Holiday Hosting Tips
Entertaining in ones’ home is an art form, some are better at it than others. Here’s a pro tip for this holiday season, embrace all five senses when you entertain and see if others don’t remark on how enjoyable the evening was.
Since we are in the music making business, much of this will focus on the sense of hearing and the importance of rich, room-filling music. But we’ll borrow a few tips from experienced party-throwers to engage the other senses.
“A house is not a home until music is played in it,” I said to my brother and his wife after I helped setup their vinyl-based music system, with 20 year-old Sonus Fabers, up and running a couple weeks ago. They had been working so hard to complete their home that they hadn’t been able to make time to get their system up and running. So, I did what little brothers do for the big brothers and applied my own skills to enhance their experience. It worked too. As soon as the ‘table fired up James Taylor’s Greatest Hits I heard, from the living room around the corner, “Wow, having music really adds something to this space.”
Let’s jump in. The date of your Holiday Open House is here and your first guests arrive. The door opens and they’re greeted with…(I know, you thought I was going to say music right?) a wonderful scent that underlines the season. Personally, during the Winter I prefer candles that rely on balsam as their main ingredient. Smells like you’re in a pine forest. By the way, the first sense we engaged was the sense of smell and that’s because smell engages a very old part of the brain, one responsible for linking events to memories. Smelling fresh balsam might take you back to a family cabin and evoke warm memories of another holiday far distant. It helps set the mood.
The very next thing they should experience is wonderful sounding music wafting throughout the space. Notice I said wonderful sounding and that’s a key point. Too loud, it gets on your guests’ nerves. Competing for attention, interfering with conversation. It all starts with your music system. Now, there are two basic schools of thought on how to go about systems in the home and some lucky ones have both.
Either you subscribe to the “install in-ceiling speakers in most every space in the house” school of thought or you have one simple, high quality system that allows truly beautiful sound to carry throughout the space. No great surprise, I belong to the second group but some friends have houses with so many holes in their ceilings that the house would look like an ad for Swiss cheese if you took them all out. Those folks seem happy too, so do what makes you happy. Whichever approach you subscribe to, there are some tips to achieving just the right balance of sound,.
First, put a little thought into the mood you’re trying to set during different phases of the party and select the right music for each phase. At the start of a party, it’s all about the excitement of guests arriving, introductions being made—there’s a bustle of excitement in the air for the first 45 minutes or so. Select music that’s fun, upbeat and supportive of the mood. During the main body of the party, if food is being served turning down lighting levels and volume levels to the sound allows clearer, more meaningful dialogue and as the party winds to a conclusion after dinner, the music can begin to take over, lighting levels begin to come up all of which brings a great get together to a successful conclusion.
During the middle phase of the party it takes on its unique character; conversations linger a little longer, perhaps old friendships being renewed, discussions begun at an earlier time are rekindled. If food is to be served, it begins to arrive. For dinner, make sure to reset the lighting level to lower to encourage intimacy and allow guests to sink into that rich middle portion of a good party where you’ve figured out (hopefully) whom you want to sit next to for dinner and enjoy the discussions, catch up with old friends (do try to do your very best to stay away from talking about politics with Uncle Michael). Here, it’s key to set the volume of music to match the lighting; a soft-but-rich balance works well which is why having a decent sounding system is key. It allows for clarity and richness at lower volume levels than lesser quality systems. Just sayin’, but it really helps to have a good subwoofer in these systems because it lets you get the volume lower without it sounding thin and edgy. That goes doubly true for in ceiling speakers. And so now we have engaged our third sense, sight in the tips on lighting, and our fourth sense, taste, in this final portion.
RELTip: If you’re using our subwoofers and you need them placed in out-of-harm’s-way locations, using a quality wireless system like our Arrow (for Serie T/x) or the HT Air for our HT range can work wonders. And since RELs work exceptionally well when placed into corners (adds an effortless sense of deep bass and helps sound project into the room with greater ease) these locations work well in both a practical and sonic sense.
Let’s get back to the party. After dinner if dessert is going to be served the mood starts to lighten, the lighting itself can be turned up a little, the volume comes up just a bit and the music takes on a more playful nature. Foot tapping music seems to perk up the energy of a good party, fires up new conversations and leaves the party’s end with an upbeat energy level than just letting it wind down like a hand wound watch someone forgot to wind.
OK, if you thought for a minute I was planning on taking on the sense of touch in these embroiled times I can assure you I plan to sidestep that final sense. Just remember that good music and lighting can and should be used to set the stage and expectations at the outset, modulate it to recede into the background during the main event. Soft jazz works well during dinners, and then enliven and lighten it at the end leaving attendees feeling that there was just something more fun about your parties than most.