Do you dream of entertaining at home, but find even the thought of doing so stressful and overwhelming? Are you a seasoned hostess who's looking for inspirational ideas? Would you like to host the best party EVER and have your guests say,"Wow! When is the next one?"
The High-Heeled Hostess demystifies the art of entertaining at home, revealing exactly what it takes to make a party truly memorable. Featuring a step-by-step guide, with tools to help you plan, execute and most importantly, enjoy your own celebration, the book guides you from start to finish. It’s your very own personal party planner!
Packed with practical, comprehensive, yet easy-to-follow advice on everything from discovering your entertaining style to putting the fun into the after-party clean-up, The High Heeled Hostess will have you hosting stylish soirées in no time.
Discover the benefits of entertaining at home and how to overcome common fears about entertaining.
The key to mastering the art of entertaining and becoming a glamorous hostess is to find your style and own it. Get to know your entertaining style and discover the art of being the hostess.
It can take weeks or even months of hard work to plan a celebration, however, if you start out with a plan you are more likely to keep the stress to a minimum, and your party is sure to be more successful. This section will help you crystallise the type and style of party you want to have and what you will need to do to turn it into a reality.
What’s the point in going to great lengths to throw an amazing party if you can’t enjoy it yourself? In this section, I will take you through how to get ready for your party and how to look fabulous so you can be the glamorous host you deserve to be. Learn tips and tricks on how to feel like a guest at your own party!
Learn how to ask your guests to politely leave and find great tips on making the clean-up easier.
That's right! I've included step-by-step instructions for five different types of parties you might have in your home. I’ve taken all of the hard work out for you by creating five different celebrations, giving you everything you need to ensure that you can confidently host them, by yourself, in your own home. You can follow them to the letter, or use them as inspiration to create your own stand out soiree!
Well, it’s really all about you – the high-heeled hostess. If you are faced with the challenge of entertaining at home – for 5, 15 or even 50 – this book is all about making it easy for you.
I want you to enjoy entertaining. That’s right – your enjoyment is my number one priority. My wish is for you to be a glamorous, relaxed hostess, mingling with your guests and having fun.
There are many kinds of decisions to be made when you’re entertaining at home, and it can, for some, seem very stressful or even overwhelming. The good news is that with a little forward planning (and the knowledge this book will arm you with) it doesn’t have to be difficult.
I’m going to run you through everything you need to make your special occasion a huge success and ensure you have fun along the way, too.
We’ve all been to a party where there seemed to be something missing – or maybe it simply felt a bit flat. Maybe you didn’t get to eat enough, it took ages to get a drink, or you spent the night feeling cramped and bumping shoulders with everyone. On the other side of the coin, we’ve all been to parties that were so much fun that we didn’t want to leave.
My aim in this book is to help you avoid those hair-pulling party planning mistakes and to host that celebration where everyone wants to stay.
Imagine your delight when your friends leave your party saying things like, “You’ve really upped the ante in the party stakes”, or “We had such a great time. When’s the next one?” or “My feet hurt because I was dancing so much!”
Think about how amazing it will be when, months down the track, your friends are still talking about “that fantastic get-together” and remarking, “How incredible was that food!”
Armed with this book, which is packed with practical tools, it won’t be long before you find yourself planning a special soirée that’s memorable for all the right reasons. Everything you need to successfully entertain in your own home is at your fingertips – and you’ll find the tools to do it with a touch of glamour.
For the novice hostess, this book is designed to help you overcome your party-planning fears, equipping you with all you need to feel confident about planning your special occasion.
For the more experienced hostess, the information in this book is designed to inspire – and to help you create standout soirées.
In this book, you won’t find tucked between the pages a magical party-planning fairy who will grant all your wishes and organise your perfect party for you. If you want that to happen, you will need to call me.
It’s also not designed for the hostess who wants to observe from the sidelines and do things on the cheap. Although you can definitely put together a memorable celebration on a budget (and there are cost-saving tips in the book), this book is a guide for the hostess who really wants to impress. It’s for the person who will go that extra mile to host something special.
Way back, decades before I became a professional caterer, I remember having a disastrous dinner party. I decided upon a three-course menu that featured dishes I hadn’t tried before. Bad move. I spent the entire evening juggling cookbooks. To make matters worse, my guests were there to see every bit of the ordeal unfold while they sat patiently.
The meal was a disaster. Worse still, the dishes were served extremely late to starving – and by this time slightly intoxicated – guests. I had no time to chat to my friends, and quite frankly, the event left me exhausted. I had just spent a fair amount of money stressing myself out, and I didn’t even get a chance to catch up with all of my friends’ latest news – which had been the point of the get-together in the first place.
I am compiling years of entertaining experience, both personal and professional, into this book in the hope that I can help you avoid party-planning disasters. I’ll let you into plenty of the secrets to party-planning success.
I have found that the secret to creating a great party is planning. Planning means being prepared. Planning means knowing your limitations. Party planning is an important role for the host. A great host will make it all look as though it all came together effortlessly. She is present. She is having the time of her life. She doesn’t have her head stuck in the oven. She isn’t stressed out, madly trying to save her split hollandaise.
Whether you are wanting to entertain colleagues, friends or family, I will take you, step by step, through how to choose and invite your guests, how much and what kind of food and drinks to serve, suitable entertainment and activities for party guests, and even how to set the scene for your party and make it truly unforgettable.
You’ll even find an entire section dedicated to ensuring that you get to enjoy your own party.
To help you even further, I’ve included five step-by-step party plans. I’ve taken all the hard work out for you by creating five different types of festivities you could have in your home and providing everything you need: from planning, decorating and entertainment ideas, right down to the types of food and drinks to serve. And it doesn’t stop there. I have also included recipes, party planning checklists and equipment essentials.
Why am I sharing this with you? I believe that entertaining should be easy and good parties should be enjoyed by everyone – hostesses included.
Mastering the art of entertaining entails mastering the art of being a hostess. You may be wondering what role the party hostess has to play – and what a great hostess looks like. As a hostess, your top priority is making your guests feel welcome and comfortable. You can achieve this by attending to their needs, creating a warm, inviting atmosphere, by being present, and, most importantly, by enjoying yourself and spending time engaging with your guests. Think this sounds stressful? The secret to being a perfect hostess comes down to having a well-thought-out party plan. You can achieve all this and leave a lasting impression on your lucky guests. They will be begging you to entertain again.
Planning is critical to successful entertaining. Bad planning, or very little planning, can result in food or drink shortages and disappointed guests. Or worse – a stressed-out hostess who doesn’t end up enjoying herself at all and makes her guests feel slightly uncomfortable.
In some cases, planning means organising every element of a party: the guest list, the food, the beverages, the decorations and the entertainment. In others, it could mean organising external suppliers, like professional caterers or party planners.
Planning always involves lists. Guest lists, shopping lists, prep lists. What can be done in advance and what should be left to the last minute? Who can you get to help you, and how do you decide who will be suitable for the task? A good hostess is always well prepared and has asked all the ‘what if…?’ questions.
Remember, you want your guests to feel welcome and comfortable in your home. This means creating a nice ambience or atmosphere. Think of the area in which you are having your party as a movie set. You need to get all the components ready before filming can begin. The set needs to be built and decorated. The lighting needs to be correct. The actors need to be on standby and the cameras need to be ready. The same goes for your party. You want the scene to be set before your guests arrive.
The bar and food areas need to be set up. Any props and decorations need to be placed or hung. If your band or DJ is playing later in the evening you will want their equipment to be set up well before the party starts to avoid disturbing people. The staff should have arrived at least one hour prior to the start of your party and be ready to attend to your guests.
The last thing you want to be doing is hanging up last-minute decorations in your trackie dax when your first guests are arriving. You want to be looking hot in your party frock and already sipping on that signature cocktail.
Your guests have come to see you. Your role as a hostess requires you to meet and greet your guests when they arrive. Take their coats and bags and place them somewhere safe, if need be. Gracefully accept any gifts and place them somewhere for opening later. Tell your guests where to find drinks, food and bathrooms. It is also your role to introduce guests to each other and facilitate mingling. Throughout the evening, it’s your duty to ensure that nobody feels like a wallflower and that your guests are enjoying themselves. You also need to be mindful of the guests that may be enjoying themselves a little too much – nobody wants to see uncle Chris pull out his Borat mankini again.
Your role also involves keeping the food and drinks flowing and ensuring that all guests are well looked after. If you have hired professional caterers, make sure that they are aware of guests with special dietary requirements.
If you are self-catering, ensure that food doesn’t stay out too long and is regularly replenished. If people are drinking, it’s responsible to feed them a substantial amount of food. Food should be passed around as soon as guests arrive so that they aren’t drinking on empty stomachs.
When it comes to joining in on the fun and games, party guests can sometimes be a bit hesitant. This is where the hostess can really help to get the party started. You may have some entertainment booked that requires you to usher everyone to a certain spot to see it. Ensure that everyone has something to drink before you direct them, especially if it will be hard to manoeuvre drinks to them during the show. It may mean grabbing a friend and being the first two on the dance floor. It may also mean introducing a planned activity or game. As gracefully as possible, divide guests into groups and explain the rules or give instructions. Once the activities are underway, the hostess should keep the action going as much as possible. That doesn’t mean getting totally involved and losing yourself and therefore becoming invisible to other guests who aren’t participating.
When guests leave, the hostess should always walk them to the door, thank them for coming and wish them a safe trip home. If a taxi is required, she should call one for them. When the party is over and the last guests have gone (so long as you’re still in a state to do so), a little clean up at the end of the night will make the morning less daunting.
Continuously cleaning up during the party means that the end-of-night clean-up isn’t overwhelming. If you don’t have hired helpers, strategically place bins, which people can use for their empty bottles or rubbish. Label the bins appropriately (e.g. waste, recycling). You can also tactfully ask a few friends to help you tidy up throughout or at the end of the evening.
Now that you’ve got a better idea of the roles the hostess is expected to perform, here is a list of specific dos and don’ts to help you on your way to being that glamorous hostess enjoying her own party.
Remember, the key to happy guests is a happy hostess. As long as you plan ahead, consider your guests’ needs and don’t over-stretch yourself, you are guaranteed to have a celebration that both you and your guest’s enjoy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and designate friends or family members to certain tasks to help you along the way.
Now that you have mastered the art of the happy hostess, let’s reveal the key elements that you need to make sure you make your party a huge success.
The key to mastering the art of entertaining and becoming a glamorous hostess is to find your style and own it. Every party you create will be a reflection of your personality, so you want to be comfortable with the type of occasion you are throwing.
Some hosts love grand affairs filled with French champagne, impeccably arranged floral bouquets, shining silver and handwritten place cards. Other hosts would shudder at the thought of throwing this type of party. This chapter will help you figure out exactly what style of hosting resonates most strongly with you.
Ask yourself the following question: Do you prefer sit-down dinners or casual BBQs? Be honest. Not everyone is comfortable with the thought of fully catering a sit-down dinner for 30.
If you love the idea of planning and executing elegant soirées filled with signature cocktails and haute cuisine, you are a formal hostess.
If you prefer to keep things simple and low-key, like a backyard summer BBQ, with uncomplicated décor, help-yourself drinks and buffet-style food service, you are a casual hostess.
Have a think about some of the more formal parties you have attended, such as a wedding or a large dinner party. Think about the scope of the event, and consider the great deal of effort the hostess must have put
into creating her fabulous party.
Now think about the more casual get-togethers you have attended, like a beach picnic, a small birthday party or a potluck dinner. Although the host was sure to have spent valuable time and money organising the
party, the effort wouldn’t have been quite as complex as those of our formal hostess.
You may have enjoyed yourself at both types of festivities, but you will need to consider which type of party it is that you would feel more comfortable hosting. Decide which you prefer, and focus on throwing those types of parties.
It’s entirely possible that you enjoy hosting both formal and casual affairs. If this is the case, let your timeframe and budget dictate which type of party you will be hosting this time. If it’s a special occasion or milestone event and you have a healthy budget and timeframe, by all means splash out and throw that elaborate masquerade-themed soirée.
When choosing whether your party will be formal or informal, remember the goal is for you to enjoy the party, too. Although you may be aspiring to be hostess of the year, don’t consider a grand affair unless you have the time, the money and the energy to do so.
If your kitchen drawers are filled with handmade mud porcelain, Christofle cutlery, Laguiole steak knives, Riedel glassware and the like, you are a sophisticated hostess. You love the finer things in life and are more likely to throw house-warming parties and long ladies’ luncheons.
If you prefer colourful dishes and servingware, vintage, mismatched glassware and eclectic cutlery you are a chic hostess. The chic host is about fun, frolic and style. You are more likely to throw high teas and cool tiki parties than backyard BBQs.
While formal and casual parties denote what kind of budget and amount of effort you’ll need to put into a party, the distinction between sophisticated and chic parties reflects a difference in attitude or approach.
The sophisticated hostess is generally adept at throwing formal dinner parties, but can also pull off fabulous costume parties, the neighbourhood Christmas bash and family BBQs. The chic hostess can just as equally shine at elegant cocktail parties or a funky disco party. It’s all about combining your attitude and approach with effort.
Do you like balance, or do you prefer spontaneity and fun? Do you enjoy a more structured dinner more than fancier, quirkier themed parties?
The timeless hostess honours tradition and prefers simple elegance to over-the-top extravagance. She prefers a classier and more classic event. She will send out printed invitations, provide a wide variety of food and beverages and co-ordinate staff and entertainment.
The fun hostess likes to add excitement to tradition, always looking for ways to infuse some novel form of amusement into her party. She will organise a modern take on a traditional theme, turning a Mexican fiesta into a Mexican hat party and throwing it in an unusual place, inviting a diverse group of people, and featuring
out-of-the-ordinary activities or entertainment.
You may be a mix of both of these personalities. Don’t be afraid to reflect the different parts of your personality in the parties you hold. It is what will give them a unique edge.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, it’s important that you host a party that reflects your personality and style. If you are a casual, sophisticated, fun host at heart, throwing a formal, chic, timeless party will only frustrate you and you may not feel comfortable – and your guests may also feel this. It’s always best to approach your party planning with a style that truly reflects your personality. This will ensure that your party is a success and that you will enjoy it, too.
So, now that you’re clear on the type of host you are, let’s talk about the role of the hostess.
I often encounter people that get stressed over just the thought of inviting people over. Whether it’s worrying about how clean the house is, or having concerns that people won’t enjoy themselves, most of these fears are misplaced. Here is a list of commonly held fears and how to overcome them.
Many people wonder how they will find the time to organise everything. If you’re one of these, rest assured there is a simple way to ensure that everything will be ready in time for your party.
Prepare as much as you can in advance so you aren’t rushing around doing everything at the last minute. Here’s what you can do weeks in advance:
Believe it or not, your guests aren’t coming to check out the cleanliness of your house. Nor are they expecting you to cook a Michelin-star meal. They are coming to spend time with you, and they no doubt feel honoured to be invited. Thinking your house isn’t good enough, or that you can’t cook as well as your less culinary-challenged friends is just holding you back from sharing some really special moments with people who are important to you.
Stressing yourself out too much about specifics and trying to make everything perfect will mean that you won’t enjoy yourself as much as you could on the night. You will be spending too much time fussing and not enough time enjoying your guests’ company.
The best celebrations are the ones where the host is relaxed and having the time of her life. If you are having a great time, your guests will be too. Go easy on yourself. Put your perfectionism to one side, polish your Jimmy Choos and get party planning.
You may feel as though you are too shy or inexperienced to entertain guests. It could be a new experience for you, and you have no idea where to even start. If confidence is a problem, you are in good hands. Being prepared and armed with the knowledge contained in this book will give you all the confidence you will need. Remember: practice makes perfect.
If one of your worries is that guests won’t enjoy themselves, this is easily fixed. This book will show you all you need to make your guests feel comfortable and welcome. And when you feel looked after, it’s pretty hard not to enjoy yourself.
Stress is probably the biggest fear that people have when it comes to entertaining at home. Will people come? Will I forget anything? Will I enjoy myself?
Relying on checklists (such as those on pages xx-xx) is a sure-fire way to ensure that you know what needs to be done.
Giving your friends a good time doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. In fact, sometimes serving expensive everything can make your guests feel uncomfortable.
Be clever with your resources. Connect with a style that suits you and your home, and be proud of it.
If you are a more casual type of person and prefer not to spend a lot of time preparing, a buffet-style or potluck dinner will suit you more than a three-course sit-down meal.
If you live in a small apartment and don’t have a dining table, place cushions on the floor around your coffee table. Serve your guests platters filled with items that don’t require large plates (e.g., sliced meats, cheeses and olives). Alternatively, you could set up a buffet on your kitchen bench.
Remember, your guests will feel special enough that you have taken the time to create a unique and intimate experience just for them.
As you can see, whether it be perfectionism or inexperience that holds you back from entertaining at home, there is a solution to help you along the way. You can be assured that through careful planning, asking for help, having a little creativity and truly considering your guests comfort, that you are more than capable of pushing aside those fears and creating a special occasion for both yourself and your friends to enjoy.
Now that you’re one step closer to throwing that amazing party, let’s figure out what style of host you are and learn about the role of the hostess.
There’s no denying it, there are so many restaurants serving so many different cuisines that you could eat out every day of the week. The problem is that you will be sharing that experience with whoever else may be dining at that venue on the same night.
When you’re dining out, there is no guarantee that you wont be stuck next to a table of screeching ladies celebrating a hen’s night. You know, the ones guzzling cocktails through penis-shaped straws, with the tiara-wearing hen teetering awkwardly at the end of the table. With more than a few cocktails under her belt, the hen is building up the courage to complete her next dare for the evening. Entertaining at home means you can choose precisely whom you will spend your evening with.
Have you ever been to one of those dinners when everyone leaves it up to the restaurateur to bring out whatever they think guests will like, and everyone orders their bottles of wine, followed by the dessert wine or port, liqueur coffees and cognac? When the bill finally arrives, you, the non-drinking driver, have to take out a small loan to cover it.
Entertaining at home means you (and you alone) get to control how much you spend. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can easily ask your guests to bring their own wine – just let them know the types of wines that will match the food you will be serving. You could even suggest a potluck dinner where everyone brings a dish. Just be sure to outline a particular cuisine for everyone to stick to.
Have you ever tried to get a 7.30pm booking at that hot, new restaurant, only to be offered a choice between a 5.30pm or a 9.30pm sitting? For those of you who typically start nodding off at around 9pm, you can easily have your friends over at 5pm for a delicious cocktail, followed by dinner at 6pm. You’ll be sending your satisfied guests out the door by 8.30pm, and you’ll be nicely tucked in by 9pm.
Eating what you want is yet another benefit of entertaining at home. Plus, this allows you to cater for any dietary requirements with ease. You can make the meal as simple or as extravagant as you wish. You can even mix and match homemade items with store-bought ones to save time and money. Just place the bought items onto a lovely platter or bowl and top them with a garnish to personalise it.
Unlike dining out, entertaining at home means you don’t have to stay in one spot. Instead, your guests can mingle in different parts of the house if you want. Think cocktails on the balcony or in the courtyard, dinner at the dining table, and a seat on the sofa for dessert and coffee.
Another great pleasure of entertaining at home is the combination of convenience and comfort. Everything you may need is on hand. You can wear those five-inch stilettos for as long as you like, or you can slip into something more comfortable when your feet get tired. After that fabulous cocktail party for your husband’s birthday, when just a few guests remain, you can change into your comfy clothes and lounge around and reminisce about the evening’s antics.
At home, controlling the ambience comes down to you. To set the mood for a relaxing evening you can play easy-listening music and light lots of candles. If you feel like cranking it up a notch, you can hire a DJ and clear some space for a dance floor.
One of the things I love most about entertaining at home is how intimate it is. You get to share your private space with the people you really care about. You get quality time with them in the comfort of your own home. It’s an opportunity to treat your friends and family to a special and very personal experience. People feel special when you invite them into your home.
You can enjoy some adult time with your guests without spending money on a sitter. If you are planning a casual affair consider encouraging your guests to bring their children with them. That way the kids can play amongst themselves. Have some board games or activities pre-organised or just pop on a DVD in a bedroom. The beauty is that they can happily fall asleep until your guests are ready to go home.
In today’s fast-paced digital-reliant world many of us are socialising less. By entertaining in your home, you are creating a space for people to socialise and enjoy that special connection with others that we all crave. You’re reaching out to them and saying, “I want to connect and spend time with you”.
"What a fantastic read the “The High-Heeled Hostess” is! As someone who has worked in this industry for almost 20 years I have seen many DIY home party disasters and finally we have a book that address’s some of the common mistakes and traps to avoid. It really is a first of its kind to help the average person at home plan an incredible home party or soirée. Written in a fun and interesting-yet-educational way it truly does help identify the tips, tricks and systems to follow to ensure you have a unique and successful home party or function. This is a must read for anyone who loves throwing a party or is even thinking about throwing a party. Do yourself a favour, read this book first and save yourself the stress and embarrassment of a poorly hosted event. Personally I’ve worked with Julie Wilson for the past five years in the catering and events industry and her professionalism, knowledge and understanding of what does and doesn’t work, shines through in this fantastic read!"
"I really love to entertain, but sometimes it feels like a chore. What’s the point if you can’t have as good a time as your guests? Part of my problem is leaving everything to the last minute and then just ‘winging it’. Sometimes I just slap a pot of curry on the table - which I know is always a winner - but, just quietly, is me being lazy. Then came along “The High-Heeled Hostess – Mastering the art of entertaining at home”. This is a book that will turn your home entertaining from stressful and ad hoc to stress-free and organised. From learning your entertaining style to fabulous party plans, this book is crammed with tips and ideas guaranteed to make your next party a hit. Entertaining doesn’t have to be hard, and this book will show you how.”
“If you have ever had a sleepless night due to a forthcoming dinner party, fear no more, The High-Heeled Hostess is here! Julie Wilson – A chef on a mission. This book is an amazing look into the art of entertaining. Julie takes the fuss out of organizing and puts the flavour back into the food with her first book – The High-Heeled Hostess. A sophisticated insight that should be the “go to” book for anyone that likes to entertain, serve great food and drinks and generally be the person who’s party everyone talks about. It’s easy to read, provides clear step-by-step instructions and of course, beautiful recipes. Well done on an epic first book!”
"Being a girl who has never shied away from hosting a party, I was excited to pick up, The High-Heeled Hostess – Mastering the art of entertaining at home. This beautiful book is filled with ideas on how to take my entertaining to the next level, first up will have to be the Ladies Luncheon for 10, themed pink of course."
"If you want your event, big or small, to be a success, The High-Heeled Hostess will show you what to do and how to do it in an easy-to-follow manner. I have had the pleasure of working with Julie for over 5 years and without hesitation can recommend her expertise and style. I even took away some great tips that I will passing on to my team and we will be applying them to our own events!"
“After reading the High-Heeled Hostess, I was extremely impressed with the level of detail, informative information and true passion coming out of each page. Being in the events business myself, I can say that I certainly picked up some new and very useful tips. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves to entertain for any size group. I can’t wait to share your book with all my friends and I can’t wait for book two!”
I always hear people saying: “I don’t want to host a party because of the cleaning up” or “I won’t get to enjoy myself, because I’ll be too busy looking after my guests”. This book will prove to you the exact opposite - how to enjoy your celebration and how to minimise and put the fun into the after party clean up. It’s a fabulous step-by-step guide for anyone wanting to host a great party and includes every single detail you could possibly think about, from themes to menus. Don’t think you need to be a good cook or experienced in entertaining to throw together a fun night for your family and friends. You won’t believe how good your party turns out after following “The High-Heeled Hostess”.