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As 2021 slowly but surely comes to a close, we are ready to start 2022 on a positive note. What better way to do so than with a great party? Whether you're throwing an intimate soirée or a lavish celebration, entertaining is a great way to bring your nearest and dearest together after spending so much time apart. That said, a lot has changed over the past few years. Trends might come and go in any industry—the entertaining world included—but the new rules of throwing a great party feel even more poignant. Plus, it's likely been a minute since you've flexed your hosting muscle beyond a happy hour or two. "We're all learning new ways to connect, communicate, and feel a little less socially distant," explains Amber Mayfield, the founder of event company To Be Hosted and annual magazine While Entertaining, which highlights chefs of the African diaspora. "Ultimately, I want to make sure my friends and family have the information they need to make confident decisions about coming (or not coming) and what to expect when they arrive. I think doing so puts people at ease about gathering and socializing in-person again."

So, here's the million dollar question: How should you host in 2022? Read on for a new set of entertaining rules and trends, according to two experts.

Small, Intimate Soirées

According to Mayfield, the days of large, packed-like-sardines parties are officially over. When it comes to building your guest list, it's important to prioritize quality over quantity. "Starting small and simple will be the gateway for many to dust off their entertaining skills and begin making new memories with friends," she explains. "I think people really want to make genuine connections. That's a bit more approachable in micro-event settings: intimate dinner parties, casual game nights, small watch parties, and pizza night."

Mayfield shares that by cutting down the guest count, hosts will be able to put the biggest entertaining trend front and center. "More than ever, people want to get social and be more intentional about how they're getting social," she shares. "I think we're going to see most of the 2022 event trends popping up around unique and meaningful ways to help guests connect." Moving forward, details like icebreakers, conversation starters, opening toasts, and seating charts will drive what becomes memorable about an event.

Over-the-Top Tablescapes

Just because you're entertaining fewer guests doesn't mean you have to put your style on the back-burner. Instead, eye-catching tablescapes and décor should be a focal point at your next soirée. "People are going all out with over-the-top tables and are really enjoying the art of it," explains entertaining expert Joanna Buchanan. "I think we are looking for a way to make a statement about style and what we have been missing." For Buchanan, luxury is the name of the game. A smattering of votive candles and a fresh bouquet might be fail-safe accessories, but she encourages you to think beyond the basics. "Think themed and seasonal moments, like a window display. But since it only has to last for a couple of hours, you can be even more 'extra'," Buchanan adds. For an unexpected twist, consider incorporating some vintage tchotchkes or natural elements.

A Blast from the Past

Sometimes, looking to the future means paying tribute to the past. Mayfield says that once 2022 rolls around, hosts will be incorporating décor from yesteryear. "With so much uncertainty, nostalgic details and references while entertaining will be a popular trend," she shares. "Things like records and throwback playlists, polaroids, references to childhood games, thrifted décor, and themed parties will all come back to give people those warm and fuzzy feelings they want from in-person events." Not only will these touches offer a nice walk down memory lane, but they'll also act as great conversation-starters.

An Experiential Menu

Of course, no great party is complete without a delicious menu. And while sit-down dinner parties won't fade into oblivion anytime soon, Mayfield predicts passed hors d'oeuvres and creative culinary experiences will become increasingly popular. "When it comes to food, I think there will be a greater emphasis on 'build your own' food options," she says. "And, if the event is catered, more food stations where guests are a bit more interactive with the culinary pros, choosing flavors or learning how the food is coming together." As for drinks? Mayfield predicts that hosts will become more innovative with their bar, adding tastings, low or non-ABV options, or interactive beverage stations. That said, there are some elements of a classic menu that will never go out of style. "Always welcome your guests with a glass of sparkling wine," she shares. "The gesture makes people feel welcomed and celebratory right from the beginning."


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