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)