Samantha Wills’ Guide to Entertaining Like a Pro

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Life is pretty good for Aussie Samantha Wills. Her namesake jewellery line (which also includes a bridal range, handbags and homewares) is loved worldwide, she splits her time between New York and Sydney (ain’t that the dream!) and she’s just been named Creative Director for Yellowglen. Hello excuse to drink lots of sparkling wine for the sake of research!

It’s no surprise that Samantha Wills is a born entertainer. The hostess with the mostest. We first fell in love with her talent for putting on a great party when she created her first bottle of bubbly with Yellowglen, Peacock Lane and celebrated with a chic soiree: check out the snaps & see for yourself.

So we caught up with Samantha to find out the ins and outs of entertaining. We’re hanging out for an invite to her next New York rooftop dinner party, just quietly (wink, wink!). Note: will fly for a good party.

Here Samantha Wills spills the beans on how to entertain guests like a pro.

What do you love most about entertaining?

My favourite thing about entertaining is ‘Sombremesa,’ it’s a beautiful Spanish word that refers to the time after a meal for socialising: that time when everyone sits around the table drinking and talking after eating. 

What are the essentials for being a good host?

I feel like a good host when the guests want for nothing… meaning you have put so much thought into things that they wouldn’t even know they want!

I hosted a rooftop party one night in NYC in April, so it was still a bit cold. The party started at 2pm, but went well past sunset, so guests arrived dressed for wintery sunshine, but as soon as the sun dropped, it was freezing. I had a big basket of blankets up there with a note attached to each that said ‘Rug up when the sun goes down’. From everything that I cooked or served that night, people still talk about how great it was there were blankets there! It allowed the party to go on longer since people weren’t freezing!

What about a good guest?

It is so important to be a good guest! Even if the host tells you to not bring anything – ALWAYS BRING SOMETHING. A bottle of sparkling wine is the perfect thing to bring, because it can be opened on arrival, it is celebratory, or if your host already has drinks flowing, it’s a beautiful gift that your host(s) can enjoy later. This is very much front of mind when we design new Yellowglen bottles; we want something beautiful that you can give your girlfriends as a gift, or give to the host, and the bottle is so decadent, you don’t even want to wrap it!

It also goes without saying you should assist the host in cleaning up… even if it is just collecting everything and helping them pile it near the sink, that is a huge help.

Then last, but not least, a hand written note, sent in the post a few days after. A lot goes into organising any type of party, and acknowledging your host’s effort and time goes a long way. 

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What are your tips for making sure you don’t spend the whole evening in the kitchen and miss out on actually spending time with your guests?

Have food that you can prep before hand (or ideally… have it catered!). Setting up drink stations with beautiful metal ice buckets and different types of beverages so guests can help themselves also helps make sure you don’t have to run to the kitchen every five minutes.

How do you decorate your home for a dinner party?

I like to have very dim lighting for dinner parties – candles then act as the decoration. Drink stations are functional, but you can also make them a beautiful aesthetic – an idea is to have big glass canisters with pretty coloured pre-mix cocktails in them, then tie a handwritten note with string and a fresh flower to label them – functional and a feature! When I worked on the bottle design of the Yellowglen collection we wanted them to also act as a form of decoration when put on display.

Any tips for planning a dinner party menu?

I always find having a signature cocktail for male guests, and one for female guests is a hit. My advice for food is don’t try and be a super hero. Cater or pre-purchase what you can, maybe it’s all the sides, and you prepare the main…. It can be very stressful! I am also not opposed to providing the venue and drinks and having each guest bring a dish – allocating each guest a course, it makes for a very luxe potluck!

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What are your go-to dishes for a dinner party?

If I am preparing meat – I usually stick with chicken, as you can heat it easily and unlike red meat or fish, it is pretty universally liked. I always provide a vegetarian option too. 

What are the common mistakes people make when entertaining?

Trying to do it all yourself. Not only is it not possible, your guests have come to see you and spend time with you. When your guests are there, you need to be with them. Plan ahead for how to make that happen.

Any advice for planning the guest list?

That can be a tricky one – I usually would open it up to all friends and friend groups – but it depends how intimate you want it and if you are celebrating something. I think at the dinner table it is good to have couples sitting opposite each other rather then next to their partner, as this opens up much more conversation and gets people mingling better.

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Make sure you follow Samantha on Instagram – it’s one of the prettiest feeds we’ve ever come across: @samanthawills

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