A Perfectly Imperfect Hostess

Let’s be honest, most parties we go to as adults can seem a bit boring.

You walk into a house that’s so clean you can’t relax, especially because you’re wearing a super uncomfortable outfit because you need to dress to impress. Whoever is cooking is so stressed out making fancy canapés that they can’t enjoy themselves, and the husband is stuck making drinks when he’d rather be talking to his buddy or watching the game in the other room.

If someone brings their kids they’re left worrying about where to change their baby, praying that she won’t spit up all over the new rug, or whether their four year old might decide to start screaming or singing at the top of his lungs, thereby disturbing the “appropriate” noise level.

hostess

Parties used to be a lot more fun, didn’t they? Remember getting together with friends over a pizza or a bag of chips and some bad wine, with your shoes off, terrible music blasting, and laughing until your face hurt? Why can’t we have parties like that anymore? Here’s why: because our society can perpetuate an unrealistic image of what a hostess needs to look like. It’s time we embrace our perfectly imperfect hostesses. One who still throws that kind of welcoming and relaxed party that we used to love … albeit it now with (hopefully) better pizza, wine and music.

In my mind the perfect hostess is not someone with matching napkins or the perfect centerpiece. To be the perfect hostess you don’t need to make sure everyone has a drink in their hand the moment they walk through the door. Instead, you can be the kind of hostess who makes everyone feel comfortable enough to go into the kitchen and choose what they want. A perfectly imperfect hostess knows that if her fridge isn’t perfectly stocked, she can call her friends to let them know what to pick up on the way. The imperfect hostess has her shoes off, signaling everyone to come in, follow suit and simply relax. She makes sure to tell the frazzled mom that “of course she can change the baby wherever she’s comfortable” and it’s not a big deal when the four year old sings or spills his milk on a new piece of furniture.

She knows that it’s more important everyone finds his or her own happy place at the party rather than everything tasting amazing.

The imperfect hostess allows her best friend’s anti-social husband to man the grill, even if he’s not that good at it. She knows that it’s more important everyone finds his or her own happy place at the party rather than everything tasting amazing. She knows that it’s simply about getting people together — whether it’s over take-out or a gourmet meal — and that it’s the sharing of space and being with people you love that truly sets the tone.

If you are the kind of person who loves making a five-course meal, then go ahead and do it! But don’t do it just because the hostess at the last party you went to did it and now you feel like you need measure up. Do it, instead, because it genuinely makes you happy; if you are happy and relaxed, then all your guests will be, too.

Nothing would make me happier than if all the ambitious hostesses of the world knew you could have just as great a gathering over a bag of chips than over the most perfectly roasted leg of lamb … as long as said hostess and her guests were enjoying themselves. So make your next party stress free, remembering that your only job is to make your friends feel welcomed. The rest will simply take care of itself. If you don’t get around to making dinner, don’t worry, a comfortable guest will most likely pick up the phone and order a few pizzas, because all they really care about is being there anyway.

What are some ways you make guests feel welcome when you host?

Image via Christianne Taylor from the article “The Modern Hostess, A Reintroduction” in Issue No. 1.

Zoe was named one of LA’s top chefs by Los Angeles magazine, has been placed in the running for “Best Pastry Chef” by the James Beard Foundation, and her recipes have been featured in Bon Appètit and Food & Wine, among many other national publications. Zoe is the co-owner with her husband, of the Rustic Canyon family of restaurants including Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry, Milo & Olive, and Sweet Rose Creamery. Having worked at famed spots both on the East and West Coast, Zoe returned to her hometown of Santa Monica and joined the Rustic Canyon team as pastry chef—where she met, fell in love, and married restaurateur Josh Loeb.

11 COMMENTS
  • A April 26, 2015

    I actually really dislike this. It has nothing to do with society – some people experience so much joy in putting together a beautiful space, experiencing wonderful food within a stylish home. This article actually just made me feel like shit – I’m hosting a birthday party this weekend for 12 friends and I lOVE the effort and process it takes. Thanks.

  • April Hunt November 13, 2014

    I agree with this completely. True life happens around the table. There is nothing better than living life together in community, feeling welcomed and loved when you enter someone’s home. Shauna Niequist said once that true hospitality is when a person that is in your home feels better about themselves after they leave, than about you.

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  • Micaela October 19, 2014

    I think that’s one of the best things being a student who only just moved to the city. There’s really no expectations of my friends, because we’re all in the same situation. We just knock on the door, go in and sit on the floor/bed because we know that the person who lives there can’t afford more chairs at the moment. We drink out of flasks or cans because we don’t want the host to have to spend an eternity doing the washing up after a party.
    I think we need to try to remember that mindset even when we’re of to new places when we graduate.

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  • I totally agree! Making everyone feel comfortable is so much more important than having a perfect space.

  • Charlotte October 10, 2014

    Such great tips and reminders! I will be putting them to use at our Thanksgiving get-together this weekend (in Canada!) 🙂

  • Leslie Musser October 10, 2014

    This is a beautiful reminder that the primary responsibility of a hostess is to set the tone for her guests. The ambiance of a party is crafted or crushed by the attitude of the one holding the reigns. A delightful and humble host begets gracious and content guests.

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  • ellie | fit for the soul October 9, 2014

    What an amazing post!!!! This is something to keep in mind for me, because I already started to get my brain stirring on how to host the “perfect party” in the future. I’ll do my best, but I’ll still make sure to be myself and give others that liberty as well. 🙂

  • Christine Rose October 9, 2014

    I loved this! More entertaining in my future 🙂

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