Whatever the issue, the first step is the same: Remain calm.

In a perfect world, when you're hosting loved ones in your home (whether for the holidays or a dinner party), everything goes smoothly—your guests successfully mingle, the roast comes out just right, and the cleanup phase happens seamlessly. But the chances of throwing a perfect party every time are slim to none, regardless of whether you're a seasoned hostess or a novice. You're bound to run into a hosting emergency every now and then. The only thing you can do to prepare for the issue, whatever it may be, is to arm yourself with all you'll need to fix it.

Laughing friends having dinner with wine
Credit: Getty / Ridofranz

Whatever the problem, the first step towards a solution is the same: Remain calm, for both your sake and your guests'. "The most important thing to remember when any emergency happens is to remain calm," says Bonnie Tsai, an etiquette expert and founder of the consulting agency Beyond Etiquette. "You want your guests to still feel comfortable in your home so that they can enjoy their experience." It can be easier said than done, but you'll feel more equipped to deal with the emergency at hand by identifying the ones most likely to occur before they do. Ahead, the three most common hostess emergencies—and, most importantly, how to resolve them fast.

You burn the food—or there's not enough.

No matter how curated the menu or thorough the preparation, unforeseen factors impact the food you prepare for the party—and, unfortunately, it doesn't take much to create a culinary conundrum. Maybe you burned your roasted turkey by pre-heating the oven too high. Maybe a few of your guests brought plus-ones you weren't expecting, and there isn't enough meat to go around. Either way, you have people to feed and not enough food (or edible food) to do so. This is arguably the biggest hostess nightmare—but it isn't one that will ruin your celebration. Put out some snacks or appetizers while you order takeout or whip up a crowd-pleasing dish with a recipe you know by heart. Make a joke, fill your friends' drinks, and don't be too hard on yourself. "Don't take yourself too seriously because everyone makes mistakes—and the point is making [sure] everyone has fun," says Tsai.

A guest breaks a dish.

You're at dinner. The conversation is flowing—and so is the wine—when, all of a sudden, one of your guests knocks over their glass, shattering it on the floor. Chances are, he or she feels terribly embarrassed, and you're obviously not thrilled about the red varietal splashed all across the carpet or the broken glass. But the best thing you can do in this situation? Make light of it. Say something along the lines of, "Oh, I've been looking to replace my set for a long time, so this is the perfect reason for me to do that," advises Tsai, who suggests doing all you can to "make them feel at ease." "I'm sure they're already feeling really guilty and embarrassed, so there's no need to make them feel any worse." Once you've broken the tension, let your guests know to continue the meal while you grab any necessary cleaning supplies (like a carpet cleaner to absorb the stain or a broom to sweep the broken glass) and quickly clean up the area.

There's a mess that absolutely can't wait.

Messes are a part of hosting. But when you find yourself facing a huge, unavoidable mess (like a split trash bag in the center of the kitchen or a little one's bathroom accident) in the middle of dinner? That mess can feel overwhelming. To remedy this particular hostess emergency, enlist help. Designate one person that you feel comfortable asking for support (like your partner or trusted friend) and take a "team effort" approach to the cleanup, says Tsai. There are several tactics to take when this problem unfolds—but always begin by taking your helper aside and letting them know that you have a situation on your hands. Then, figure out how you're going to going to handle it together. The solution might be that you clean up the mess while your partner distracts your guests and takes them in the other room. Or, maybe your helper handles the mess so you can continue hosting and keep your guests entertained. Ultimately, you don't want your guests to be sitting by themselves while you're in another room cleaning. The goal should always be to eliminate the issue promptly and get back to hosting as soon as you can.


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