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Time-Tested Hosting How-To's That Still Hold True

Hairstyles, fashion, musical tastes, and aesthetics change. But hosts and hostesses can count on these classic entertaining tips from the archives the next time they're throwing a 21st-century get-together.

Get Personal

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You don't need to invest in fancy dinners or decorations to make your guests feel special. Simply take the extra time to find out the dishes or foods that are their sentimental favorites—ones that conjure fond memories of courtship, childhood, or the taste of home. Back in 1938, one wife hosting her husband's first "meal for the manager" recalled how her hubby's boss had bemoaned the success of modern bakeries. He said he missed the simple pleasure of biting into a piece of homemade bread. When Mr. Manager visited their home, she served freshly baked bread hot out of the oven, and "it was astonishing to see the sternness of the great man melt to the constituency of the soft butter on the plate in front of him" (Better Homes & Gardens, "The Unforgettable Hostess," January 1938). Simple, personal touches make all the difference when hosting visitors.

Try a modern-day recipe for fresh bread

Have Your Guest's Back

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There's nothing worse than sitting on stiff chairs through a main course only to exchange philosophical ideologies for hours over dessert. No hostess wants her guests to get up from a dinner party with pins and needles in their backsides. In the May 1945 edition, hostesses were urged to move dessert and coffee into the living room or den to accommodate guests in comfort. This is still a wise move today. (Better Homes & Gardens, "How Do You Rate as a Hostess?", May 1945)

Browse Comfortable Modern Seating

Emphasize Flavor, Not Fussiness

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No need to wow visitors with expensive cuts of meat or exotic dishes no one can pronounce. Instead, emphasize flavor in everything you serve. Salads, fish, and grains can be infused with spices, layered with sauces, and sprinkled with unexpected fruits, nuts, and veggies. Back then, curry was a crowd pleaser, and it still is today. Try adding some caraway seeds to a not-so-common side like sauerkraut. Or treat guests to a little onion juice in their oh-so-predictable creamed spinach. Never underestimate the power of surprising a guest's palate. (Better Homes & Gardens, "Let's Have Folks In," April 1944)

Try this vegetable-and-garbanzo curry recipe

Entertaining VIPs

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Long before the Kardashians rose to fame, hostesses had to deal with handling important (and self-important) public figures. Back in the October 1954 edition, a few well-known party hosts famous for their star-studded soirees offered these tips. Today's hosts and hostesses would be well-advised to live by these rules, even decades later. (Better Homes & Gardens, "How to Entertain," October 1954)

· Don't expect VIPs to "perform" for guests
· Hold back enough food to ensure your VIP gets fed
· Stick to subjects everyone can discuss easily
· Don't lavish too much attention on the VIP if they're a personal guest and not doing a promotional appearance
· Don't invite the press (unless the VIP makes the request)
· Avoid any discussion of gossip about the VIP

Prepare these timeless party snacks for your guests

Hassle-Free Hosting

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Hosting a small, informal gathering with friends? It's fun for guests to watch—or participate—in meal prep. In the November 1977 issue, an easy yet delicious course of fettuccine alla carbonara was suggested. Prepping and tossing the pasta is a great way to keep guests entertained. The dish continues to be a favorite with diners four decades later. (Better Homes & Gardens, "Hosting Without Hassle," November 1977)

Try this classic recipe from the archives

Plan Your Guest List Carefully

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Parties are all about the people who show up at your gathering. And getting the right mix of personalities is more important than what you serve or how you serve it. "The right balance of personalities, within a framework of not-too-dissimilar interests and backgrounds, should be your aim. For every shy individual, ask at least one person who knows how to draw others out" (Better Homes & Gardens, "What Makes a Party Click?", January 1957). So if you're a hosting novice, your first party should be made up of people who already know each other and enjoy each other's company. More experienced hostesses bank on another fail-safe approach: Invite people who are sincerely interested in meeting and knowing other people.

Read more hosting tips from the archives