Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Nibbles & Bites: The Guest List

I love to entertain and I take my job as hostess very seriously, trying to put together the best possible experience for my guests with each occasion. But after a theme and date are chosen and before much of anything else can be done, I have to create the guest list that will be a perfect fit for my party.

Now, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal: invite your friends and be done with it. Sure, for some events that’s totally acceptable and will result in a wonderful party. Sometimes, though, you might need to be a bit more selective.

An Open House gives you carte blanche to invite anyone and everyone in your address book because the party is very fluid, it’s mix-and-mingle for the duration and people are free to come for the whole thing or stop by for only a moment or two. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails are the menu, in most cases, and those are easy to replenish throughout the evening.

Your available space is a deciding factor that can drastically limit your guest list. Of course you think about how many can comfortably sit around the table for a dinner party or on your couches for a movie party but something you also need to consider is how much parking your home or venue can offer. The last people you want crashing your party are the cops or angry neighbors because you’re blocking streets or driveways.

Plus you should consider the kind of party you’re throwing from the guest’s perspective. Say you’re throwing a wine tasting party (which is totally on my party-to-do list for Fall) as a for instance. The entire party is about tasting wine and what foods go with the wines and wine, wine, wine. If you invite someone who is allergic to or just doesn’t drink wine, they’re gonna be completely left out of the festivities. Knowing who likes what will help create  a guest list that ensures fun for both them and you.

Finally, there’s always the horror story about weddings where you can’t seat Mrs. Hatblossom at the same table as Mr. Feltenberger because they used to be together but he ran off with her sister and now no one speaks to each other. Don’t invite rival factions or sworn enemies to a party unless it’s a) a very big party or b) you’re looking forward to a bit of extra drama. Save yourself (and the rest of your guests) the hassle and even though it hurts, choose a side. If you just can’t invite one without the other, make the tough call and don’t invite either of them.

Crafting a guest list is more than just printing out your address book onto labels and calling it a day. Choose your guests with an eye towards how they’ll mix with each other and the event you have in mind and you’re that much closer to a perfect party.

Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker

  1. Do you tend to mix friends and family for casual parties? I’ve been to parties where they have their hip 70-year old mother-in-law who is always fun to talk with because of her many hobbies and positive outlook on life. That’s probably a no-brainer. But in general, how do you think this changes the atmosphere?

    1. Depends on the party, Donna, and it depends on the guests.

      For instance, I’m throwing a party this weekend where I’ve invited friends, family, and soon-to-be family (my brother just got engaged) as well as select coworkers. The reason I can do this is because it’s a fairly general event (housewarming party with a Midsummer theme) and the activities are general enough that the guests don’t have to know a lot about each other or even have common interests to enjoy them.

      I have a small group of immediate family in town and they usually get invited to my larger parties, like the annual Pumpkin Party, but for the first few it’s always tough to see the friends hive off here and the family/coworkers hive off there as the party winds down.

      The key to avoiding that is planning activities that everyone can participate in and picking the right guests for the right party. Usually after a couple of parties together, though, the groups do start to mix more.

  2. Welcome! Jennifer, you are getting off to a great start as one of our newest guest bloggers. Be sure to tell us more about yourself as you go along — you sound like someone I would like to get to know better. I look forward to reading your posts.

  3. Donna

    I would mix friends and family but not sure I would mix business associates and friends or business associates and family. The latter would be a big no-no.

    Jennifer, thanks for the enlightening post. That really is food for thought.

    1. The coworker test, for me, is: Does it remind me of the company Christmas party or barbecue? If yes, then I’ll invite those I’m closer to. (It also bears noting that my company is all of 21 people, my mother is one of my coworkers and I’ve worked there for 15 years, it’s different than a stricter corporate environment.)

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