About 20 years ago, soon after I moved to New York, I attended one of the Spachs’ summer barbecues, invited by their daughter, a co-worker at the time. I knew practically no one, yet somehow felt as if I was part of the family. Mr. Spach stood by the grill, wearing an apron and cheerfully barking at guests to bring the buns, plates and side dishes to the table. I recall happily running into the house to help.
Lisa Cokinos, a co-founder of B-Lee Events in Manhattan, says that the consummate host has a knack for making guests feel as if they’re participating in the festivities, not just observing. “It takes a unique person to be at ease catering to different personalities,” she said. The event may feel breezy and flawless, but it never is. Every detail is carefully considered, with a host who need not be the life of the party, but definitely controls it.
The home may look like it was designed for entertainment, but that, too, can sometimes be an illusion. “It doesn’t have to be the biggest house, the best house, and it doesn’t have to be centrally located,” Ms. Cokinos said. It’s the host, not the space, who sets the mood.
And the mood is key. “The number one thing about being a great host is being present,” said Lindsey Kauffman, a co-owner of Celebrated, which sells party supplies online. “And you can’t be present if you’re not organized.”
Alex Aberle takes scrupulous notes when he prepares for the parties he throws at the house in Philadelphia that he bought for $550,000 in 2017 with his partner, Violette Levy. He jots down his mistakes, details he overlooked and things that went well.
“There is a little bit of self-competition,” said Mr. Aberle, 27, a real estate agent who likens himself to Monica Geller, the obsessive and hypercompetitive caterer on the television show “Friends.” “I made five pies last year and this year I have to make six.” Ms. Levy, 27, is a nanny.