Lauren Santo Domingo's Essentials of Entertaining

Lauren Santo Domingo, co-founder of Moda Operandi and contributing editor at Vogue, gives us her guidelines for throwing an unforgettable event.

Lauren Santo Domingo

Emergency! What do you do with a…

Plan for two extra seats and have the place settings set aside. You’re so glad they came.

I serve a varied menu. Beyond that, you’re on your own.

Compliment! Everyone likes to be liked.

It would be stating the obvious to say Lauren Santo Domingo is the consummate hostess. Of course she is. The Vogue contributing editor and co-founder and creative director of Moda Operandi is recognized as an international style authority and her signature wit, taste and appreciation for the details is evident in the many elaborate parties she throws (A badminton tournament! A reggae party on the beach! A pheasant shoot upstate—elevenses and all!) Her People, Parties, Places board on Pinterest has more than 150,000 followers. “I throw a lot of parties for fun and go to a lot of parties for work. So, I like my events to have an element of surprise, a clever twist that makes the party memorable,” she says. Her advice to fledgling party planners? “Be an organized, calm and gracious hostess. Oh, and have lots of booze.” We sat down with the lovely LSD to get more of her tips for hosting an unforgettable event.

1. Never invite via text

I prefer a printed invitation, an email if the plans are last-minute and a phone call if it’s the same day.

2. Consider the guest list

All effort and expense is wasted if your guests are a bore. Mix it up: invite people of all ages and all interests. Give your guests the gift of an introduction to someone new.

3. Set the table in advance

The table can be set several days before a party. It’s my favorite part of planning and I move everything around several times. Just squint your eyes and imagine the flowers—casual, asymmetrical groupings of interesting textures and colors. Tight, structured arrangements are a thing of the past.

4. Set the tone

It’s important to me that guests feel relaxed and comfortable in my house. I set the tone: going barefoot, dressing casually, sitting on the arms of chairs and pouring wine in half-full glasses.

5. Don’t neglect the lighting

Romantic lighting is key. It makes everyone feel pretty.
Lauren Santo Domingo party decor

6. Well-considered (and surprisingly affordable) decor

Regardless of budget, some of my favorite choices are annuals in potted plants, Myrtle topiaries or greenery from the park. For my pheasant shoot, I used tons of basic white tea lights and glass hurricanes with hay, tree branches and greenery, which are all an affordable alternative to flowers and equally effective for setting the mood.

7. Keep the drinks flowing

I like to end cocktails when I’m sure everyone is loosey-goosey. I also avoid heavy, assembled canapés. Little bites are much more fun, don’t require servers and ensure that everyone is hungry for dinner.

8. To sit or not to sit

If you have the space to do a seated dinner, it gives guests the comfort of having a specific destination. The structure of a seating chart also better allows for purposeful and meaningful conversations. However, cocktail buffets with close friends can be cozy—just be sure to have a planned transition into dinner so that guests are encouraged to eat and the food doesn’t sit out all night. As the hostess, all eyes will be on you, so make your way to the buffet with a few friends when you’re ready to move on to dinner.

9. Seat a loudmouth next to a mouse

Not everyone is as fun as Ferris Bueller. You have to sprinkle the screaming blasts evenly across the floor plan. Separate couples. It’s always nice to introduce people as much as possible before they are seated—although I often see the two people I planned on introducing gravitate towards one another during cocktail hours without any prompting.

10. Cook vs Cater

It all depends on the formality of the occasion. A third option: order online! Miles of Chocolate makes the most decadent chocolate dessert that is half-brownie/half-ganache. Callie’s Charleston Biscuits ships their amazing country ham biscuits, which are great for a cocktail party bite or with a roast on a buffet.

11. Plan an after party

I rarely want the evening to end, but if necessary, I like to have a spot picked out for an after-party. Either I book ahead at a club, or I convince another friend to continue the festivities at their place. I find people like a change every four hours. For more LSD, follow Lauren on Instagram at @theLSD and @modaoperandi

Photos courtesy of Moda Operandi