There’s a reason we asked Jackie to join our team specifically as our Event Coordinator a few months ago. We had only attended a handful of her parties, but we were so blown away by her ability to plan such entertaining and memorable functions and host with such ease. Normally we find ourselves a bit frazzled if the meal isn’t finished and cocktails aren’t being poured as guests walk through the door, but Jackie is calm and collected. She pours you a glass of wine, chats with you as she salts the pork and heats up oil on the frying pan. She has time to joke, time to walk over to the stereo and turn up the volume, time to compliment your outfit, and time to whisper coquettishly into her husband’s ear. She has definitely mastered the art of hosting, so we decided to ask her to share a few of her secrets with us…
Hosting seems so natural for you, how did you come to be such a great hostess?
Well I had a lot of good role models! My parents owned an event planning/catering company for 20 years, so I spent most of my childhood helping out at weddings and parties of all sorts and sizes. Also, my Aunt Mary is the ultimate hostess and was always entertaining diplomats and executives, so I learned a lot of refined tricks from her!
What are the top 5 tips you’d give to those who might [ahem] be a bit less natural in their hosting abilities?
1. PLAN! By nature, I am not a “planner”- but I do love a good list. If you don’t have a game plan going into something its a recipe for disaster. I make lists of what I need from the grocery store- organized by section of the store, the “timeline” of the party (ex: Monday- shop, Tuesday- prepare casseroles, and the day of the party, I make an hour by hour timeline. Especially when using the oven- that’s valuable real estate in our small Swiss ovens, so plan, plan, plan! Sometimes you don’t stick to it hour by hour- but I find that having a timeline keeps me focused. I even have on there 17:30, shower and get ready- nothing worse than people showing up and not being ready.
2. Ambiance. I think people really underestimate the importance of ambiance. Candles are an excellent way to create beautiful lighting- and cheap. Flowers make a huge impression as well, and I always try to decorate the tables nicely. I’m always on the hunt for beautiful place settings, and have found great items from Ikea as well as Pfister and Interio. The Bazzar has some interesting finds as well. I keep things simple, yet elegant. We don’t have much space here, so minimalism is key. I also try to respect the season. In summer, I use bright colors, and in winter a more muted tone. A fall orange place setting looks great in winter- but a wooden mountain theme works better for a raclette- think about what you are serving and base your table scape around that. I tend to go for lounge music (iTunes radio has some great stations if you don’t have your own mix) but I also try to stick to the “theme” if I’m having people over for Mexican food I try not to play classical Jazz.
3. Accept and Don’t Accept Help. Everyone has good intentions of wanting to help for a big party- and this is fantastic. But know your help! I have one friend who just gets it. She puts her head down and works- follows directions and we have so much fun doing it! I’ve had people come and help who just talk, don’t use time efficiently and are constantly making “suggestions” about how to do things. Save those people for the cocktail hour! It’s ok to not accept help from people who are going to slow you down and stress you out even more.
4. Don’t try something you don’t know! It’s ok to use the same recipes again and again. I make an artichoke dip that while clogging your arteries is like pure party gold. In fact, when I don’t make it people complain. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it! And save your experiments for another time!
5. Accept ahead of time that it isn’t going to be perfect. There will be broken glasses, you might burn something or the conversation might spark some debate. My mentality is to be type A control freak until the first guest walks in the door- then I let my spontaneous side come out. Benefits of being a Gemini.
What, in your opinion, is a recipe for the perfect party?
The cocktail hour is the most important moment. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who is a good entertainer- so we make a great team. I’m usually finishing up things in the kitchen and he is pouring drinks and talking to people. In our house, it is essential that no one has an empty glass! Making people feel relaxed and welcome in the first few minutes will ensure that everyone has a fun evening. If you master this- the rest is downhill!
Have you ever had a disastrous hosting experience?
I almost had a huge disaster! It was right before the world cup in 2012 and we were throwing a big party for US vs Ghana (we lost). I was taking my bike to pick up a few last minute items and got into a nasty crash that ended up with me in the hospital getting stitches in my chin. It was too late to cancel, so I had to let go of my type-A party personality and delegate. It ended up being a great party and I learned a very valuable lesson!
Are there any resources in Lausanne that’d you’d recommend to people who are hosting a party?
Yes! Depending on the size and scope of your party there are a lot of resources.
- Muller Ballons and Party Think Party City- but Lausanne size. They have costumes, cake decorations and endless supplies for children birthday’s or theme parties. You can also rent helium tanks here if your party requires balloons.
- Tiny Prints for party invitations. You have endless design options. Although the shipping from the US is a bit more than you would pay coming from Switzerland, the overall price is much cheaper and the quality/price ratio is fantastic.
- Swiss Event Rentals for all furniture or party rental equipment. If I am having a big party and need extra tables, chairs, place settings etc they have everything. Bertrand Comte is excellent and provides the best customer service.
- De Fil en Fleur are the floral go-to! Renée and Paola are extremely professional, have outstanding taste and will work within your budget to give you exactly what you are looking for. They will do anything from a small dinner party to a huge wedding.
- Aligro for shopping in bulk, this is the place to go. They have not only food and alcohol, but also paper products and kitchen supplies. It’s a bit like Costco. The American in me loves it!
Thank you so much Jackie for sharing your tips with us! Do you enjoy hosting parties? Do you have any helpful information or things you’d add to Jackie’s list?