Unless you are almost off the charts when it comes to being outgoing and bubbly, you probably feel a little bit anxious every time you drive up to a wedding reception, the annual office holiday party or even a smaller neighborhood potluck or friendly family dinner party.
The truth is that everyone feels exactly the same way. We all have a natural fear of rejection or not fitting in. Hence, at many parties, there is the palpable social awkwardness of many people not really wanting to risk saying much of anything to each other.
The downside to this natural human tendency is that a party can fall absolutely flat as a result, despite even the most careful preparation in all other respects. This is definitely something you as a host will want to prevent.
Accept the awkwardness
Having to go through an ice-breaking ritual is inevitable at any party, so you should just accept that people aren’t going to feel comfortable the moment they walk in to the door. Still, by accepting people are not going to feel comfortable, you can awkwardness under control:
For instance, you should strive to make sure that, as soon as possible after guests arrive, they are properly greeted, have their coats and anything else they need stored taken care of, and get whatever food or drink they need.
Once they are settled and situated in a place that is comfortable for them, you should spend what time you can talking to them and then leave them either with someone else whom they know or someone whom you have identified as a potential friend.
Know your guest list
Although it isn’t always possible to throw a party where everyone is best friends and thus at ease, your careful planning can give your event the same feel:
Well before your party takes place, you should carefully map out who you plan to invite. In doing so, you shouldn’t think only about who you want at the party but also who of your friends and acquaintances might get along with your other friends and acquaintances, thus ensuring that everyone has someone else to talk to.
It’s also important to include a core group of people who tend to have a lot of fun together. This core group can give life to a party, and they are also generally a good means of bringing other guests who might not know many people in to the fold.
Finally, it’s important to consider the overall chemistry of the group. Usually, a group that shares a common belief or holds a common passion will be able to converse more freely than a group that seems to have been just forced in to the same room on account of some tenuous connection.
Think about the food and atmosphere
Although any decent party has plenty of food and enough room for people to sit, your food and venue will not necessarily cut down on awkwardness.
It is quite possible to have a fancy occasion, even a wedding, but to make sure to have it in such a way where people don’t feel beholden to, and thus worried about, a certain set of social norms. On this point, offering a variety of choices in foods and drink is important, and allowing people to eat or drink at their leisure can also help.
Likewise, having a venue where people can move freely to a more comfortable location or even take a break from the party without having to hide in a bathroom can do a lot to put people at ease to open up on their own time.
While one good example of a wedding party that seems to have pulled this off quite nicely is at http://www.bluebendphotography.com/2014/09/jessica-jerrys-wedding-claxton-farm-weaverville-nc/, there are in fact many ways you can have a great combination of food and atmosphere that will make your party one to remember.
Keep your eye on the party
Finally, even after all of your preparations, you will have to be on the lookout for awkwardness at your party as it develops. If you see a guest who seems to be feeling uncomfortable, you may need to devote some extra attention to him or her. Likewise, if a touchy or inappropriate subject does come up, you will need to politely and gently change the subject.