(Not So) Clueless Hostess

Dear Sensible Midwesterner,

I am hosting a surprise birthday dinner for my boyfriend (who is turning 26). We will be arriving approximately 10 to 15 minutes after the guests. The setting is downtown and chic but relatively casual. Should I provide the guests with pre-ordered appetizers for the short waiting time?

Thank you,

Clueless Hostess

Dear Clueless Hostess,

Any sensible Midwesterner would have trouble typing that salutation to someone so clearly not clueless in any way.

Yes, it would be lovely to have some nibbly bits for people to snack on while they wait for your arrival and the big reveal. While you’re at it, offer glasses of wine and/or beer and sparkling water, too. Or, have a tab open at the bar for them to get the party started.

Your age and the setting matter not, by the way. Good hosting is good hosting. It’s about making people feel comfortable and taken care of; anticipating their needs rather than waiting for them to surface. This Midwesterner’s great-aunt was legendarily, career-making good at hosting, and her rule of thumb was to get a drink in a guest’s hand as soon as they were greeted and their coat was taken. She would nestle calmly in her grave if she could read this, thinking “the kids are all right.”