5 party hosting tips for people you don’t know at your wedding

business officeYou might not go out of your way to host parties for people you have never met before, but it happens. Maybe your boss ropes you into having clients over for a meal, maybe you invite a loved one’s new significant others’ family to your home for supper, or perhaps you become involved with an organization and offer your place as a gathering location for everyone to get to know each other. But there’s one day you know you’ll be entertaining some guests you aren’t super close with, and that’s your wedding day.

It can be awkward facing wedding guests you don’t know well. What if no one likes each other? What if no one enjoys your food? What will everyone talk about? Instead of being nervous (or resistant and complaintive), think of it this way: you have an exciting opportunity to mingle with who could be extraordinarily interesting people, and they are probably thankful that you have taken on this task. When you find yourself hosting a party for people you hardly know, here are a few tips for making your evening successful.

Plan the meal, especially if guests are coming to the rehearsal dinner.

Much of the discussion will occur over dinner or about the food itself, so make sure what you serve suits everyone’s tastes. Send an email or text message to everyone invited and ask if they have any dietary restrictions you should account for (the last thing you want is someone getting sick because they did not realize your dish included ingredients they are allergic to). You don’t have to plan a three-course meal, but it should be something that everyone can enjoy and doesn’t overwhelm you. Make sure everything is waiting for attendees when they arrive and set them up near the beverage station.

Get people talking

Even if a guest or two does not particularly like your meal choices, they will most likely be polite about it. The conversation aspect of the evening is what causes many hosts anxiety. Keep in mind that your guests are nervous about this too, so they will lean on the hosts to steer discussion and prevent awkwardness.

Warm up the crowd when they arrive and be sure to pay attention to all your guests individually. After dinner, take the time to visit each table and greet your guests. If you don’t know someone, start with an icebreaker such as, “Whose side of the family are you with? Where are you from?” These questions can open a conversational chain: “What did you like most about living there? What brought you here? Where is the rest of your family located?” Answer those same questions in turn. Compliment your guests on their elegant evening dress or suit—and of course, saying “Thank you for coming, we love seeing you here” will usually win you points.

Play games and dance

Some guests might be more hesitant to open up, so games are an excellent way to encourage conversation and get people out on the dance floor. You don’t want to be pushy, but sharing information in the context of a game gives people more incentive to share and get comfortable in the environment. Some great wedding games that help open up the dance floor include the dollar dance or anniversary dance.

Assess everyone present

When planning your seating arrangement, analyze how responsive people are to certain things. To avoid silences, take advantage of the chattiest of the bunch—but make sure that everyone has an opportunity to get a word in. Take notes regarding individuals’ senses of humor, their willingness to socialize, and what kind of information they share. As the host, you have the power to shape the evening’s conversation, so go with the flow, but include even the shyest of the bunch. Seat people together in a way that ensures everyone will have a good time.

Help your guests leave

One of the most awkward parts of the night is not always when people arrive. Instead, it’s when people are trying to leave. Not everyone may be able to tell if it’s appropriate to excuse themselves or if they should stay longer (and you don’t want them to remain all night, either). One way to hint that the evening is winding down is to offer coffee or tea. Once people finish their drinks, it’s a useful marker that it’s time to depart.

You and your friends have a “flow” that you and strangers do not. Interacting with people you are unacquainted with is often necessary when you’re getting married, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. What do you aim to do when hosting a party for people you do not know well?

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