House Party Top Tips – Lisa Holloway
Our regular columnist Lisa Holloway, proprietor of Compton House B&B shares with us her Top Tips for hosting a Houseparty.
I love nothing more than having the house full of guests, hearing everyone enjoying themselves, settling in to their rooms and laughing with friends and family. The kitchen is busy, the tables are laid- and I’ve probably been preparing for days. It is a bit like putting on a show.
We have 15 guests taking over the house for a party this month. It has been a lot of organization for the guest hosting the party, so I want to make sure everything goes smoothly. Of course nothing is ever 100% perfect, but the more organized you are, the less is left to chance.
It is hard work looking after a party for a whole weekend, and you want your guests to remember all the details which you have taken care of, over and above what is expected, so they will have extra special memories of staying with you.
- So, my first tip is to make sure you know how long they are staying and which rooms each guest is in. (This sounds common sense, but so often guests share the same name, and not everyone is staying for the whole weekend.) I’ve made some howlers in the past so I now ask for every name and arrival time. And make sure you know who each guest is, so you can address them by name. Then you can relax and concentrate on making sure all goes to plan.
- Make sure all the rooms look extra special. Fresh flowers in the bedrooms and house, new magazines for each guest and sometimes I put fairy lights round the little girls beds for a pretty surprise. Get toys ready for childrenupstairs, outside if good weather and in the Dining Room so parents can enjoy a bit of peace.
- If it’s a special occasion I wrap a tiny gift and leave it on guests pillows, a room scent for the girls, maybe a paperback or a miniature whisky for the men. Always nice to have a surprise however small.
- Make sure everything in the rooms work; the TV, radio, WiFi, kettle, the shower, hairdryer, the lightbulbs etc, so no one is frustrated and having to ask for something which is embarrassing for them and annoying for you. You’d think this would be second nature, but many a time I have got to the top floor and found a bulb has blown, and it is a long way down.
- If your guests don’t all know each other, suggest afternoon tea or early drinks so they can be introduced before supper. That way no one feels awkward and they know who they are sitting with at Dinner, we have many house parties with single guests so I try and get them mingling.
- Often guests bring presents of chocolates, cheese or wine for the hosts, who usually pass them on to me. Use everything over the course of their stay. This way their presents have been appreciated and it makes guests feel part of the event.
- Don’t be too bossy about breakfast. You might be dying to get breakfast over and guests out of the house, but most people work hard and never have enough time off, so if they want a long bath or a lie in, let them. It makes guests feel relaxed. Set the table with toast, smoked salmon, lots of coffee and tea, have the sausages in the oven, eggs ready to go, and the morning papers. Tell them what time breakfast is. If they miss it, too bad. If they come down in PJ’s, fine. You can be more formal and organised for lunch and dinner. They will love you for giving them a gentle start to the day.
- Pre plan menus as much as possible so you know what you are cooking for each meal, then you can shop, cook in advance, fill the fridge and cellar and have no reason to panic. Ask everyone if they have any food allergies so you don’t get surprised with 3 vegetarians when you are planning roast beef!
- I always have extra snacks on hand, olives, homemade cheese straws, crisps etc just incase, and a homemade cake for tea.
- Fish and Chips on the last night. We first did this when I was too squiffy to cook after a long lunch. It was so successful that we often do it now and everyone loves eating in front of the fire, or outside in the courtyard on a warm evening. Cold beers, tomato ketchup, mushy peas, wonderful. And not much washing up. Pre – order so you can just pop in and pick it up. Particularly popular with our foreign guests who love the whole British Fish and Chips thing.
- Send everyone off with a smile, even if they have driven you round the bend.Immediately they have gone, go round the rooms and strip the beds, check if they have left anything, turn everything off, shut the doors.
Enjoy having the house to yourself. Spend the evening in front of the TV with a glass of wine and the successful glow of a job well done – the washing can wait until tomorrow.