Monthly Archives: July 2009

Hospitality: Large Events

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.

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Filed under Good WORD (Etiquette)

The Mag Rag

Every couple weeks I see a newscast or blog shouting about the end of the printed newspaper.  They claim that it is only a matter of time before they all fold completely, because no one will pay for what they can get for free online.  But you never hear such commotion about magazines, and I believe that is because they’re not going anywhere.  We love them too much.

For instance, my current subscription is for Real Simple magazine (I only allow myself one subscription at a time, because I don’t have time to read more).  I love it.  I am obsessed with it.  Despite being in the middle of reading an excellent book, I will virtually pace at my mailbox for my Real Simple.  I will drop my book on its binding the moment it arrives and likely not revisit it until my magazine is dog-eared and tea-stained.

But this doesn’t make sense.  Do you know what I do with those pages of information that hundreds of people have compiled for me?  Nothing.

I apply about one percent of what I read, yet I feel compelled to keep subscribing anyway.  A recent issue suggested I switch from perfume to fragrant water; I haven’t.  Another showed me how to use household foods and baking ingredients to all-naturally clean my home; I still use the regular stuff.  I briefly considered switching to their incoming mail organization system, but decided our mail was fine.

So why do I read it?  It’s organization porn.

I seriously feel like I’m going to have a happiness stroke when I see how they completely made over someone’s closet.  Or how they ingeniously suggest using a colander to hold ice when you’re mixing cocktails so the water escapes, leaving drinks undiluted.

As I read, I picture myself transforming our home with these techniques.  I will banish clutter from our junk drawer by inserting cubic boxes for each item!  I will create an efficient mudroom with cubbies for all of my imaginary children to store their backpacks and shoes!

And it’s not just Real Simple.  Why do I sometimes read People magazine?  Do I personally know any of the people to which they refer?  Of course not.  But I could tell you the names of all of the Jolie-Pitt children, as well as their birthplaces.  I could joke about the “colon cleanse” Gwyneth Paltrow was quoted talking about.

In a strange way, celebrity gossip is like reading about fabulous cleaning products – fun to read, but totally irrelevant.

I used to subscribe to InStyle magazine.  It showed me how to be of-the-moment, superbly fashionable and utterly urban.  Yet I never bought the clothes and couldn’t afford to if I wanted to.  And it took me years to realize that it made me feel like an ugly, poverty-stricken hick.

It’s not just me, either.  I have a friend who subscribes to Cooking Light and absolutely loves it – yet has never cooked one recipe from it.  I have a husband who reads The Economist, yet rarely has the chance to discuss the in-depth articles with anyone.  My mother reads movie reviews in People magazine every week but won’t see a movie in the theater, she always waits for it to come out on DVD six months later.

All of this is really ironic when you consider that I have wanted to be a magazine editor for as long as I can remember.  The concept of magazines has always drawn me because it would seem that people read their magazines because they like them, not because they have to be informed like with a newspaper.

As I wrote for several newspapers in college, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone was reading my work.  Why slave over each word and every fact if no one will read past your first three sentences?  But with magazines, you have a chance.  Readers have already selected your publication because they love your topic, so it just might matter to them if you choose to write about “Bing vs. Google” rather than “The Benefits of Bing.”

Magazines are an escape into information for your life, whether you apply it or not.  They entertain as they inform, which is exactly what draws a reader to them.  Also, they’re low on the commitment scale.  Have just ten minutes?  Read one article and you won’t feel like you were left hanging.

Who knows?  Maybe one day I’ll be the writer/editor telling Real Simple readers how they can avoid the pitfalls of not finding the right manicurist. And maybe that person will dream of following my advice, and then a week later head to the bathroom to do her own nails.  Even so, I bet I’ll have hooked a reader for life.

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events)