Party Planning: Hostess with The Mostess

Carol and Mame

My mom’s cousin, Carol, was the real-life version of the iconic stage and screen character Auntie Mame, played by Rosalind Russell in the 1958 eponymous movie.  She was one of the most glamorous, vivacious, and fun women I have ever known and I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame

Carol was living in the Washington, DC area while I was attending college there and she always made an effort to include me in her life.  She frequently brought me along to parties that she attended and invited me to many that she hosted in her home.

Let the Good Times Roll

Carol worked for a US Senator, had many friends, and was invited to a lot of parties.  Through my relationship with her I was able to observe, first-hand, a part of DC society and adulthood that I would never have been able to experience otherwise – especially at such a young age.  She took me to parties with interesting people, dinners with power players, and included me in some of the infamous bashes she hosted at her home in Virginia.  In every social situation, Carol was charming, gracious, and great fun to be around.  The way she welcomed everyone into her home and catered to their needs made me realize what an art form it is to be a good guest, an enjoyable companion, and a successful hostess.  Spending time with her during those years taught me so much about what kind of hostess, friend, and woman I aspire to be. Though Carol is no longer with us, I will be forever grateful to her for including me in her world and for teaching me so much.  While planning my own parties, I often ask myself what Carol would do and, inevitably, the answer comes in the form of great inspiration.

The character of Mame Dennis proclaimed – “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”.  Both Mame and Carol certainly did their part to try and alleviate this hunger by embracing life, enjoying the company of people, and always throwing one heck of a good party!


At one point in the film, Auntie Mame’s maid tells a visitor that they had hosted 13 cocktail parties in the last 14 days and the only reason there weren’t 14 was because the bootlegger couldn’t make it one day.  Most of us don’t host 14 parties in a year, and therefore don’t have the kind of experience and expertise to make us at ease while entertaining.  Because times have changed and we don’t host or attend weekly bridge luncheons, garden club meetings, and cocktail parties that made for generations of comfortable, confident hostesses, the idea of having people over can cause great anxiety and stress among even the most domestically inclined of us and is, therefore, frequently dreaded and often avoided.

While most of us will never entertain with quite the same frequency and verve as Carol and Mame, becoming a good and comfortable hostess can be learned.   It is possible to be able to host people with confidence and finesse and throw the kind of parties that both you and your guests will enjoy!

Easy as PIE

Once you figure out the components that make for a great party, hosting will become as easy as P-I-E.  All the elements of hosting fall within three main segments – planning, implementation, and execution.  Planning encompasses the first stages of organizing a party, such as occasion, theme, venue, guest list and invitations, décor, menu planning, etc.  Implementation is the act of putting these plans into action by procuring the décor and rentals, decorating the venue, getting your home ready for guests, cooking the meal, etc.  Finally, execution addresses the logistical elements that occur during an event itself – serving the food, making your guests feel welcome and comfortable, controlling the flow of a party, and cleaning up afterwards.

Once these skills are learned and implemented, all you have to do is open up your home and your heart and let your loved ones in.  Being a good hostess is, after all, about welcoming guests into your home and making them feel comfortable and special – just like Auntie Mame and Carol did so well.

Through upcoming entertaining posts, I will take you through each of the components to hosting a successful bash.

Stay tuned!


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Through Mrs. Barnstable’s School for the Domestic Arts -  its blog, guides, and other resources - I will help you create a home you love to be in, show you how to host a party with panache and ease, and guide you through how to manage it all without feeling overwhelmed.

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