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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Playing Hosts and being Good Guests

Playing Host
Most people think that organizing, and putting together a party at home is an easy feat, but who truly understand all the underlying hassles and issues that would come with planning the perfect party?

Here, we are not talking about large festive parties or a huge bash with music and well-dressesd party-goers. How about being a good host for even a simple New Year's eve get-together with close friends?

Let us take a look at what constitutes to good parties and bad parties here.

Good Parties and Gatherings
I have attended a handful of house parties myself - a couple of small-scale shindigs, and a couple of dinner parties (not counting gatherings, of course). While for some, one could see the hosts truly putting in efforts to make the guests feel welcome and enjoyable, there are some whereby (perhaps due to the lack of experience?) for others, one wonders about the true intention of this party, inadvertently.

(i) The hosts take the trouble to clean up the house and even decorate it a little, arranging for music (DJs or an Ipad connected to a set of speakers, it does not matter), ensuring that the guests are well-taken care of in terms of entertainment and food

(ii) Guest list? While some hosts may be able to accommodate more guests in their homes, and hence are able to invite more diversified groups of guests, those who couldn't hold a huge bash would try to ensure that their guests are at least on friendly terms with each other or do not mix people who are different as day and night.

(iii) Whether it is a BBQ party, a sit-down dinner party, a dance party with finger foods, or movie / mahjong party, the hosts always ensure that there is ample food to go around. It does not matter whether the food items are catered, home-cooked, steamboat concept, bought from stalls outside or to order food delivery, they ensure that the food are tasty, aplenty, and there's suitability for everyone (i.e. not too spicy, there is vegetarian, kosher or halal varieties if they've guests who have special requests).

(iv) The hosts ensure that the guests are well-entertained, whether they get to mingle comfortably on couches / bar stools, playing card or mahjong games together, able to watch good movies on a big screen or simply sitting around the dinner table cracking jokes and chatting.

(v) A good host knows how to manage expectations and set the house rules well. For instance, they prepare the guests well - informing or hinting before if a party is posh and requires a certain dress code, or it would be an informal, laid-back party in which simple food is being prepared. Also, if there's a strict timing to be adhered to, or which rooms are off-limits, etc, the hosts would set these straight before the party is in full swing, so the guests know what their entitlements are.

(vi) Lastly, a good host is able to mingle with, and join the guests in kicking back their heels and having fun while at the same time, managing a good party and keeping it going all night long.

Bad Parties and Gatherings
How about parties that leaves a bad taste in one's mouth, and here are we are not talking about being drunk?

(i) Food Management Expectations
Right...remember, if it is not meant to be a lunch or dinner party, the host should feel free to be frank to their guests in informing them that they should take their meals before heading over. It would be rather awkward if someone invites a group of friends to their home at mealtimes to play cards or mahjong, and upon arrival, watch the host and family eating dinner while the guests' stomaches are rumbling.

"Yes, our group of friends usually gather at someone's house for festivals. That New Year, Thomas* invited us to his place to play cards, at 6pm. So we assumed that we would be having dinner together. When we got there, we watched him and his wife eating take-away KFCs and they suggested to us the coffeeshops nearby where we could grab dinner if we hadnt eaten... I mean, it was kind of rude..." Jenson* tells us of his experience.

Another case, where two couples were invited to a couple's house on Christmas Eve to celebrate the special occasion together. Let Marilyn* share the story with the readerss herein.

"So our good friend, Ted* and wife asked my partner and I to go to their house on Christmas Eve to celebrate together; they'd asked along another couple as well, we're all good friends," Marilyn recounts. "We bought gifts for the couple, as a courtesy. When we got there, Ted* and wife suggested pizzas, which we agreed. When the pizzas were delivered, Ted* and wife turned to us casually and told us how much the pizzas were, and had us split the bill! We were stunned.. I mean, we were not there for free food, but as a host.... ?"

Yes indeed, it is rather indeed shocking when you get invited to someone's place for dinner only to pay for pizza delivery, and it was not agreed upon before the order was placed. Surprises are nice, but not all are welcomed.

Always ensure that there is food or enough food; if not, inform beforehand so the guests can make alternative arrangements. If the hosts do not wish to spend too much money organizing an event, do consider hosting a "Pot Luck" party where each individual brings an item to share. It would be fun, and guests know what to expect.

If the hosts decide to get creative on home-cooked meals and are confident on their kitchen skills, go ahead. But do ensure that the food is at least approved by other unbiased third parties before serving it to other guests at formal events. Vicky* here shares with us an awful event she attended where the host decided to cook himself.

"Timothy* just started on his culinary studies, so, wanting to impress us at his sister's housewarming, offered to do the cooking and help his sister save costs. When we got there, he served us huge portions of some glutinuous dish, chicken wings and nuggets in which he prepared himself - the glutinuous was lacking in ingredients, bland and totally soggy! Even the chicken wings and nuggets were bland and soft instead of crispy....It was rather disappointing," Vicky* says matter-of-factly. "What was worse was we learned that they actually held another round of housewarming the day before, and they catered a nice buffet..."

Tread carefully, potential hosts. While you may believe your own culinary skills to be superb, and your family members may sing praises just to be supportive, does not mean that it really is good enough for guests at events such as weddings, baby showers, housewarmings etc. If unsure, always get feedback from third party tasters, or more neutral parties to give honest feedback - after all, guests do come prepared with nice gifts for such events, and it is rather embarrassing to serve them mediocre food.

(ii) Entertainment and Other Ongoings at the Party
Whether it is music, movies or other forms of entertainment, do ensure there is an assortment kept around for different guests' preferences.  These are rather general stuffs to keep around, even if a couple does not gamble, board games would  be nice items to keep around to keep the guests sufficiently occupied.

"Besides the order-it-yourself meal," Marilyn* goes on to continue her story of a lousy party / gathering. "We sat around for a while, chatting among ourselves. Then Ted* and wife turned on the TV and made us all watch some Channel 8 drama together! We didn't even mingle or talk much during the show! It was a waste of our time, and we left halfway since we were apparently not hitting town for some countdown together afte their TV show. Some kind of celebration!"

Wow, ok, this is indeed kind of a disappointing gathering. What kind of hosts make the guests watch TV together with them, when the guests could probably watch the same show in the comfort of their own homes? By not taking some pains to plan activities in their home for the guests, the hosts have already failed; by not bothering to come up with ideas for the guests to have some enjoyment at all, well, needless to say, that was the first and last time Marilyn* and partner visited Ted* and wife's place for events.

Also, as the host, if you know that your guests are doing something special or have themes planned, do inform the other guests you invite later on. For instance, gift exchange or costumes.

Vicky* remembers how a lovely, getting-to-know-you party turned into a nightmare at the end of it, "I was invited to a dinner party with my boyfriend's friends. It was two days before Christmas. When he asked about gift exchange, the host informed him that if he wished, just bring a gift for the Christmas tree would do," Vicky* shakes her head.

"I think she did not want to pressurize us since she'd invited us rather last minute. So we brought a gift for the Christmas tree each. Dinner was nice; the rest of their friends were all very fun-loving people and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. After dessert, all six of them began giving each other gifts. The worst thing was - they had also prepared gifts for my boyfriend and I, and began thrusting gifts at us when we had gotten nothing for them! I never felt more embarrassed at receiving gifts!" Vicky* finishes with a flush on her cheeks.

Well, yes, this could be rather awkward. The host might be trying to be nice, but being frank would save the couple from receiving and not being able to give anything back in return. Hence, it is the onus of the hosts to let all their guests know exactly what would take place; it is up to the guests to decide if their moves based on the party's events.

Being a Good Guest
(i)  After receiving an invitation to a party - whether a formal, scriped card invitation, or via SMS / Whatsapp or phone call, always RSVP, whether you are going or not. If you are going, they need to prepare your share of food and drinks; and vice versa.

(ii)  If you would like to bring a guest along, please inform or seek consent from the host. For some parties, it may not be appropriate to bring a guest along, especially for formal sit-down dinner parties where the seating arrangements have been fixed, or if the host just wishes to have his / her close friends along.

(iii)  When there is a theme or dress code stated on the invitation, do comply. For instance, do not wear jeans to a party where even the host herself decks out in a little black dress; or wear black when it is a white-themed party.

(iv)  Do not tamper with, or enter rooms in which the host says not to enter. Even if the host has a very impressive home, if he / she says no photography, just respect their wishes and not snap photos in secret when they turn their backs.

(v)  Be polite at all times - even if the food is not up to expectations, or you secretly think the party sucks, let the host know it is a great party and thank them for the hard work in organising it. Bring a gift or send a thank-you card, depending on the occasion and your closeness with the hosts in question.

(vi)  Do not make a scene or create brawls at the party. It gives you a bad impression and make things difficult for the hosts. After all, everyone is just here to have a good time. If you cannot handle your alcohol well, refrain from over-drinking and making a fool out of yourself by nightfall. It would be rather embarrassing if you have to be evicted, or spend the night in the host's garden.

That's about it, well, whether you are hosting a party or attending one, during this festive season - do have fun but remember to play your role well, whichever side you are on!

Disclaimer: Names changed to protect privacy. This article and interview conducted herein is strictly the property of the Blog Owner who owns all copyright  © and no part of this work may be reproduced or republished without the permission of the Blog Owner. All Rights Reserved.

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