25 Famous Women on Throwing Their Own Parties

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A weeklong series on the art of entertaining, for women who are too busy for Pinterest.

Once the turkey’s placed in the oven on Thanksgiving day, there’s no turning back: The spirit of holiday-party planning is officially in full swing until we enter 2016. To celebrate the festivities, we’ve pulled together a list of wise and lighthearted advice from 25 seasoned entertaining pros on how to throw a proper party without melting into a puddle of stress. Read on for helpful tips and sharp observations on dinner-party successes (and failures) from women like Julia Child, Ina Garten, Maya Angelou, Elsa Maxwell, and many more.

1. Nora Ephron
“It is absolutely essential to have a round table. If you have people to dinner and make good food and then put your guests at a long rectangular table where people can’t hear what’s going on at the other end of the table and are pretty much trapped talking to the person on either side of themselves … well, what is the point?” —The Most of Nora Ephron, 2013

2. Oprah Winfrey
“The first thing I do is offer champagne when people come to the door or if you don’t drink, a glass of sparkling water. I learned from John Travolta’s 50th birthday party that starting with some kind of beverage helps people feel welcome and invited.” —O magazine, October 2015

3. Amy Sedaris
“Try filling your medicine cabinet with marbles. Nothing announces a nosy partygoer more successfully than an avalanche of marbles striking a porcelain sink.” —I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, 2006

4. Martha Stewart
“I never serve snacks at parties. It’s either hors devours [sic] or a meal … Hors devours are prepared foods one would serve with meals or wine. Snacks are something you get out of a bag or a box.” —Reddit, March 2014

5. Maya Angelou
“Every December, I host a tree-trimming party. I serve chili with cornbread and lots of good wine. It’s a wonderful party, and it shows how much adults like to play. I put out ornaments in four different colors, and I name captains for the red team, blue team, green team, and silver team. You hear them getting into it and shouting, ‘Don’t put the blue ball there; it’s too close to my red!’ But every year, the tree looks more beautiful.” —Redbook, November 2010

6. Emily Post
“What makes a brilliant party? Clothes. Good clothes. A frumpy party is nothing more nor less than a collection of badly dressed persons. People with all the brains, even all the beauty imaginable, make an assemblage of dowds, unless they are well dressed. Not even the most beautiful ballroom in the world, decorated like the Garden of Eden, could in itself suggest a brilliant entertainment, if the majority of those who filled it were frumps — or worse yet, vulgarians! Rather be frumpy than vulgar! Much. Frumps are often celebrities in disguise — but a person of vulgar appearance is vulgar all through.” —Etiquette, 1922

7. Kris Jenner
“One of the things I enjoy most about entertaining and cooking for my family is the joy I get from the table setting … I am notorious for my table settings and my dishes. If I’m cooking an Italian meal, I will grab my red Hèrmes china to go with the red sauce … Some people paint, others make music and dance, I make table settings. That’s my way of expressing my artistic and creative side.” —In the Kitchen With Kris, October 2014

8. Elsa Maxwell
“Don’t just invite people you think will ‘get along.’ Have controversial figures. I always make it a point to invite a few people who can’t abide each other. There’s nothing that adds zest to a party like a couple of enemies who keep bumping into each other over a dish of stuffed olives.”  —the Los Angeles Times, April 1961

9. Julia Child
“I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as ‘Oh, I don’t know how to cook…,’ or ‘Poor little me…,’ or ‘This may taste awful…,’ it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, ‘Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!’ Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed — eh bien, tant pis! Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes.”
My Life in France, 2006

10. Ina Garten
“Whenever [your guests] feel that you are stressed, the fun stops. Everyone always says, ‘You look so relaxed!’ But they don’t see me in the last 15 minutes [before they arrive], when I say to Jeffrey, ‘Don’t talk to me!’ We all get stressed in the last 15 minutes but don’t show your guests that.” —the Kitchn

11. Taylor Swift
“Essentials for a night in with best friends: Is this a cooking party? You have to ask yourself: Is there going to be food that you order in or are you going to make food? If your friends come over and they’re like, ‘Let’s make dinner!’ They don’t mean, ‘Let me help you make dinner.’ They don’t mean that. They mean, ‘You cook for me.’ You don’t want to be cooking and chopping things up and having to concentrate on food while they’re trying to tell you about their weird day they had at work, so you cook in advance, you put it in your oven at about 200 degrees — that’s going to keep it warm after you’ve made it. It’s going to keep it hot but it’s not going to bake it more. Then when they get there, you talk to them for about ten minutes and —  ‘What are we going to eat?’ Oh voilà! You’ve got it in your oven. Pow.” —MTV, November 2014

12. Gwyneth Paltrow
“I was 18 and I thought, you know, I should try to make eggplant Parmesan so I went to the store and bought some eggplant, a jar of tomato sauce, and some really rubbery mozzarella cheese. I didn’t know that when you cook eggplant, you first have to sweat it to get all the bitter juice out, and I didn’t realize that you also have to bread eggplant Parmesan and fry it before. So I put slices of raw eggplant with jarred tomato sauce and mozzarella! And everyone threw up.” —Rachael Ray, January 2015

13. Mindy Kaling
“I believe the potluck tradition of entertaining is the equivalent of a teenage boy wanting to have sex with his girlfriend but who is too scared to go to CVS to buy condoms. If you can’t handle providing all the courses for your dinner party, you can’t handle the hosting duties of a dinner party.” —Why Not Me?, September 2015

14. Dorothy Draper
“The first requisite for such a party is good liquor. The second is plenty of it.” —Entertaining Is Fun! How to Be a Popular Hostess, 1941

15. Lena Dunham
“When I was seventeen years old I even had a vegan dinner party that was chronicled in the style section of The New York Times — headline: ‘A Crunchy Menu for a Youthful Crowd!’ — and catered by a now-defunct establishment called the Veg-City Diner. I wore my grandmother’s Dior, insisted on shoelessness (leather was a no-no), and explained to the reporter that, while I didn’t care much about the Iraq War, I was very concerned by our nation’s casual attitude toward bovine murder.” —Not That Kind of Girl, September 2014

16. Padma Lakshmi
“A big mistake folks make is to cook too many dishes and make it more complicated than it needs to be. Another mistake is not to take people up on their offer when they ask if they can help you. I am famous among my friends for putting everyone to work!” —Yahoo, July 2015

17. Elizabeth Gilbert
“I consider a good dinner party at our house to be where people drink and eat more than they’re meant to. My husband is a really fantastic cook. His mother is Italian and if you walk into our house, we assume you’re starving. And we also assume that you’re thirsty and that you need good caipirinhas and wine, so there’s a lot of running around, filling up glasses and plates.” —GQ, May 2012

18. Sandra Bullock
“People came to my parents’ parties because they were going to have fun and, if lucky, our mother would belly dance. What they didn’t know was that the hostess made sure every morsel placed in front of them was pure and without anything artificial, no matter what the cost.” —People, September 2009

19. Nigella Lawson
“Never, ever wear new shoes to a party. Better still, don’t wear shoes at all. I pretend that if I’m barefoot when people come over, it won’t make them feel anxious about whether they’ve dressed up enough, but the reality is, I know that barefoot I am a much happier and therefore better and more welcoming host. And that’s what counts.” —Stylist

20. Christina Tosi
“Send everyone home with leftovers … There’s no shame in using compostable plates and trash-bagging it like you had a frat party. It’s got to be easy.” —Glamour, April 2015

21. Nancy Reagan
“When we were first starting to do everything at the White House, [Reagan decorator] Ted Graber said to Rex, ‘What do you really need most here?’ And Rex said, ‘We need china. We have not got enough china to serve a dinner.’ That tipped the whole thing off, and boy, did I take a beating for a long time.” —W, October 2007

22. Giada De Laurentiis
“Use what you’ve got. I like to make arrangements with lots of lemons and oranges, or I take toothpicks and make a fruit sculpture. Use whatever is in the fridge or pantry. I also want to make my job easier; I’ve started to ask friends and family to bring things too. I never would have done that before. I always thought I could do everything by myself.” —Redbook, May 2009

23. Kristen Kish
“Working in restaurants for the majority of my career means I have a ‘get it done’ mentality and no wine until after my work is complete. I clean as I go, but the aftermath of dinner dishes, I do what I can to pass those responsibilities off. And I’ll typically try to find someone to make me a grilled cheese. After cooking the meal I don’t really want to eat it. I nearly have an entire tasting menu with all of the bites and tastes I have during the process. Everything tastes better cooked by someone else, unless they are a shit cook. But I do my best to avoid asking those dinner guests.” —Vogue, November 2015

24. Jennifer Aniston
“My best hostess tip is to have good food and really good music! We usually put on the Charlie Brown Christmas album. That’s my favorite. And then we’ll go to Bing Crosby and stuff like that — old school — Frank Sinatra.” —Parade, December 2013

25. Pippa Middleton
“Food and cooking is at the core of entertaining, and my passion grew and grew. My friends at Edinburgh University were often my guinea pigs. I knew I could try anything on them as friends don’t really mind if something doesn’t quite work out, like my jugged hare (a recipe I won’t be trying again in a hurry). But the salmon and prawn pillow — which I have included in my book, Celebrate — always went down well. In fact, any pie was popular. As was making sushi as a starter, which was fiddly but well worth the praise.” —The Telegraph, November 2012

25 Famous Women on Throwing Their Own Parties