5 Tips For A Better Guest List

No greater headache plagues a host or hostess than trying to figure out how to invite the right mix of personalities to dinner. Surely, you know someone that's had a large wedding or party and you've heard horror stories of seating charts.....who can't be seated with whom......and the ever annoying guest that NEVER returns their RSVP card. What I'm talking about here is a wee bit different......

A home-based dinner party, the SUP & DINE way, should be no more than 6 people.....including the host. (I have my reasons for that, but we will discuss it later, ok?) Imagine how hard it can be to mask people's differences and incompatibilities in a crowd of six?!? The tension....the glazed over eyes.....the mayhem (ok, maybe not mayhem)..........
Now, do you get my drift?

Your guests deserve to have a good time and you don't need the stress of babysitting egos, mediating familial blood feuds, or burning the food because you're holed up in the garage wondering how the hell you got into this mess in the first place. So, let's talk about a few things you can do…before you decide to eat alone forever.

1. Choose Guests, WISELY!

This may seem like an obvious no-brainer...but you would be shocked at how many people don't do this! You should invite people that have at least one major life event/interest in common. 
  • Marriage
  • Kids
  • Travel
  • Hobbies
  • Specific Sport and/or Team

Don't assume that single friends will be delighted to sit at a table with enlightened married couples or that wine will keep your guests mellow if someone offends or bores them. Assume the irritated guest will find an excuse to leave or worse.....choose to voice their offense by picking a fight or insulting other people at the table. Guests driven to drink by boredom or discomfort will likely end up on the roof serenading the neighbors in their underpants. 

2. Invite Guests, PERSONALLY!

I know we live in an era that welcomes all things in the way of digital communication but there are a few problems with that when it comes to having a dinner party. Generally, texts & emails get a first glance and, without a follow-up, are lost in the fiery pit of e-mail hell. That means you've got a problem if you're counting on a reply to prep the menu. Another issue...the dreaded "+1".

  • If your party is at least two weeks away....mail an invitation. The cards don't have to be fancy but the message has to be clear. When, Where, and Whom. Leave no room for interpretation. Besides, people still really like getting mail...trust me!
  • When an event is less than 72 hours away....CALL. Set aside a few minutes(bet you're thanking me for the six person party rule now, huh??) in a quiet place to call each person and invite them. Be sure to use words like "small", "potluck", and "informal" to give an idea of what the vibe will be.....and who may come. 
  • Always follow up 36-24 hours before your dinner to confirm the guest count and whether or not they will be contributing to dinner. 

3. Ask, and ye shall receive. 

The average person doesn't know everything about everything. Even if you've watched all 6 million seasons of Cake Wars™ you may still suck at making a decent pound cake. If you know someone that's really good at cheese plates or gets down on a great dessert.....invite them! You'll save yourself the stress and your guest's guts will thank you.
Make sure that rule #1 applies. If it doesn't, ask for the recipe instead and practice making it at least twice before you serve it.

  • Invite guests that have something to add to the mix. A recipe, a story, even great presence! 
  • Guests that are going to bring food should be invited at least an hour before the party starts. This gives them time to prepare their dish.....and time for you two to chat beforehand. 
  • NEVER invite a guest, AND ask them to contribute, JUST to get whatever it is they bring. It's rude and highly likely that they will figure it out and be pissed off that you're a manipulative jerk.

4. Party Within Your Means

There is a clear difference between asking for crowd participation and hitting your friends up for food. If you can't afford to be the host....don't.
  • If you ask someone to make a dish for your party, always offer to buy the ingredients if you aren't hosting a potluck. 
  • If the event is intended as a potluck you should be clear about that from the invitation. Do NOT ask someone to bring enough food for you to eat lunch all week. Meal prep and dinner party are not synonymous. 
  • Ask for enough food or drink to serve 8. If you have 4....you'll have seconds. If you have 6....you'll have just enough for a hearty helping. 

5. Un-invite The Uninvited

This one is my personal fave.....and the reason for the first four rules. If you have a guest that always has to bring a "+1" without asking you first....don't hesitate to stop inviting them to your home. There's no need for drama or disrespect, just don't invite them next time. #simple

  • Be sure to cook for 8 and if you are portioning the meals....you're in charge so the "+1" is getting the same attention to detail as the others so things don't end up feeling awkward. Remember: Your beef(ha!) is with your guest.....not theirs.
  • If you're in a potluck situation, and you've asked for enough to feed 8, be sure to introduce the "+1" to everyone individually. This gives your guests time to let their brains register that there's another person in the room. Chances are the "+1" may be used to being a surprise guest and try to fade into the background. While that may be good for your temper, it won't work for their plate. A serial wallflower doesn't get fed. Your other guests may not leave enough for "+1" to eat or drink and that is almost always taken personally......by the person that brought them. Go figure....

The whole point of eating & entertaining at home is to give yourself space to enjoy the company of great people, not to overthink, overwork, or overachieve. You shouldn't feel uptight and stressed trying to plan or drained and tense when your guests leave. Setting rules about the guest list is always in the best interest of the host or hostess. Plus, they allow your guests to have the best version of you so everyone can have an amazing time!


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