expert Elaine Swann for tips on how to be an exceptional host. Following her advice, you’ll be ready to throw an unforgettable event as soon as get-togethers are allowed to resume. 

Elaine Swann
Etiquette Expert Elaine Swann

How has party hosting changed from pre-pandemic to now?

Right now it’s quite challenging for individuals to be a party host, and it’s changed quite a bit because we’re no longer trying to figure out what we want the menu to look like, but we’re also having to put into place guidelines and specifications for guests. The seating arrangements went from setting up beautiful tables to making a decision about whether or not people need to sit six feet apart, or whether we need to provide PPE for individuals.

How should a host conduct themselves in our current climate?

The person who is hosting the event, one thing I would recommend for them to do is to make a determination of what type of event they are going to hold and the spirit in which it’s going to be held. Meaning, is this an event where you expect individuals to follow specific guidelines such as remaining six feet apart, keeping their mask on, or are you going to hold an event that will consist of perhaps a social bubble of people you spend time with often and feel as though masks are not required and social distancing is not? So that’s a big decision that has to be made, and then that information must be conveyed to the guest. And the reason I say you should do this is because people should be given the option to make a determination as to whether or not this is a good setting for them.  

How would you communicate those guidelines to guests?

Communicate those guidelines in the same manner that you invite the guest. For example, if you invite the guest via an electronic invitation, then share that information on the electronic invitation. If you invite your guest through a paper or text invitation, then convey it there.

If guidelines are made clear but guests don’t follow them, how should they be reinforced?

The best way to do it is to state your requirement as a reminder instead of an accusation. So you would say to the individual, “Hey, you forgot your mask,” or “Oh, we’re getting a little too close.”

How can you rise above current circumstances to create a memorable event?

There are a number of things you can do as a host. For example, with the masks, my recommendation is if you are going to require all of your guests to wear masks, then make it fun. Order some sort of mask that has the theme of your event, or the colors of your event, and make it part of some sort of swag that they would get. In addition to that, make sure that you have set throughout the environment little sanitation stations. That could include hand sanitizer, maybe extra masks. I would say instead of your traditional sit-down dinner, if your desire is to have people six feet apart, then set up your environment exactly that way. If you know that you have couples, you can set up a bunch of couples tables, spread everything out so that you really have a nice flow of the event, so set your event up so people don’t have to congregate in one particular area.

How should you respond if someone declines your invitation?

If someone declines an invitation, you graciously respond: “I’m sorry you won’t be able to join us, I hope to see you at our next get together.”

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What are some overall reminders on how to be an exceptional host?

  1. Always make sure that you notify your neighbors and give them a means to contact you, this way, if your event gets a little too loud or there’s an issue or something, your neighbors can call you directly without having to call the police.
  2. If parking is involved, have some very specific parking instructions sent to your guests in advance, so that this way it’s not an issue as far as parking is concerned.
  3. Once everybody arrives, I always say to designate an area for purses and bags and these things that are always a little cumbersome. If you don’t think about it in advance, last minute prep for it can become a bit burdensome.
  4. I always recommend being ready to receive your guests when they arrive, so you should not be buried in the kitchen. And then have some sort of welcome beverage available. You can do a signature beverage available for when people arrive. Whether you have someone passing it by hand, or on a tray by the door.
  5. Time out your evening. Think about when you’ll greet everybody, when they’ll eat, what they’ll do after they eat. Whether you’re going to have dessert, or play games, or watch a movie, or have a chat or conversation. Always have an arsenal of conversation topics to throw in and pivot to in the event that any of the conversation goes in a direction you don’t want it to go. You should always have an arsenal of conversation topics ready when needed.

On the flip side, how can you be an exceptional guest right now?

The best way to be a good guest is to follow the guidelines of the host, especially as far as the pandemic is concerned. So, if the host asks you to keep your mask on, keep your mask on. If the host asks you to wear gloves in their kitchen, wear gloves in their kitchen.

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