Fashion Queens host Bevy Smith has such a flair for hosting dinner parties, she does so professionally, counting Pharrell, Charlize Theron, and CNN's Soledad O'Brien as guests on any given night. So who better than Smith to help us tradition-bucking, penny-pinching millennials discover the lost art of having our friends over for supper?
Whether you're nervous about how to actually get people to come, or curious about how to not lose your sh*t when someone hijacks your meticulously-curated playlist, don't worry—Bevy's got you. Here, find her ten commandments for being an all-business hostess with the mostess.
In the age of Facebook, we're receiving all sort of invites, to go all sorts of places. You've got to step up your game and it's *all* about personalization. "Don't go with a mass text," advises Smith. "Instead send a Paperless Post invite and try to include a one-line note, like 'Hey, congrats on the new gig! Hope you can make it!' and then put the information. This is for a dinner party, not a rave."
While it some instances a weekend night makes more sense—like if you plan on going out for a bar crawl afterwards—Smith believes that people just want to chill on the weekend. "I like weekdays specifically because I come directly from work, you could just put on a higher heel, put on a piece of jewelry and you're ready to go," says Smith. Plus, it gives your guest something to look forward to at the end of a long work day.
Don't get us wrong, just because it's Wednesday is a plenty good reason, but it's always nice to celebrate a friend's milestone, whether big or small. "If it's someone's promotion or birthday, you can have people bring photos or write anecdotes on a piece of paper. Put them in a big glass bowl so that the person has a commemorative moment and something they can take away."
They're no dice and here's why:
Frenemies: "If you're inviting people to your home, it should be people that you trust and that you feel really good about—people who won't make you feel like you're being judged."
Coworkers: "At home, at a party with all of your real friends is just not the time to get to know a coworker. You may not want them to know that you like to dance to trap music, take copious amounts of tequila shots, or how much money you make as told by your fabulous apartment."
The Ex: "It's your home and all of the sudden you're thinking about the way you spent time there when you dated, and before you know it you've made the mistake of getting in bed with them again. You broke up with him for a reason!"
While BYOB is tempting for saving funds, in the end it could come back to bite you by way of drunken guests and having to play bartender. "If you start getting into somebody's regular bottle of tequila, then you've got to bring all of the mixers, and before you know it people are in your kitchen, cutting up lemons and turning on the blender and it's like, 'okay girl,' now the house is a mess." says Smith. "When people bring their own alcohol, all of a sudden one drink is half a glass of alcohol, and then people get drunk and bad things happen to your apartment.
Instead, stock up on red and white wine and create a signature drink for the evening, which will allow you to control just how much liquor goes into it and cut down on cost.
There's no need to be slaving in the kitchen all night. Instead buy pre-made hors d'oeuvres, like mini quiches, egg rolls, or pigs in a blanket at Trader Joe's (Bevy's go-to spot). It's cost and time-effective because you can throw them in the oven. For the main course, keep things just as simple. "I love a warm pot dish, like a chili or a stew," says Smith. "You can also do a pizza bar, macaroni and cheese assortment...anything that's a timesaver, where you pop it in the oven or just let it simmer on the stove and then voilà."
If you're price conscious, making it a potluck is totally okay—you just have to make sure that all bases are covered.
"When you're doing potluck, you cannot leave it to the guest," says Smith. "You must ask them what they're making and if somebody is already making a roast chicken, and you're short on starches or side dishes, ask them to make that instead. Otherwise everyone thinks that it's a good idea to bring hummus and vegetables and that's not a great potluck meal."
"You want people to know this is your event," says Smith. "That doesn't mean that you need to wear a ball gown, but you definitely shouldn't have your dinner party and be wearing sweats." In other words, be confident and comfortable, but kick it up a notch or two.
It's our firm belief that the vibe of a party always hangs in the next song—in other words, make sure you've got a killer playlist. If you think the dinner is going to last two hours, make your playlist last three hours, says Smith.
When it comes time to choose your music, she suggests starting things off with mid-tempo tunes that melt into the background, then slowly ramping it up to the loud, up-tempo stuff that calls for an impromptu party. (If that's what you're going for, of course).
As for what to do when your good ol' pal Billy unplugs your iPod to show you this killer new dubstep track, Smith has some no-nonsense advice for you. "You kind of have to be in a place of authority," she explains. "I would nicely tell that person, 'Oh my god, that is so cool. When you have your dinner party at your place, I so want to hear it!" and just laugh it off. You're totally within your rights to be like, 'um, no.'"
Don't leave it until the end—you'll be very, very sorry. Additionally, you shouldn't be a one person army and the best way to get it is by looking to that friend.
"We all have that one dear friend who is super organized and who loves to help and they should always be invited—and rewarded," she explains. "To that person, you say, 'Come early to have a cocktail,' or 'Stay behind. I'm going to save this special pie that I got from this great bakery. You can just chill and have a slice.' You have to reward them, because you don't want to use the person. It's more like, I gotchu.'"
Creating a custom hashtag for your event gets people excited and is a fun, interactive way to look back on the night—just be wary of who might see it. "The only bad thing about creating one is that other people are going to see and ask why they weren't invited," says Smith. "Social media can be a double-edged sword, but at this point there's no way to avoid people posting."
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I’m the associate web editor at Marie Claire. I love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. I firmly believe that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.
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