2/13 Avoiding Harried Hostess Syndrome

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Hosting a party for the Big Game last weekend brought into harsh relief one my biggest anxieties about my wedding: that I will come down with an acute case of  Harried Hostess Syndrome.


Harried Hostess Syndrome, also known as “Can I Get You Anything?”itis, is a condition wherein a hostess of a party becomes maniacally obsessed with the well-being of her guests.  Symptoms include high anxiety about no one having a good time and increasingly desperate efforts to correct this perceived guest-dissatisfaction.  Effects range from buying three times more food than is necessary to plying guests with alcohol to the point that an entire fleet of cabs must be summoned at the party’s end. In the most severe cases of Harried Hostess Syndrome, there is a high risk of conga lines and other mandatory-participation group dances.

I had a frightening bout of HHS when I threw my party last Sunday, even though it was just 20 people in my living room watching a football game.  I need to start working now on strategies to combat coming down with HHS on my wedding day if I’m going to be able to relax enough to enjoy it.  I certainly don’t want to turn to my guests halfway through the ceremony and say, “Is everyone doing all right? Is the temperature comfortable for everyone? Does anyone need their drink topped off?”

But I know it will be hard to psych myself into believing I am a guest of honor instead of the host at my wedding.  Even though in the invitation-wording-as-secret-code-for-who-is-paying sense of hosting, Collin and I are the hosts “along with our families,”  I feel the mostest-hostess because so much of the wedding will be the product of my planning, my decisions, my efforts.  I’m the one who chose our venue, so if our guests hate being there, it is my fault.  I’m the one who decided “no flowers, no cake, no favors,” so if our guests miss those things, I’m the one to blame.

So how do I escape this neurotic mental trap so I can fully enjoy my wedding?  Here’s the strategy I’ve come up with:

1. Deflect. No matter how much of my own time, stress, and money I’ve put into my wedding, when the day comes, I’m going to imagine it as a party thrown for me and Collin.  I’ll be sincerely, profoundly, and outwardly grateful to his parents, our families, our friends, our vendors, everyone who is making the day come together through their efforts.  This will distract me from worrying about how everything I set up is working out, with the added bonus of making me a gracious bride!

2. Deny.  Words are powerful.  I’m going to trick my brain into feeling like a happy, relaxed guest instead of a Harried Hostess by telling my guests, “I’m so happy you could share this day with us,” instead of “Thank you so much for coming.”  That’s hostess talk and I’ll have none of that!

3. Delegate.  Members of my Bridal Hootenanny (that’s like a bridal party, but bigger and more unwieldy), I’m putting you on notice: it is your job, not mine, to make sure people are having fun.  This will primarily involve filling the dance floor whenever it thins out, so be sure to limber up during the cocktail hour.

4. Dance. If I’m having enough fun, I’ll be too distracted to worry that anyone else maybe isn’t.  More importantly, I believe that my happiness will infect the crowd and make our wedding a good time for all.  And the best way I know how to stop worrying and be happy is shake a tail feather.

So that’s my four-part strategy for avoiding the burden of Harried Hostess Syndrome at my wedding: deflect hosting respect, deny hosting status, delegate hosting duties, and dance my ass off.

Anyone else worried about feeling like a stressed-out hostess at her own wedding? Do you have any other ideas for how to shake off the symptoms of Harried Hostess Syndrome?


  • Interesting topic.

  • Jen

    I get the same way, and it is torture! I usually find that having a drink the very minute I arrive helps me relax and not freak out about every little thing.

  • lo7835

    My problem is I usually try to mingle with the best of them. When hosting a 20 person shindig-easy. Hosting a 175 person shindig-gives me the vapors.

  • Ahhh! I'm SO guilty of this! One friend even ribbed me for clearing plates and dirty napkins at our own engagement party.
    Since we're having a small backyard wedding, a few friends have come up to me saying they'd love to be in charge of bussing, and tray passing if we needed it. What a sweet gesture. And I'm taking them up on it.

    I am SAVING this article! Thanks, Robin, for giving our anxiety ridden curse a name!

  • Rachel

    this is EXACTLY my problem and my fear about our upcoming wedding. I am so bookmarking this article and reading it every week until the wedding happens. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Michele

    As one of your Bridal Hootenanny, I am officially on alert. You enjoy your wedding, we will take care of shaking tail feathers and getting people drinks. No sweat.

  • I love this article! It doesn't matter how small the party, if I'm hosting, I am stressed out all day leading up to it and then at the party I can not enjoy myself. Like you, me and my fiance David are hosting "along with our families" and I'm basically planning the whole thing myself. Plus I'm a control freak. .So I've pretty much been convinced that there is no way to avoid that stressed out feeling on the day of our wedding. But no more negative thinking! I am making your strategy my mantra from now until the wedding in 69 days! Thanks so much!

  • I will be harried, crazy, insane, and more than a little out of my mind. BUT….that's how I am most of the time anyway, so it'll be the norm.

  • I have to concentrate on not sweating the small stuff. I get wrapped up in the tiny details- and it consumes my time right before the party. We do several parties a year (since we have three kids), and EVERYONE anticipates a perfectly laid out plan. SO MUCH PRESSURE! We took 18 months to plan our wedding- so crossing my fingers that I don't turn into a crazy person soon. We're planning it, paying for it, and I'm making the favors, decorations, etc… hence- the Boke-Ass Bride! LOL Thanks SO much for the article- now I just have to read it a few thousand more times!

  • 3 &4 = Awesome wedding. The rest are icing in the cake. So to speak. 🙂

  • Glad to hear other people are like this! And hey love the DANCE suggestion!!!

  • mysanfranciscobudgetwedding

    Oh, geez. I am a sufferer of Harried Hostess Syndrome, and I fear it may have already infected my wedding plans. Just today, I tried to reduce some of the symptoms of the HHS by deciding to eliminate an entire project from my to-do list. I haven't completely come to accept it yet.

  • Meridy

    I've been having the same worries…"what if no one likes the party I threw for myself and my new husband?" I like your 4 point plan for dealing with this. Thanks you!

  • I have been taking 600 mg of Neurontin 4x a day for about 2 years and recentlty ran out of this medication due to excrutiating slow service from mandatory mail order RX company…. I was extremely agitated during this time (approx. 5 days), nervous, stressed out, etc. Has anyone else had these symptons as a result of sudden withdrawal from Neurontin? I can't understand why this happened, I felt so scared and lousy for that time. Is this a known reaction for this med? I haven't been able to find an answer. I take it for relief from carpel tunnel syndrom. Thanks

    • kda816

      I think you need to look that drug up and find out it's uses. I'm pretty sure what you experienced is a normal side effect, I'm just not too sure it's meant for carpel tunnel syndrome. Here's the WebMD link http://www.webmd.com/drugs/mono-8217-GABAPENTIN+-
      It does say nerve pain, so that might be why your doctor prescribed it. Good luck.

  • Kim

    Thank you for this! I feel so much better now that I know I'm not alone in stressing out about throwing such a large party. I will definately keep your "4D Strategy" in mind.

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  • Jamie Anne

    To all the brides-to-be out there that are getting wrinkles worrying for the welfare of their guests- DON'T FRET!!!
    Know this:
    If we are close to you and/or your hubby-to-be; we're tremendously happy to share in your joy this day.
    And if we're mere courtesy invitees, then know that we're happy all the same chowing down on the food you've laid out.

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