Entertain Like An Expert

As one of the leading experts in the event design industry, Tara Guérard knows how to throw a memorable party. While she’s quick to note that there are no laws regarding what makes a successful event, her impeccable eye and particular preferences have put her at the top of her field, so when she offers up advice, it’s wise to listen. Last week, we did just that when we attended an intimate luncheon hosted by Guérard as part of the Charleston Wine + Food festival. Here are a few recommendations from the entertaining maven on how to throw an unforgettable gathering:

• Think about how you can make your guests feel comfortable and not want to leave. Know what they drink and have it on hand; better yet, have a full bar ready when they walk in the door and offer up everything. 

• When designing a party of any size, keep the food and bar in separate wings. This will help with the flow of the event.

• Make sure you can control your lighting. You never want the space in which you’re entertaining to be too bright, so opt for a dimmer switch in the dining room and remember to lower the lights, and use lamps instead of overhead lighting. 

• When considering your tabletop decor, have a variety of elements. The more you can mix textures, the better.

• Be sensitive to sound. Always have music, but make sure it’s not so loud that guests can’t hear each other talk. Select tables sized to encourage conversation, and avoid anything too wide for people to comfortably talk to someone seated across from them.

• Don’t underestimate the power of linens. Use cloth cocktail napkins, soft cotton and linen napkins (it’s fine to mix and match), and a nice tablecloth. And although it adds to the prep time, iron or steam out fold lines from linens before the party.

• Use place cards at your dinner parties. Seeing your name at a table says your host has put thought into the seating arrangements—and gives you a place to put your purse down.

• When hosting a cocktail party, skip the plates, forks, and knives and only serve foods you can pick up. (How else can you eat while standing and holding a drink?)

• At a minimum, have one bartender per 40 guests. This will let everyone have a drink in hand at all times.

• Details dos and don’ts: 

 1. Keep candles for nighttime only—don’t light them until after dark. If you have unlit candles on display, make sure the wick has been lit.
2. Serve your guests drinks in glass, not plastic. If you only splurge on one thing, spend your money on glassware.
3. Resist the urge to pre-pour or pre-set. While it might seem efficient, guests don’t need to sit down to condensation on glasses and wet rings on the table.

Expert tip from Tara Guérard of Tara Guérard Soirée in Charleston, SC. Image by Nickie Cutrona for The Scout Guide.