In the world of hospitality, hosting a large event is in a category all its own. It’s overwhelming, yet nuanced; enormously stressful, yet rewarding. And if you’ve ever tried to pull one off, you know it ain’t easy.
Having recently attended a major event that went brilliantly, I thought it apt to interview the hostess to discover her tips and tricks (in this case, how to present a keg tastefully).
She is one Annie Snyder, 24 years old, living in Seattle, WA (Greenlake, specifically). Her favorite holiday is Independence Day, so for the past three years she has hosted a 4th of July party that lasts all weekend.
To give credit where due, Miss Snyder admits she learned everything she knows from Mrs. Snyder – and in fact held the event at Mrs. Snyder’s waterfront home in Gig Harbor. Together, they made for a killer mother-daughter hostess duo.
But first let’s admit that though bigger events are more work for the hostess, there’s an incredible self-serving benefit: it’s the host’s friends. “It’s all of my favorite people in one place at one time!” Annie says.
However, she concedes, “It’s overwhelming. Sometimes I have to grab people just for a few minutes and get time with only them, otherwise I’ll never see some people.”
But let’s talk turkey. One of the most challenging aspects of serving more than 50 people is doing so economically. In this case, Annie’s best tip is to purchase kegs — in multiples. She purchased three kegs so she could negotiate with the brewery on the price per keg. She did well: $48 per keg. Usually kegs cost up to $120 each.
“It’s easier to serve people with a keg, and also easier to clean up. We served 65-70 people for less than $150,” Annie reports.
And don’t just leave those ugly gray barrels as they are. Annie decided to purchase flag-themed garbage can covers and used them to cover the similarly-shaped kegs.
And though it’s great to save some money on the alcohol, avoid skipping major elements of the food you’re serving.
“Don’t be stingy and cheap, because your guests will know. If you’re going to entertain, fully entertain. Don’t rely on your guests for staple items. Once you choose to entertain, it’s on you,” Annie says.
But if you do ask others to contribute, don’t say, “Please bring a dish to share.” As Annie says, “Be specific in knowing what you want others to bring. It’s my biggest pet peeve when people stray from simple instruction, like if I tell you to bring a side, bring a damn side. Don’t bring a dessert.”
But atmosphere is crucial as well. And even though Annie attributes any party’s success to the people who attend, she says that decorations don’t hurt either.
“You can’t have too much patriotic paraphernalia on the 4th of July,” she says. “We bought four dozen hats, tons of red, white and blue fringe, and even temporary tattoos.”
It’s true. The decided the look of the weekend was to have a “tramp stamp” on everyone’s lower backs, except in this case rather than a typical tattoo symbol, there were American flags and George Washington’s face.
It’s important to keep your role as host in perspective, Annie reminds us. Your role as host is not to provide a personal experience of happiness for each guest, but rather to create a place where a great time can occur.
“The fun is already happening – I don’t have to entertain fully, I just say ‘here you go, here’s the party.’ As host, YOU’RE not the fun, you’re the springboard to the fun,” she says.
And not every moment is bliss for the host. Sometimes, guests hog your time.
“People trap me in a 20 minute conversation and I’m stuck,” she confesses.
And how to get out of such a situation? Initiate clean up.
“Some people take advantage of the situation, like especially when it comes to clean-up. You know who your friends are when it’s cleanup time and others disperse to leave,” she remarks.
But while they’re around, keep them happy with snappy tunes.
“Definitely compile a good play list…heavy on the Rhianna,” Annie recommends.
Annie credits a great turn-out with word-of-mouth. She says that “the measure of a good event is how well you pitch it.” And she must have pitched a home run, because even newcomers were impressed.
“I love when people come up to me and say that they’re having such a good time,” Annie says. “Like my friend Catlyn said “I knew I was going to have fun this weekend, but I didn’t know I was going to have this much fun.”
A successful event, indeed.