How to Host a More Memorable Party, According to Etsy's Trend Expert

Hint: Don't be afraid to lean into a theme.

Cocktails in Glasses, Etsy tips for hosting parties, RealSimple

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Modern-day entertaining often feels like an art form, a delicate balance between wanting to make sure your guests have an amazing time and also wanting to make it all feel effortless. If you're relaxed, your guests will be relaxed, right? For entertaining pro and Etsy's resident trend expert, Dayna Isom Johnson, hosting a memorable get-together is less about guesswork and more about following a proven formula. Combine the right elements and it's sure to be a night (or afternoon or brunch) everyone will be buzzing about.

During Real Simple's Time for You Weekend in the Rosemary Beach community in northwest Florida, Dayna's entertaining formula was put into action (and passed with flying colors!) when Etsy hosted a Friday Night Soirée we haven't stopped talking about since. The key to the party's success? The event featured personalized decor, it followed a theme, it gave guests a chance to get involved, it was cozy and comfortable, and there was an abundance of delicious foods and drinks. To replicate this foolproof party plan in your own home—whether you're hosting a book club or a baby shower—just follow the steps below.

RELATED: 7 Magic Phrases Every Host Should Know to Make Guests More Comfortable

Etsy Outdoor Pillow Covers with Blue and Green Raindrop Pattern, RealSimple

Follow a Theme

The secret ingredient that makes any gathering more fun: go with a theme, Dayna recommends. "My Oscars parties are epic. My Galentine's Day parties are epic. I host book club parties. Why shouldn't you celebrate any and everything? We only have one life—celebrate it," she says. For her Oscars parties, Dayna will ask each guest to bring a dish that references one of the nominated films. For a book club party, she might name a signature cocktail after the main character in the book. Starting with a theme provides a framework for creativity, and can help you brainstorm fun ideas for food, drinks, and decor.

Sometimes, the location of the party is all the inspiration you'll need. At Real Simple's Time for You Weekend, the beautiful beach location and the weekend's theme of a relaxing getaway guided the decor of the soirée. Luckily, Coastal Grandmother has been one of the hottest home decor trends of the past few months. "With Coastal Grandmother, I think it really ties into the overall theme of the evening, which is a time for you ... allowing the guests to feel like this is a time for relaxation," she explains. To bring the serene, beachy vibes, Dayna adorned the seating areas with patterned outdoor throw pillows in ocean-inspired shades of blue and green. Then, handmade pots filled with lush local greenery made the party feel like a vacation. For your next get-together, lean into a theme and then see how little touches like new throw pillow covers or greenery clipped from the backyard can bring it to life.

To buy: Outdoor Pillow Covers, from $39,

Etsy Custom Leather Coaster with name and date, RealSimple


Make It Personal

"The number one thing when hosting a party is to embrace your own personal style," Dayna says. If you're known for your rainbow-bright sense of style, let it shine. And if retro is your look, go ahead and throw a '70s-style party. Then, add in personalized pieces. No matter if you're throwing a birthday party or a bridal shower, custom coasters with the date will not only make the event feel extra-special, but they will also double as mementos for guests to remember the party.

To buy: Custom Coaster, from $10,

Pink Hummus
Victor Protasio

Have an Abundance of Food and Drinks

Even if you're hosting a casual happy hour or a low-key cocktail party, don't forget to stock up on snacks. Check out some of our favorite appetizers you can whip up in less than 20 minutes. Even if you decide to go store-bought, have fun with it! Set out chips with a variety of dips so guests can conduct their own taste-test and rank their favorites. Dayna reminds us that a host's goal is to make your guests feel comfortable, which includes making sure they're fed. Besides, hangry party guests don't make for a good time.

Get the recipe: Pink Hummus

DIY Jewelry Crafting Kit from Etsy, RealSimple


Get Your Guests Involved

Parties always feel more memorable if you're an active participant rather than just a passive observer, so encourage all your guests to get involved. Whether you're serving cocktails or mocktails, let your guests play mixologist. Set out a recommended recipe and all the ingredients, and have your friends craft their own creations. Create a make-your-own margarita station, along with several flavor options, so guests can choose their own adventure. At the Time for You Weekend in Florida, Dayna brought jewelry crafting kits so guests could make their own DIY accessories. Depending upon the party theme, let your guests carve their own pumpkins or build their own sundaes.

To buy: DIY Jewelry Kit, $30,

Etsy Scented Happiness Candle, RealSimple

Keep It Cozy

"We all want comfort," Dayna says, so make sure the environment puts your guests at ease. That can mean adding soft throw pillows and a blanket to the sofa and seating around your living room, bringing blankets out onto your porch, or lighting a fire pit in the backyard. Engage all the senses with soft surfaces, warm lighting from string lights or scented candles, and music that sets the mood.

To buy: Scented Candle, $15,

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