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Hostess Anxiety Syndrome

When I lived in New York, I co-owned a catering company with my sister which we appropriately named Sibling Revelry. We planned soireees from 7 to 700, trust me we know signs and symptoms all too well of Hostess Anxiety Syndrome

Hostess anxiety may not have an entry in the Physicians' Desk Reference, but the symptoms are obvious: fear that no one will show up, worry that those who do will stand around and blink at one another in silence, utter certainty that your guests will stop at 7-Eleven on the way home and hungrily devour a box of Hot & Spicy Cheez-its to fill the hole that your party food didn't.

When you're the hostess, meeting your own high expectations (and the lesser ones of your guests) is not impossible. And you can probably get away with a lot less work than you think - a little artfully arranged takeout here, a simple flower arrangement there, a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and you've got yourself a cocktail party.

Summer is a great time for casual, inexpensive entertaining, and I'm hoping some of my "hostess with the mostess" days will help your hosting anxiety. After all, why shouldn't you have as much fun as your guests?

    First the basics:
  • Three to four weeks before the event: Extend invitations - by mail, phone, or e-mail.
  • Two or three days before the event: Notify the neighbors. Nothing disturbs feisty Gregory Alisez next door more than the sight (and sound) of others having a good time. Do I have to tell him about our party in advance? And do I really have to invite him ? It's always polite to warn the neighbors before you entertain, especially if you expect a big crowd. If your party will be outdoors and the nostalgic Barenaked Ladies tunes will definitely carry, or if your guests will take up a lot of street parking, it's even more important to spread the word. You cansay something like "We're having a party this Saturday, and things might get a little noisy - although we'll try to keep it down, of course. People will be driving over, so please don't have anyone towed!" (Make a joke out of this.) A few days' notice is OK - any longer, and they might forget. If you don't normally socialize with the neighbors, you're under no obligation to invite them.
  • Four to five square feet per person: Comfortable spacing for a cocktail party.
  • 70 to 80 percent: Typical number of invitees who show up for a large party.
    The Bar
  • Three bottles for every four people: A generous ratio of wine to guests for a dinner party.
  • Three to four (alcoholic) drinks: Average per-guest consumption for a two- to three-hour cocktail party.
  • Forty guests or more: Consider hiring a bartender if you're serving more than wine and beer.

Kids are adorable…when they're in their jammies and asleep in their own beds, at home. How do I gracefully tell people that I don't want them at my party?

Deal with this delicate issue in person or over the phone, rather than specifying on the invitation that kids aren't welcome, Most guests will realize that cocktails or a Saturday-night dinner party aren't kid-friendly occasions, but if you're concerned, you can always clarify your position when guests call to R.S.V.P. Say something like "It will be so nice for all of us to have some grown-up time for a change" or "I hope you won't have any trouble finding a sitter on a Saturday night." When in doubt, have an afternoon bbq… then everyone's happy.

Environmental responsibility is part of our modus operandi, so we've incorporated green practices Greening your next party doesn't mean giving up electricity or preaching to your guests. It could be just purchasing locally grown food or using a caterer who uses local food. You don't have to make a big deal out of it. How about:

Invitations: Paper-free invitations like those offered at are greenest. However, there are special occasions for which the cyber card just doesn't cut it. In that case, look for recycled paper. You can't tell the difference and it's a better choice. You can also print your own invitations on Plantable Papers

Flowers: Shop local at the farmers' market, if possible. Look for flowers with VeriFlora certification, a new eco-label certifying flowers are grown environmentally. Ask for them from your florist or buy them online at

Plates: If you can't use regular plates, look for eco-friendly paper plate replacements such as those made with corn, sugar cane or soy that are biodegradable. Earthshell makes biodegradable, disposable plates and bowls from potatoes, corn and limestone and is available at major retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart . Simply Biodegradable sells sugar cane-based plates and cornstarch utensils. Clear Creek Compostables sells 90 percent sugar-cane pulp and 10 percent paper plates that can hold boiling water.

When greening your next party, choose one or two areas to go eco and build on the results. Now go chill out,have a class chardonnay and enjoy the soiree.

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