7 Common Hosting Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Even the most casual get-together requires some planning and prep. Avoid these common summertime hosting mistakes to make sure your event runs smoothly so your gathering stays festive and fun.


Not Enough Food and Drink

Photo by David Meredith/Set Design by Jeffrey W. Miller

If the cardinal rules of party planning do, in fact, exist, this one is at the top of the list: Always plan on ordering, preparing, or mixing for at least 1.5 times the number of guests. (For beverages, it should be 1.5 times the number of guests per hour.) Not exactly sure how many friends will be joining? As a general principle, always round up. That way, you’ll be covered for any last minute plus-ones or hungrier-than-expected guests. And if you don’t want all the leftovers, purchase some disposable to-go containers for visitors to fill up before they depart.


Being Too Formal

Rather than stressing out over the placement of the salad fork or assigning seats at the dinner table, opt for a more casual vibe. Serving food and drinks buffet-style will keep your gathering relaxed and comfortable. Whip up several batches of limeade margaritas ahead of the event, and leave them in pitchers for guests to serve themselves. Just be prepared to replenish with another batch when the supply runs low.


Mixing Social Circles Without a Game Plan

Bringing all of your friend groups together for one event might seem like a great idea, but keep in mind that different personalities and dispositions might not immediately mix. Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in Boston, suggests sitting down with the guest list ahead of time to look for shared interests and histories among your friends. That way, you can connect those you think might hit it off and avoid any potentially awkward encounters.


Scrambling Last Minute

Prepping several hours (or even days) beforehand does wonders to minimize stress on the day of the event. Do the shopping three days in advance and don’t forget to stock up on essentials like paper towels and toilet paper. Plan a menu of prep-ahead foods that can sit in the refrigerator overnight so you can spend the day-of focusing on your space. Light candles an hour before guests are set to arrive and line trash cans with multiple bags to make disposal a breeze. Wait until about 30 minutes before the start time to put out chips and dips, though, to ensure that everything’s nice and fresh when the company rolls in.


Greeting Guests Without Putting On Your Party Outfit

According to Debi Lilly, owner and chief planner at A Perfect Event, you should be completely dressed and ready at least an hour before guests are set to arrive, so that you’ll have plenty of time and attention to devote to finishing touches. “Someone always arrives very early,” says Lilly. “There’s nothing worse than the doorbell ringing while you’re in the shower.”


Letting Your Pets Run Loose

You might love them—and they might be the most docile and obedient pet in town—but your furriest family member might also be someone else’s worst allergy or biggest fear. Nothing shuts a party down faster than a bad case of hives or a terrified visitor, so keep Fluffy and Fido happily cordoned off with toys and food in a spare room.


Forgetting to Have Fun

Marina Birch, the owner of Chicago-based Birch Design Studio, a boutique event firm specializing in design, planning, and orchestration, points out that everyone, including the host, should feel at home. “I think it’s so easy to get worked up about all the details, and forget to relax and enjoy. When entertaining—be just that—ENTERTAINING!”