The Best Hostess Tips We Learned from Our Grandmothers

a beautifully set dinner table

She’s the first person you turn to when you have a stain you can’t get out or a recipe that’s just not working out—yep, Grandma has lived and learned and mastered it all. So it should come as no surprise that our grandmothers really do know best when it comes to throwing parties. We asked nine real women for the top tips passed down to them from the matriarchs of their families. Here’s what they had to say.

“My grandma always wrote down what she served so that she wouldn’t serve the same thing too often. It also helped her remember exactly what she made for particularly good parties if she wanted to reference them later. She did this with her sewing group for 50 years!” – from Alexia’s grandma Torborg

Homemade bread is easier than it looks and is guaranteed to make your house smell amazing and so welcoming.” – from Lindsay’s grandma Anne

“On the other hand, my other, much spunkier, grandma told me no one will ever be able to tell it’s actually rotisserie chicken, so just lie about it.” – from Lindsay’s other grandma, Alice

“Nothing should ever go on the table in the container it came in. For instance mayonnaise or other condiments would always get put in a little bowl. The idea of putting food in Tupperware on the table would’ve had her screaming.” – from Katherine’s grandma Barbara

“Go ahead and talk about politics. Let people get fired up. Tame parties are boring parties.” – from Jillian’s grandma Baba

“Forget the ‘don't make a recipe for the first time’ rule. If it sounds delicious and you think you can do it, go for it! You probably wouldn't bother making it just for you and your family.” – from Emma’s grandma Judith

“Plan, plan, plan! Make lists of oven temperatures and cooking times to be sure that your oven capacity can accommodate the various recipes you are considering. A timed-out cooking schedule is the best way to get everything done and on the table at the same time.” – from Emily’s grandma Harriet

“If possible, set the table and choose the serving dishes and utensils in advance. You will be glad you did. Oh, and keep flower arrangements low on the table so as not to impede vision and conversation.” – from Abby’s grandma Florence

“Choose types of flowers that have no scent and that won’t dust your table with falling pollen. And if you can, have fruit as a dessert option along with whatever indulgent dessert you might be serving. Berries with a little whipped cream are some comfort if you have to turn down that chocolate cake.” – from Liz’s grandma Fuj

“Always use cloth napkins. For dinner and for cocktails. Paper is for cookouts.” – from Grace’s grandma Cathryn

“You can never have too much wine on hand.” – from Bobbie’s grandma Dot

Abby Hepworth


Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...
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