In a world the broadsheets insist is full of introverts and extroverts, I’m definitely the former. But I still like to be around people and, even when I’m not in the States, celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving with American enthusiasm.
This year – inspired by the fireplace DVD my husband bought for our wedding, and which has been sitting unopened since – I decided to throw a harvest party. I wanted something sophisticated, warm and a little bit mystical – think the 1973 version of the Wicker Man with a bit of Thanksgiving spirit thrown in.
After two months of planning, crafting, cooking and cleaning I’m happy to say that my Autumn Harvest house party was a smashing success. Here are my tips for other introverts seeking to flex their hosting muscles.
Craft to deflect anxiety and distract guests
I am a particularly skilled crafter. But as a hostess on a budget about to face down my worst fear – that I would throw a party and nobody would come – I had to have a series mindless tasks that would distract my mind from the approaching horror and my guests from a (potentially) empty room.
With the Wicker Man theme established, I knew that I wanted woodland animal masks – think deer, rabbits, foxes and bears – to give my party guests something fun and funny to take pictures with. But after hours of trawling through Etsy and Not On The High Street, it became clear that £6 per mask was out of my price range.
The solution? I spent £5 (including shipping!) on copper and silver card stock from Payper Box, £1.50 on glue and printed templates from this blog to create my own. Some £1 ribbon from Tiger and a hole punch made photobooth props into masks.
I had so much card stock left over that I was able to use these templates to make 30 silver leaves, which I then hung from invisible wire from the light fixtures in my hallway and kitchen. Magical! (And cheap.)
Was this time consuming? I mean, yeah. But so calming.
Think hard about how you decorate
Speaking of those leaves, they were a part of a well-crafted (har har) strategy: get cheap decorations that looked expensive.
I have a fair bit of Clarissa Dalloway in me, and wanted my guests to feel like they were part of something special. Details are a huge part of that smug, so-glad-I-got-invited feeling – as a host, it’s important to get them right.
But I didn’t have the budget to get wheat sheaves or hoards of fresh flowers in, so I had to get creative. I got lucky in the flower department; a huge sheaf of dried lavender happened to turn up at Sainsbury’s the week of the party. It fit with the theme better than fresh flowers, smelled great and still sits on my table.
Using herbs also kept costs low; I made a lovely rosemary wreath for the door using a spare bit of ribbon and some invisible hair ties, while sage made the cheeseboard special (more on that later) and little clusters around the house added to the Pagan vibe. At less than £1 per packet the herbs were well worth the investment.
My big splurge was on food, drink and some lovely copper and gold garlands. But as I always say…
Spend where it matters
People come to parties for three reasons: food, their friends and the opportunity to drink massive amounts of alcohol without feeling judged. If you have at least two of those things, you can feel confident that the third will come through.
As my husband says: Buy booze and they will come.
But it’s also about making yourself feel ready to have a good time. I spent a bit more on decorations because I love transforming spaces; I spent more on booze because I wanted to drink a lot myself.
For a party of about 23 people I bought three bottles of wine, three bottles of tonic, a bottle of gin, six limes and some ginger beer, which we mixed with the rum left over from the mulled cider we made as our welcome cocktail.
It was more than enough to go around – especially since people will bring a bottle of wine or too without prompting.
If people are drinking they also need to eat. Cheeseboards are a great option because they’re super elegant and feel fancy as fuck, but they’re easy to slap together and don’t have to be expensive.
Don’t worry about special serving equipment – I put mine on a rolled out piece of waxproof paper. Inspired by this beautiful blog, we served a blue cheese, a lovely brie, and ash goat cheese with toasted French bread (sliced and coated in olive oil).Chili chocolate, mixed olives and a lovely figs completed the board.
A little home baking is also a cheap way to make a lovely impression. I whipped up a deliciously spiced cardamom cake the night before, and when it was party time just unwrapped and slapped on a plate. It was all gone by 10pm.
Invite more people than feels comfortable (and don’t take drop-outs personally)
Aidan was seriously nervous about inviting too many people – he doesn’t like people touching his records – but the old adage to invite 30 per cent more people than you can fit is totally true. All kinds of odd reasons for dropping out pop up. Plan ahead.
As for a crippling fear of rejection – and rest assured that mine was in full swing – there are just some things you have to drink through.
Chill the hell out
The only true way for an introvert to host a party? Fill your home with the people and things you love. Hosting is truly wonderful when you do it your way, and a hell of a lot of fun.