I think the secret to being a great host is quite simple. One principe; three easy steps. Maya Angelou got the principle down for us: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That’s really all there is to it. If you want people to remember a party you hosted, whether it’s a simple gathering in the yard or an elaborate wedding at the Ritz, you have to find ways to make them feel the love ;0) Once you own that principle, you just have to follow the 3 steps I learned from my time working at the Ritz. I have always treated (I think) everyone like this; It is in my nature. But the sequence is important for us all to remember. It takes a little extra effort sometimes just to stay on top of one’s game ;0) Here are the steps:
- Provide a warm and sincere welcome: Always welcome people yourself. If the queen of England can do it, so can we all. Use people’s names too. Introduce them to someone you know they’ll have fun talking to, and offer them a drink right away.
- Anticipate individual needs: Use what you know about each guest and their preferences. If you don’t know enough about them, ask a person who is close to them. Your goal is to create positive surprise. Admins, life partners, family, friends are ideal CIs! Facebook is a personal favorite of mine! When my now dear friend Melanie and I first met, she was coming to spend two weeks with me in Saint-Emilion. Although she was staying in a very high end hotel, all hotel rooms tend to be quite impersonal. Since I knew how much she loved her little dog Annie, I printed and framed a picture of Annie from an e-mail addressed to me months before. I placed it on her night stand in her hotel room. Of course Melanie loved it. That made her feel more than welcome and I think quite special indeed. She felt and understood right from the beginning how much her wellbeing mattered to me. Of course, the very least we can do, in terms of anticipating needs, is to know what the person is allergic to. I am not just talking about food allergies; Magie may very well be allergic to John and his political views. One should never talk about politics or religion at a dinner party, but you never know. Sitting is always important!
- Give a fond farewell: This is where people can feel how genuine your friendship/respect is towards them. This is how people can really tell if you’re all for show or someone who truly cares about them. I was graciously invited to a dinner party last Thursday. It was my nephew Geoffrey’s best friend’s birthday party. Geoffrey now lives almost three hours away from Bordeaux, but of course he drove down to surprise Nicolas. There were many guests present that evening. All of them extremely close to Geoffrey. So of course I was able to spend a few minutes catching up with him, after months apart, but I had to share him with all the other guests. The party went on and it was quite a success. As I was leaving around 1am, I said goodby to everyone. Catherine (we call her bangs because her hairdo resembles one you’d see on a Playmobil action figure), the gracious hostess, escorted me to the door and I was on my way. After just a few steps on the sidewalk outside their home, I heard the door open again and a voice: “Steph, let me walk you to your car. I didn’t get to spend any real time with you!” Yes, it was Geoffrey. He wanted to get at least two minutes of real time together. That small gesture made me feel so damn special!
Whether I am with my friends or with guests I have never met before, making people feel important and heard and seen is what gives me joy. That’s probably why several of my guests have become life long friends… A good indication that what I do is what I am I guess…
And the beauty of it is that it works quite well the other way around too: it is Jurina’s 40th birthday on Saturday. I can’t stand Jurina. Jurina is allergic to nuts. Guess what I’ll be serving :0)
Just kidding, I love my beautiful Jurina. She’s the lady with the checkers pants holding her wine glass in the air. Geoffrey is the guy above, with the big stupid hair :0)
65 Comments Add yours
Hosting is everything, just as important as the food and drink. All my most memorable meals I have had out are memorable because of the attentiveness of the host as well as what we ate. I’m sure you are an impeccable host Stephan. I only wish I hadn’t missed my chance to take you up on your offer to stay with you. Perhaps when I return from Asia next year 🙂
I’ve no doubt in my mind that you are the ultimate host and live by the three rules at all times.
Love that you let your guests / friends feel the love. You are wonderful.
A lovely post that tells us an awful lot about what a great guy you are!!
What a wonderful host you are 🙂
Hello French Heaven, love the post as usual, I think you just described what should be everybody’s life philosophy and not just for social occasions – making people feel special with a smile or a kind word is real nourishment for the soul isn’t it? have a good Wednesday – I think the sun is coming out at last!
Yes! The sun is coming out and I think it’s here to stay 🙂 I will be able to do some much needed gardening 😉
What a lovely post, and what a perfect host and gentleman you are, Stephane. Wise words, and such a warm and genuine concern for your guests and friends.
I fake it all darling Luffy! Just kidding 😉
A great approach that everyone should try. 😊
What a lovely philosophy! I shall not forget your words nor your beautiful photos.
I’m glad you liked it Renate! 🙂
Thank you for this post. It’s always nice to be reminded of the ways we can make others feel welcomed at our home!
You are so welcome! Thank you so much for dropping by!
Love this heartfelt post, thanks for sharing! I also liked very much the quote from Maya Angelou.
Absolutely wonderful advice, thank you for sharing! It looks like people had a wonderful time at your party! Hugz Lisa and Bear
Thanks Lisa! I’d like to think they always do. Christmas was a fiasco of biblical proportions though… Not because of the food, but because of the company. Can’t win them all 😉
Why thank you Aliya!!
Nice post. I have similar memories of dinner parties with some of the wonderful clients that we have had over the years. What is wonderful is that many of them have become fast friends.
I love when that happens! Thanks for the nice comment Roger!
The quote you shared, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” is so true. I also like your little tips–easy to say, not always as easy to do, but with practice they will become a part of the host or hostess and greatly enhance the guest’s experience. No doubt you’re good at what you do. 🙂
We’re in France now and I know we’re not in Provence any more–the rain is pounding down today. 🙂 But it’s beautiful in this area as well, just different.
I know! I’ve been thinking about you! (creaaaaaaaapy) The weather is supposed to get a little better in a day or two… Have fun!
So far, we’re having a blast. (Some photos on the blog today and more in the works as well as some narration.) We’ve had rain every day, but are having a great time and seeing marvelous scenery. So beautiful and so different from Provence!!
I’m glad you keeping your spirits up! I’ll go to your blog right now 😉
Your natural warmth pervades every word you write, every photo you take Stephane. I have no doubt you are the most welcoming and gracious of hosts.
You are being too kind as usual my dear Sandra, but I hope I get to offer you a warm welcome soon 😉
Lovely advice. I usually put on an impressive meal and I gather most of the conversation after is about the food — but sometimes I’m so wrapped up in the cooking that I think forget these excellent points about the hosting part. Interesting, though, I find people in this country (US) often feel the love by being fed a really great meal — possibly reflects how much more rare that is here than in France….I’l try to remember to nurture with more than the food next time!
That’s how I convey my love too. Food is a great vehicle. I used to be like you and focus all my energy on the food. I still do, but I try to get everything done before they arrive. So great food first of course but…
Thank you very much for you tip. I’ll keep your secret to be a great host in mind. My colleagues will visit my place tonight and I’ll try my best to make them feel very special. ^^
So I’m a little late answering my comments. Sorry! How did it go with you colleagues Jess?
We had a wonderful time together. I made grilled chilly-paste marinated pork and Kimchi stew. We also tasted several rice wines from various regions in Korea. One of my colleagues is professional photographer and took some photos. I’ll post them soon. ^^
I can’t wait to see the photos on your blog Jessie. It sounds like a wonderful evening indeed! I know next to nothing about rice wines, but I’m sure I would love it 😉
That Maya Angelou phrase is the secret to all social interaction. It’s so obvious, it’s hard to understand how so very often many adults don’t grasp the notion. What I encounter most often is hosts using events to try to put the spotlight on themselves- which is so incredibly ill-advised. It inevitably leads to failure, or at least the sensation of failure.
I avoid these kind of people like the plague! I especially hate the small town Bourgois trying too hard. I’d rather have dinner with the people I truly love and appreciate. If I have to sit next to the local president of the goodie two shoes club one more time, I’ll have to slit my wrists….
Excellent advice and so very easy to do. It’s little effort sometimes to make someone feel special.
What a wonderful reminder – and how terrific of you to tie it back to personal experience! I find that I often don’t greet guests personally at the door when I’m having a dinner party because I’m busy in the kitchen…and it really isn’t that difficult to turn the burners down for a moment (or better yet, have it all ready) and go give a warm welcome and usher everyone in…you are so right!!!! We’re having a dinner party on Saturday night – I’m putting these suggestions into action! THANK YOU!!!!
Hi Brian! Yes, try it! I now always try to get all the food ready before people arrive. I don’t only do that so I’m able to greet everyone, but mostly because I feel less stressed. Guests are like horses. They feel your stress 😉 😀
I have always placed a photograph of my guests in their room. If I do not have a favorite of them, I use a photograph of someplace we have been together or something that is reminiscent of them. It seems like a nice, little touch. (Kind of like putting the right type of juice in the refrigerator.) It is nice to know I am not the only one who does these sorts of things.
You’re a pro Angela! I’m glad I’m not the only one to do this. People always tell me I do too much. That won’t stop me though; and I know it won’t stop you 😉
I think this is beautiful – the diner party as a microcosm of life. As an introverted type, these things don’t come naturally to me (parties are a small torture to me), but as i get older, and realise that more and more it is life’s little kindnesses that make all the difference, I am cultivating these little kindnesses. Your touch with the photo of your friend’s dog was so lovely, it bought tears to my eyes xo
I am a little introverted myself dear Sara, but I try to entertain as often as possible. It is good for me. I also follow my grand mother advice to never refuse an invitation. It’s good to get outside of our comfort zone sometimes. As we get older, we get more comfortable with ourselves and it all gets easier. Doesn’t it? 😉
Definitely. I love getting older – life just makes so much more sense (except for the things that never will) 🙂
Maya Angelou was absolutely right 🙂
Maya Angelou was often quite right. What a beautiful soul she was (is)…
Yes, words to live by – yours and Ms. Angelou’s. Thank you.
The more we learn we are so alike, distances become smaller, national borders become merely color on maps.
I couldn’t agree more my friend!!
Wonderful advice! So true how details fade quickly; atmosphere is so important!
Athmosphere is everything 😉
We just hosted some friends, and I cooked two gluten-free meals for them (we had asked in advance, since we knew they had food preferences). They were so appreciative of the extra thought.
You are a pro Kellee! Your friends are very lucky to have you!!!
What a beautifully crafted piece on the heart of good hospitality. The images were so wonderful and truly complimented the common sense of the writing. Thank you for sharing this!
What a nice thing to say Erin! I’m glad you liked the post. Have a great day!!
I couldn’t agree more! 🙂 x
I’m glad you think so Maddie! Sometimes I write posts that I think are a little out there in terms of clichés and I am quite worried readers will hate them and never come back to the blog…
I know what you mean. It’s hard to know exactly what readers will enjoy, but it’s important to write for yourself as well. I think you’re posts are delightful, and I very much enjoy reading your blog 🙂 x
Thanks dear Maddie! You made my day! You are to young to remember this show, but I used to love a TV show called Blue Moon with Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in the 80s. Her name in the show was Maddie and she was full of life and quite a character. I’ve loved the name Maddie ever since…
Thank you very much – you are very sweet :-). I don’t remember the show, but I do love Cybill Shepherd! Looking forward to reading more of your posts x
What a great philosophy! Everyone should adopt it – presto – no more wars! ;->
Your pictures give me great joy to see.
I am so glad dear Judie. People like you make it all worth it!!! 😀