How to be the Host with the Most

We love to entertain. There is something innately gratifying about opening your doors to cherished guests to celebrate a variety of special occasions. The elation of planning an event is most often accompanied with some anxiety. The questions that keep people up at night include: 1) Is the date and time the least conflictive with your guests’ schedules? 2) Will they show up? 3) Will your guests enjoy themselves? 4) What type and quantity of food should be served? 5) Will everything go smoothly?

Hosting an unforgettable event is a rewarding endeavor that requires time and energy. Sometimes focusing on the big things can leave the door open to unintentionally dropping the ball on the little, yet essential items. How can you ensure that your event will be the one that you envision and that your guests will love?

Here is my checklist for striking the right balance of food, beverages, space, activities and the timeline for an optimal experience.


Let’s start with the heart of the stomach. It is advantageous to streamline your menu for preparation efficiency, quality and quantity. Planning a larger quantity of fewer, complementary tasting items is ideal.

Hors d’oeuvres

Cheese platters are the top choice for a spectrum of casual to elegant gatherings. They can be simple or include an abundant display of exotic and unusual selections. An ideal platter combines hard, medium and soft cheeses with an assortment of crackers and bread, meat, fruit and nuts.

Preparation Tip: Arrange cheese platters the day before, cover with saran wrap and store them in the refrigerator. Add meat, fruit and nuts to the tray. In today’s age, I place nuts in a separate bowl to avoid anyone with a nut allergy from having a reaction. Place the crackers and bread in bowls or on a platter prior to the event.

Serving Size: A large cheese tray can typically feed up between 10 – 15 people. If your guests are hearty eaters, then make one extra tray to avoid running out of food, especially if that is important to you. Otherwise it is acceptable for hors d’oeuvres to be prepared and consumed as supplies last since more food will be available.

Supplies: Have a sign introducing each cheese. People love to learn plus some cheeses can be easily confused. Provide one cheese knife per brick/roll and at least one tong each per cracker/bread, fruit and meats. If you place nuts in a separate serving bowl, a teaspoon is acceptable as a serving utensil. My ideal rule-of-thumb is one tong per offering to discourage hands-only selections and provide smaller utensils for forks or spoons to manage inventory. Plates and napkins should be available as well. I place and utensils napkins at the end of a table or buffet for guest ease and to avoid waste from dropped or dirty items while guests are moving through a buffet.

Serving Time: Set up the hors d’oeuvres fifteen to twenty minutes prior to guest arrival. Consider the item you are serving and the temperature in which it will be served. For instance, dairy in the summer is not a good idea in the heat. If you do, place it on ice and keep that ice fresh and freezing at all times.


Meal preparation takes more time and thought in today’s age of nutritional plans, allergies and other consumption considerations. Therefore, clusters of two can keep you covered to accommodate a range of guest dietary needs. Here is a sampling of offerings for buffet-style service:

  • 2 salads with complementary dressings (dairy and non-dairy options)
  • 2 veggies
  • 2 meats (such as chicken and salmon or steak and chicken)
  • 2 breads or rolls
  • Butter and/or spreads (stick for small groups, packets for large groups)

Preparations: If you are cooking the food, especially meat, prepare and serve it in deep enough pans if sauce and vegetables are included. If you are transferring your items to a chafer, fancy or wire frame styles, be sure to have a bottom pan. This pan is filed (about pinkie fingertip deep) to heat up water to maintain heat. Select sternos that last for four hours and light those thirty minutes prior to service time. Pre-cut your meat for guest ease and to keep the buffet line flowing. Always start your meat cooking process at least 15 to 30 minutes prior to the end time it needs to be done in order to maintain your event timeline. Usually Murphy’s Law kicks in with an oven, stove or other type of delay when preparing meat for service. Just have a plan so that you or your staff can keep everything on track, stress-free.

Set up Tips: You can have a menu sign with plates at the beginning of a buffet. Set out all items at once, with salad and bread at the beginning and make sure you announce to all guests that the meal is ready to be served. I have seen guests start serving themselves before all of the food was ready and set out. Have a server in the area to courteously inform guests of the progress and plan. If you have between 50 to 100 guests, make your buffet line double-sided to allow for faster service.

Serving Size: Anticipate that each guest has a second helping and plan accordingly. If you are providing lots of alcohol or have a long event, plan about 20% more food on top of the two helpings per person guideline.

Supplies: Have a sign with the menu at the front of the line or signs for each dish. If you have guests with nutritional stipulations, it is courtesy to add a few ingredient details on the sign or have a side conversation with that guest. Tongs for salads and bread, spoons for veggies, ladles for dressings and sauces and a knife and fork for meat, butter knife for butter. I usually place a small plate in front of bowls and platters to rest utensils. This avoids people putting utensils on the table and hopefully using the same utensil for multiple dishes.

My ideal rule-of-thumb is one tong per offering to discourage hands-only selections and provide smaller utensils for forks or spoons to manage inventory. I place the napkins and condiments at the end of a buffet line to avoid waste and line flow delays.

Serving Time: Offer dinner within 60 minutes of guests arriving and consuming hors d’oeuvres.

NOTE: If you are having your event catered, a truly professional caterer will provide all of these items. Be sure to have them outline what they are bringing and the quantities. However, I have seen many caterers that provide drop-off service not provide the above items. Have a back-up plan.

If you are preparing all of the food yourself and are hiring staff to help you, please provide them with an outline of the night’s activities which includes a food menu, instructions and timelines.


Three selections hit the spot. These days it makes sense to have a full fat/sugar option (let’s refer to it as a traditional offering), one gluten-free and one decadent taste in small bites.

Preparation: Refrigerate respective desserts until 10 minutes prior to serving. Have tiered platters or stands to make the desserts accessible and presentation beautiful. Plates, napkins and utensils should be available. If you are serving ice cream, have some way to keep it as cold and firm as possible.

Serving Size: Anticipate that each guest has seconds and plan accordingly. If you are providing lots of alcohol or have a long event, plan about 20% more food on top of the two helpings per person guideline.

Supplies: Have a sign with the menu at the front of the line or signs for each dish. As a guest courtesy, include signs with a few key ingredient details (namely dairy, wheat and nuts). Tongs, spatulas, knifes and a scooper usually cover the spectrum of desserts available.

Serving Time: Offer desserts within 20 to 30 minutes after 75% of guests have finished their meal.


If you plan to have guests greeted with a beverage, set up a beverage area in your welcome area. A chilling bucket for champagne or wines along with glasses and cocktail napkins. If you are displaying a build-your-own Bloody Mary, coffee or chocolate bar, make sure the glasses or cupware are first in line with everything else accessible through layers of height accompanied by serving utensils. Have different types of condiments available. Think of your guests. You might not take sugar in your coffee but someone will want regular, raw or a sweetener. Place napkins at the end of the bar.

Preparation: Remember to polish glassware prior to set up, have a towel and wine/bottle opener on hand with cocktail napkins available.

Supplies: A small receptacle for trash and an area for dirty glassware is appropriate. You can rent oval trays for dirty glasses. A nice touch is to add a clean, decorative napkin across the top. It is customary to not mix clean and dirty in the same area or on the same tray.

A few other tips:

  • Double check that all dishware and flatware are clean and polished prior to setting out.
  • Serving bowls and platters need to accommodate the food.
  • Risers for serving dishware make the food more easily accessible to guests and allow you to maximize table space. See my original designs here.
  • Keep food service in two areas and keep platters full. The more you spread out, the less it looks like you have. These tips do not apply to progressive dinners.
  • Have plenty of ice on hand.
  • If you serve mixed drinks, remember the lemons and limes.

You can confidently follow-up tips proudly wear your host/hostess crown! That or just call me.

Photo credit: Rhianon Lassila

Tabletop Tuesday: Black + White Swirl

Tabletop Tuesday features my latest creation from a black and white plate collection of circles. I love the pop art illusion of endless spirals that rotate between white on black and black on white. By stacking these plates, it is really a fun salute to sassy modern style. I mixed this plates on a crisp, white linen with matte, slightly glossy black glassware and a classic bell to signal for more. If all else fails, you can eat that little black dish of rocks and shells. Sometimes that tastes better than your foot in your mouth while trying to eat a mediocre meal. Hey, it happens. Just show some gratitude and appreciate the presentation.


Modern Monday: Space Age Spectrum

Modern Monday celebrates tech titan Google’s Tel Aviv office space that fuses the spectrum of black and white into a space-age, techno chic atmosphere. The Jacobsen-style egg chairs are the ideal dramatic touch for a minimal space. Their dynamic  presence is enough to fill a room with style. The optical illusion wallpaper provides the perfect backdrop to the chairs and seamlessly blends into the carpeting.

Black and white is a classic color combination that yields itself to broad selection of color and pattern combinations.  It is amazing what can be accomplished using two contrasting colors with an infinite amount of imagination.

Office design by Carmenzind Evolution.

Transitional Modern Luxury Lifestyle Experience

The influences of contemporary and modern architectural styles are the foundation of new, luxury custom-built properties in the storied Paradise Valley community in the metro Phoenix area. This town has a significant number of rambling Mediterranean influenced estates enshrouded in lush desert landscaping intermixed with new contemporary builds and a few unsavory homes poised for destruction. Most brokers and agents are vying for the competitive affluent market dollar to attract attention to their clients’ multimillion dollar estates.

Yvette Craddock Designs provides these professionals with custom, multi-sensory luxury lifestyle experiences that reflect a property’s brand and serve as an accurate representation and extension of the target buyer’s lifestyle. As I mentioned earlier this year,  distinctive experiences are essential to increase awareness and place properties at the top-of-mind for industry players. My experiences include luxury interior touches and the integration of key product and service brands that speak to the style and quality of the affluent customer and the influencers who participate in their lifestyle choices.

Yvette Craddock Designs was privileged to work with Dan Gonen, Associate Broker of RE/MAX Excalibur in Scottsdale, to launch his client’s transitional modern new build to the community.

This magnificent, transitional modern masterpiece of 7,037 square feet is a work of art. Every element, from the finishes to quality materials, has been designed and hand-crafted with extraordinary attention to detail.

The ultra-comfortable split-floor plan has 5 en-suite bedrooms, bonus room & 6-1/2 bathrooms with designer fixtures & finishes. The main living areas have soaring 17’ ceilings. The living room hosts an 8’ custom, granite fireplace. The great room houses a refrigerated wine wall for 546 bottles and its sliding pocket doors open to a negative-edge pool with a swim-up bar, spa and fire pits. The kitchen has Thermador appliances, satin-finished stone counters and deep pantry. The luxurious master suite has 2 walk-in closets, flex space, private patio and a unique custom-built 12’ h x 12’, 3-sided glass shower and steam room with a pivot door in the spa bathroom. The side-gated entry opens to 4 oversized garage spaces and access to a private courtyard. There is a RV gated entrance.

Here’s a recap of how nearly 150 people showed up on a toasty desert night full of competing events.


Design is everything. Identifying and defining a home’s brand is essential in creating marketing materials. The colors, lines, fonts and style should all visually articulate the architecture and interiors of a home. It is confusing for the customer to receive mixed messages which happens quite often. A contemporary home’s marketing messages are rarely expressed in a script or serif font.

In this example, I used linear details to mimic the home’s design lines while featuring key colors that are part of the materials such as flooring, tile, wall paper and glass that appear in the house.


The invitation features the home, address, MLS number, Broker’s photograph and contact information as well as the date, time and R.S.V.P. information. It is important to create a sense of urgency and make the online reservation process as easy as possible.

It is important to use all methods of digital communication to strategically promote the event without alienating any list recipients.


A curated list of sponsors were approached and secured to reinforce nearly all transaction features, design details and top lifestyle components based upon significant design features. These include: the custom 546 bottle wine wall, negative edge spa/pool with swim-up bar, exquisite design of the 6-1/2 bathrooms including the master bathroom 12′ x 12′, 3-sided shower/steam room with a pivot door and custom granite benches, flooring and ceiling room.


Although the house was staged, some of the finishes, scale and other details were not to scale or quality of the house. Plus, some rooms were empty.  Therefore, I was able to stage three of those rooms with Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams‘ elegant furniture, Design Within Reach‘s modern outdoor furniture, L’Occitane natural beauty products and fine art by Daniel Prendergast and Diane Silver. All sponsors have a strong local presence in the upscale space and community participation. I secured Wines for Humanity for their classy service of wine selection, wine advisor and conscious capitalistic approach to donating to local charities including the event’s official non-profit and their chosen one to support the elimination of homeless families and hungry children.

A custom-written story provided additional exposure to each sponsors with post-event raffle drawing wrap ups.


Music plays a key role in events and this one was no different. DJSirPlus, a seasoned DJ with music industry touring credentials, played a mix of Euro Chill, R&B, house and old school Vegas jams. To showcase the exquisite pool, I secured Scottsdale Synchro to provide surprise performances and to raise funds for their organization. One of the young ladies is on her way to the Pan American Games to represent the local team and the U.S.A. We were so excited and proud of her as all team members. The guests were absolutely mesmerized.


All sponsors and participants receive thank you notes to emphasize how much their participation contributed to the overall success. A recap video is provided for prosperity.

Contact YCD here to commission the firm’s talents for your upcoming real estate, social and/or culinary event.

Tabletop Tuesday: Summer Fun

Tabletop Tuesday reminds you to capture some summer fun with this vibrant turquoise dish and glassware combo coupled with a playful plate of cat-eye sunglasses.

Grab your passport, sunglasses, smile, swimsuit, appetite for local culture and go. Bon voyage.

Modern Monday: Parisien Peacock

Modern Monday showcases the bottom level of a two-story Italian restaurant situated in Paris; specifically in Jean Paul Gaultier’s former flagship store. The staff even wears JP’s signature striped marine styled T-shirts.

The space features existing brick walls, raw cement columns, grey columns, peacock blue banquettes, green marble tabletops and wicker chairs and dramatic chandeliers.

I appreciate the bold colors of teal and green grounded with wood, wicker (synthetic), brick and cement and brightened with white paint.

Tres bien. Allez!

Via Fork and 30s magazine


ParisRestaurant IMG_3609

Tabletop Tuesday: Palm Limes

Tabletop Tuesday takes you to your favorite palm lined beach with this white and emerald green setting with brass candlestick holders and napkin ring anchored by a green goblet. Cut up the limes and put them in water, spritzer, vodka treat or a little something something extra that makes the summer sun more enjoyable.


Modern Monday: Velvet Daydreams

Modern Monday is a romantic interlude with dreamy green velvet sofas, ceiling to floor windows dressed in white pleated fabric, global artifacts and sculpture, a range of natural substrates and topped off with a dynamic geometric gold chandelier. I particularly like the green glass vases, wood box, concrete vase of grass on the side wood console and the frame art above it. The bar cart in the front left-hand side of the photograph repeats the metal and adds luminosity with the mirrors that echo the sunlight flowing through the windows.

Doesn’t this room make you want to lounge all afternoon with a stack of fashion magazines and juicy book? How would you use this space?

Tabletop Tuesday: Blue Ground

Tabletop Tuesday sets your place at the table with a harmonious connection of earth and sky. Brown and sky blue are two colors that timeless balance each other. Perhaps the brown reminds us of the ground and the blue the sky. Somewhere in between we exist.

The foundation of linens is laid with navy blue material with a vintage scarf, filled with fun geometric shapes and the brown and blue color story, as the runner. I chose organic shapes of dishware for this setting. The bottom blue plate is a perfect circle but the middle brown plate and blue bowl are not exact circles which makes them visually and texturally interesting. I chose a navy, pinstripe napkin with a brass napkin ring. The setting is finished with brown vintage glassware and vintage rosewood and brass utensils from Thailand.

Bon appétit with flair and style!

Modern Monday: Mid-Century Velvet Dining

Modern Monday begins the week dining at this Mid-century modern walnut table with curvaceous brown velvet chairs with brass frame and legs. The vintage chandelier repeats the metal color and shapes of the chairs and table.

Brown and blues are a complementary color combination that grounds and soothes your energy. The blue textured wallpaper adds more visual interest to the room. The silent rumbling of the framed, ocean photography offset by the abstract art in the hallway add to the story. The vintage, ethnic area rug repeats the blue and white in the wallpaper, baseboard, frame and opposite wall.

Repeat patterns, colors and shapes as you scale your furniture and art to your space. Although this area is small, it is big on style. Photo: Catherine Kwong.