Tip #1: How to Help Your Guests Relax

During entertaining week, I’d love to share a few great hosting tips I’ve heard over the years. First up…

The Barefoot Contessa wears slippers when hosting a dinner or cocktail party. That way, she figures, the mood will feel instantly relaxed. Isn’t that genius? Would you do it?

(Photo of Jake Gyllenhaal for no other reason than he is cute and looks relaxed:)

  1. geraldine says...

    I love the idea of cashmere slippers. basically nobody gets into our house in shoes. we dont really go in for formal dinner parties. when we have friends round we all wear slippers. my husband likes to wear leather slippers, i wear soft sheepskin slippers. here in england i have found that almost everyone takes off their shoes at the door and generally wear slippers around their own home and when visiting at the very least they take off their shoes, but normally have a their own slippers to change into when they arrive. dont forget its wet and cold here for most of the year.

  2. nice tips you got there.. :)

  3. I love Ina, and she has great tips on her shows and books. I’ve never done the slippers thing, but I’ve routinely worn flip flops, which pretty much count as slippers for me. Actually my favorite Ina tip, that I use religiously, is to plan the party day backwards – meaning from the time the guests arrive at x…, plan backwards (in writing) what you need to get done that day – so that you’ll know exactly when to put what in the oven at a certain time, etc. It sounds a little obsessive, but once I started doing that, I was instantly able to relax, and things looked effortless. I keep my prep list stashed discreetly in the kitchen and consult it from time to time.

    Also like the louder music tip …. and a glass of wine before everyone else arrives.

  4. Definitely would not wear slippers at a party I was hosting! And Jake looks great!

  5. Actually, I’ve read this too! I tried this last year and Christmas with my family, and I feel like it helped a lot. My family has a little bit of a stick in the mud issue, and helping them all to calm down made the whole day a LOT more bearable.

  6. Danielle says...

    i live in canada where it’s actually more common to take your shoes off when inside the house than not! comfort all the time, and clean floors!

  7. love the slipper idea and Jake:)

  8. ooh i love that they do it in france! even better:) and auste, i LOVE that you were barefoot at your wedding!!

  9. I’m a slipper-clad entertainer, as well… except in the summer when I’m barefoot. All my loved ones know this about me, so no one was surprised when I showed up barefoot to my own wedding :)

  10. In Paris, when you’re invited to someone’s home for an apéritif, you’d better believe the host is in slippers — or at least a pair of house shoes that act as slippers.

  11. that’s a great tip! i always feel relaxed at a get-together when i can help out, like hand out beverages or help serve. i dont know why but i feel more uncomfortable watching the host do everything…


  12. I always have bear feet and that I am sure sets the tone! : )

  13. I am always wearing slippers when I am at home, both in every day life and during parties. Here in Latvia it is not really considered normal to wear shoes at home, when I am a guest at someone’s home the first thing I do is take of my shoes and either go barefoot or the hosts give me some slippers.

  14. I’m usually barefoot at home. But we have a no-shoe house (and people coming over know that). I’ll give people fuzzy socks or slippers if they want them :). I’d never thought of it making people more relaxed, but then people always do seem pretty relaxed in my house :). I also think that BEING relaxed helps other people relax!!

  15. Anonymous says...

    Ina is wonderful. I love how she doesn’t mind showing a messy bowl or some little mistake she has made. I would do the slipper trick. I’ve forgotten to change into my nice shoes and worn my cheap, blue, foam flip flops all night because I got so busy with preparations for the party. Heck, we call my Mom’s slippers her “dress shoes” because every holiday she forgets to change them before dinner is on the table.

  16. Anonymous says...

    it’s my pet peeve when hostesses start cleaning all the dishes while we are still over, and wanting to spend time with them. i would leave dishes to the enxt morning, if it meant i could spend meaningful and conncted time with my friends!

  17. What?!? I am Ina obsessed and I had NO idea she does this! I have guests coming for dinner Friday night, I’m totally wearing slippers.

  18. Like does she give ALL her guests cashmere slippers?

  19. He’s so cute! And I love the idea of wearing cashmere slippers…I never know if, as the hostess, you’re supposed to wear shoes or not!

  20. This is something I’ve thought about before, although I’d wear socks before I’d wear slippers. I feel strange wearing shoes inside my own house, but I feel like it’s unfair/strange for me to be all comfy casual while my guests are dressed up. Of course, it seems that the U.S. is one of the few countries where people keep their shoes on in other people’s houses, so I guess the problem is limited to us.

  21. Would love some tips Joanna! In Sweden you always remove your shoes at the entrance of the house or apartment, so everyone’s usually always in socks or house shoes that they bring separately for a more dressy get together.

  22. I love the cashmere slipper idea! I’ve hosted a party in bare feet before. It was a luau, so it seemed appropriate enough. And I was comfy!

  23. These days, I always wear slippers or extra cute socks when hosting, because in Germany, everyone takes off their shoes indoors! Even at other people’s houses. It takes some getting used to, but is really great (cleanup-wise) and so much cozier!

  24. That photo of Jake looks scarily like my husband. Who is both cute and relaxed.

  25. Oh snap that photo and your comment about Jakey (as I call him) made me laugh! Great idea, btw. I have some moccasin slippers that I do that with, but here in the midwest people seem to be pretty relaxed anyway!

  26. Big fan of slippers over here…. The UGGS are my hands down favorite. I get a new pair every year from my dog for Christmas =0)

  27. love this idea! It is so important to make your guests feel at home:)

  28. We don’t allow outside shoes in the house, so sure, slippers for all! :)

  29. Jake, why haven’t you called me yet? Huh? Why?

  30. Ina is a fantastic hostess by the sounds of it, so who are we to say no to cashmere slippers?!
    & helloooooo to Jake!

  31. love me some Jake Gyllenhaal!!

  32. Anonymous says...

    I think JG is really unattractive!

  33. I would do anything if Jake Gyllenhaal came to my party.

  34. and he’s very cute. agreed.

    i have a mini collection of Scandinavian slippers and can often be found with them on my feet at dinner parties chez nous.

  35. yes, ina. that dear. love her. always the perfect tips for easy entertaining.

    last week when i saw anthony bourdain at the merriam theater in philadelphia, he mentioned how he does like ina garten, he just wouldn’t stay at his house in fear or her always calling “jeffrey!” and prepping him for his “favorite” meatloaf and what not (hehe). but i’d love to stay with her. hopefully she’d send me home with all the herbs from her perfect hamptons garden/farm.

    ps, !

  36. Love your idea of entertaining tips. Comfortable shoes put everyone at ease! lSome people are just natural hosts/hostesses! I would love tips on how to make Me feel more relaxed when I have guests! As always, can’t wait for your next post!

  37. Jake Gyllenhaal sure is cute. :)

    I love the idea of cashmere slippers! On a different note, kind of, I keep picturing Ina in fuzzy socks, not sure why… lol.

  38. Perfect! On the note of entertaining, could you give some suggestions for host/hostess gifts for Thanksgiving? I’m uninspired and want to come up with something nice and thoughtful.

  39. such a brilliant idea! the downside is, when to wear the cute heels? oh well. the pic of jake g. is totally necessary!!!

  40. jake looks yum =)
    i think i like wearing heels when i have a party to feel more dressy.

  41. Ina G is my idol. LOVE her. Another tip she wrote in one of her cookbooks is to have the music on (a bit too loud) when people arrive so it instantly feels like a party. Arriving to a quiet house is not very festive!

  42. I might even go barefoot…actually I have.

    I love that my kitchen and living room open into each each other with french doors. Makes for easy flow, and a casual fun party!


  43. I am almost always barefoot when I’m at home, so probably yes, if I could afford cashmere slippers. :)

  44. Well I’m originally from Hawaii, the land of no-shoes, so I would probably go barefoot or be in my socks! I’m casual to the point of unconsciousness. :)

  45. brilliant idea! i would totally do that! and do we ever need a reason to look at a photo of jake? :)

  46. JAKE is so good looking next to an Eames chair… or next to anything really.

  47. amazing way!!


  48. I love all of Ina’s tips for entertaining. I always think “what would Ina do?” when I’m having guests to dinner and something goes awry, like the main course being 20 minutes from finished at the appointed time, or the chocolate fondue turning out more like chocolate fudge. Usually, the best thing to do is act like it was all part of the plan, and pad those little cashmere slippers back into the kitchen to find some graham crackers to spread the fudge on:)

  49. i’m doing the slipper tip right now. of course, i’m alone and in my pajamas, but whatevs…

  50. Yes to slippers! Though I do change out of my furry bootie cosy slippers, into my fuschia velvet Venetian Furlane slippers – I’m going to start calling them my dinner slippers and wear them to other peoples’ dinner parties too. If anyone questions me I will tell them you authorised it!

  51. I don’t have cashmere ones (yet!) but I have been known to wear cute slippers during my parties. I think that’s mostly because I want to encourage people to take their shoes off, but I will need to keep running down the stairs to open the door when new guests arrive(I live in a third-floor apartment). I’m glad to hear that it’s permissible!

  52. oh good idea.
    Could you perhaps do a slipper round up? I always want to get slippers but get overwhelmed and instead go cold and barefoot all winter.

  53. Well, in Japan you get slippers before entering a house – that custom is more relaxing as it ensures that you can cover your socks that might need mending? Holes in your socks if required to show might make you feel tense…

  54. great idea! i often go bear foot or slip on flip flops when hosting a small party for the same reason, keeps things from feeling to formal.

    i had a christmas get together and wore funky decorated socks in stead of shoes, great conversation starter, haha.

  55. Ina is the best! No surprise that she has a trick like this for relaxing guests. Now, if only I were one of her guests someday… :) Xo, Katie

  56. He is a cutie! And I totally wore polka dot slippers to my last dinner party. Black dress and polka dot slippers.

  57. Oh Jake…growl

  58. That totally makes sense. Brilliant tip and I would do it for sure:) Kisses, Joanna.

  59. i know, jake is SUCH a cutie. he went to high school w/my best friend so i kind of feel like he and i have a special connection haha :)

  60. ina garten, cashmere slippes, and jake gyllenhaal. what’s not to love about this post?!

  61. I love to entertain and I think the way to make your guests the most relaxed is to have everything ready before they get there. But, that has never happened to me…. So, I like it if my boyfriend can entertain people while I cook.

  62. Love the slipper idea and love your Jake photo, can never go wrong there :)

  63. ina garten can do anything she wants because she’s a genius. i bet her and jeffrey have matching slippers.

  64. Haha, love the photo of Jake :) It makes me feel relaxed looking at it!

    I’d totally try the slippers thing. I had a Halloween party and started out wearing 4 inch Lanvin stiletto pumps. I had to wuss out and switch to flats after a couple of hours. Cashmere slippers would have been way better!