One of my lifelong dilemmas:
I absolutely love bringing people together!
But by default, I’m quite awkward as a hostess.
Here’s where I plead for mercy and share some recent examples of derpy party-planning moments from the last 6 months. Yes, these all happened, despite 10 years of professional experience planning and executing events.
MY RECENT HOSTING #FAILS
- When hosting Thanksgiving for the first time last month, I ran out of aluminum foil mid-turkey prep. I had aluminum foil! Just not enough…
(Thanks again Mom & Dad for coming to the rescue on this one!)
- I get so tremendously tempted to choose intriguing yet overly-complicated cocktails and appetizer recipes to try for the first time using unsuspecting guests as guinea pigs.
(Usually I disclose to my guests that they are my guinea pigs, at least. Usually.)
During a recent board game night I didn’t even get around to making a second tasty-sounding new appetizer recipe, because I got so caught up in unexpected complications while making the first new appetizer recipe!
- I spill drinks ALL the time when there are people in my home because I am JUST SO EXCITED. I just hope that my clumsiness is interpreted as love.
Just this month I was so wrapped up in conversation while also trying to fill up a glass with ice from the ice-maker, I got distracted and ice ended up all over the floor.
Accidentally creating a slippery safety hazard in my own home is not exactly Martha Stewart-approved.
While spatial awareness will probably never become my strong suit (hey, know thyself, right?) planning hiccups are eminently fixable.
And as a die-hard nerd, when confronted with a problem, my first instinct is to research!
I mean, we have the Internet. It’s terrible sometimes but also amazing!
So for tackling dilemma of my perpetual awkward hosting, over the last several years I’ve read some good old-fashioned books on the topic.
Books? About parties? HELL yeah.
Yes, my journey to professional event planning has involved reading. Studying. Challenging assumptions. And each and every one of the books on this list has played an instrumental role in my ongoing transformation into a hostess-with-the-mostess.
Learning hosting skills has been a lifelong quest for just that – learning.
Planning & hosting parties is just a skill, and any skill can be learned!
This reading list, compiled over the last 7-8 years, is 100% nonfiction, and pretty much all of these books can be enjoyed in just one sitting. There are a zillion delightful books full of party ideas, wedding ideas, recipes, decorating, etiquette, you name it. That’s not what I’ve curated here. These five books all have, if not a narrative, some delightfully meaty sections full of insights and encouragement.
Besides – one of the most common New Year’s resolutions I hear bubbling up this time of year is, “I want to read more.”
If you’re stuck for ideas, I’ve put together some of my favorites below, all about entertaining and quality time.
I am deliberately sharing this in time for Christmas!
Getting a book as a gift can be so fantastic. I remember distinctly the year I received a hard copy of The Princess Bride on Christmas Day and finished it by dinnertime. So I’m upvoting giving physical books as gifts from time to time.
Disclosure: The links below are affiliate links, which means that, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting Where Is The Damn Corkscrew!
My Top 5 Books About Entertaining with Ease
1. Freakin’ Fabulous by Clinton Kelly
Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rqeKfV
Two other posts on this site – what to do when a guest arrives early and how to kick out guests at the end of a party – come directly from implementing the sneaky-yet-delightful party hosting tips that Clinton lays out in Freakin’ Fabulous. He makes it all seem so achievable, and has hilarity throughout to boot.
Thanks, Clinton! You’re awesome.
Oh yes you are awesome and you know it. (Anyone else miss his show What Not To Wear?)
2. How To Boil Water from Food Network Kitchens
Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2QE8LC9
The vast majority of parties, including bachelorette parties, include some sort of food. Let me tell you from experience that hosting guests while hiding a deep and abiding fear of accidentally murdering them with a kitchen snafu does not lend itself to truly enjoying quality time.
Technically it was my sister’s copy (hi, sis!) but I distinctly remember this as the book that sufficiently allayed my fear of cooking and baking to dive in with gusto in college. And so far no kitchens have burned to the ground on my watch.
3. Drinking With The Saints: A Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour
Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2E7bNbs
I received this as a gift right before my own bachelorette party (thanks, Sarah!) and have a very fond memory of the day I got it. We met up at a bar for happy hour right before Saint Patrick’s Day. As soon as I opened up the book, which is organized by days of the year, I flipped to the current month and found an Irish-inspired cocktail to try, then summoned the bartender, pointed to the open page, and asked if it would be possible to have today’s cocktail. And it was! And it was scrumptious. So delightful.
After all, one of my favorite quotes of all time is about drinking with church peeps.
Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine!
4. Gracious by Kelly Williams Brown
Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UoXdSn
One of my dear friends from my book club lent me this (thanks, Mel!) while saying something along the lines of, you obviously don’t need this but I think you would enjoy it.
And after reading? OMG I totally did need it! I’m always learning. And I definitely learned some great strategies in here for bringing different groups of people together for the first time! That is one of my favorite things – both in life AND for bachelorette parties in particular – but blending friend groups can definitely become really tricky, really quickly. She breaks it down to feel as easy as just queuing up my next Netflix show.
Plus, Kelly Williams Brown is freaking hilarious, and basically the most relatable real-life Disney-princess author who’s out there these days.
What I especially loved in this book is that Kelly shares about her ongoing journey to gracious hosting. There are several delightful stories of how friends of hers have shown her amazing hospitality. And it’s never framed as envy or resentment – just as gratitude and new hostess goals! She’s never going to be done, and I’m not either. I LOVE that. Solidarity!
5. Building the Benedict Option by Leah Libresco
Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2L1YPgK
What does it really look like to bring a bunch of strangers together, who might only have one small thing in common?
This book was a gift from another friend (thanks, Sarah!) who knows that I nerd out about making in-person quality time easier.
Leah’s mission in Building The Benedict Option is demystifying what it really takes to build a community, especially a local community, especially a church community. Building a religious community does sometimes have unique quirks, but not as unique as you might think.
I LOVED this book because it’s so delightfully contemporary and realistic. So many cookbooks and dinner party books and magazines are just so alienating! Tips on decorating separate dining rooms are pretty useless in studio and 1-bedroom apartments. Does that mean you’re not allowed to have friends or throw parties unless you own a McMansion? HELL NO!
Plus, in my opinion? A bachelorette party guest list is a pop-up community. In an ideal world, it’s a flash mob of love and support for the bride. Getting the flash mob together is no small feat, and Leah is tremendously down-to-earth about how to actually do that, with heart and soul and sanity intact.
So there you have it – the 5 books that have had the biggest impact on my journey to party planning with ease.
You know, I didn’t even realize until after I compiled this list that every single one of these titles came into my life as a result of friends and family. I guess that’s the power of quality time!
Do you have any favorite books like these to recommend for 2019?
Happy reading, y’all.
P.S. Now that I’m MUCH better at minimizing awkward and maximizing awesome, I do love to help out my Maids of Honor and brides out there, since not everyone has time to nerd out on the details like I do. So FYI the Bachelorette Concierge Service package is about to go up for 2019! Here’s the link to snag one of the last couple slots at the 2018 price!