10 Steps to Being a Successful Host
Good Morning thank you for tuning in Dear Reader!
Today is a GOOD DAY. Why? Well my husband is finally coming home! He's been gone since Sunday night, and I am truly ready to have my other half back. Before he comes home, I need to get tidying, prepare the food, and do some laundry. But I absolutely could not shirk off our Friday blog post!
Last week we discussed WHY hospitality matters, but today I wanted to write a quick listicle on HOW to be a successful host. As young people are increasingly flocking to restaurants, bars, clubs, and coffee shops for the "friend fix," many of us simply have no clue how to host.
I am here to help! My mom taught me all the basics, and I have since then narrowed down a specific formula to the perfect evening. Enjoy!
1. Tidy your house the day before
When you are hosting people, you're going to be focusing on cleaning, doing your makeup, and making last minute finishing touches. By cleaning the day before, you can give yourself the TIME you need to tidy. I always focus on the main areas guests will be: bathroom, the living room, the dining room, and MAYBE the kitchen.
Any rooms you don't want a guest to see, just close the door. But I always remember that if we have new guests, my husband likes to give them a short tour of the house, so I try to keep the main areas immaculate, and the other rooms viewable.
2. Make sure you look fresh too
Wear something nice. Just because you're not at a restaurant doesn't mean you want guests to feel like they brought a nice wine just so you could drink it in your yoga pants. I like to dress nicely and let my guests feel like the drive to my home was WORTH it.
Be cautious with this though: don't wear something too fancy or you will look ridiculous. I usually wear something that I would also wear to church: feminine, and slightly dressed up. Occasionally I will host a friend and wear casual clothes, but we both know in advance that it the evening is more of a "girl time."
3. Choose a GO-TO meal to cook
No, I don't mean a box of Kraft Mac n'Cheese. But on the other end of the spectrum, a dinner party typically isn't the time to try new recipes or go crazy. You will have a lot of moving parts, so the best thing to do is make a dish that you are comfortable with. Make one that always gets rave reviews, and that can appeal to most of the guests.
Try to watch out for dietary restrictions as well. I usually text our guests a week in advance and ask about food preferences/restrictions. I always meet the restriction demands, but am a little more lax on preferences.
4. Set the MOOD
Along with a tidy house, I set the mood with candles, dim lighting, and often some background music from my iPhone. I especially like to put a candle in the bathroom.
We live in a seasonal location, so if it's summer, we will entertain in our sunroom and sometimes eat on our back patio. I don't buy flowers because that's just not in our budget, but in the summer I WILL go out to the garden and trim some hydrangeas for the evening. In the winter, my husband will light a fire and we will raise the thermostat a few notches before the guests arrive.
5. Prepare for the needs of your guests
Think of your guests' needs. We like to make sure the house is a comfortable temperature, that there is a place to put their coats, and that they are aware of where the bathroom is. I always make sure there is Febreeze and a toilet plunger accessible in the bathroom in the case of an unfortunate incident.
6. Have "backup plan" activities
Not all guests are comfortable with or capable of holding a four-hour long conversation. My husband and I are very chatty and good at conversation, but even we have had couples over who would probably prefer cards or a board game to sitting around talking about life.
This is completely fine. Mention the the possibility of playing a game casually and see how they react. If they reach out to it like a life raft, you know that they will be more comfortable with a deck of cards in their hands.
7. Have your guest BRING something
People like to feel invested in the evening: they like to help, and they like to give back. Especially after seeing the extra lengths you've gone to with your nice meal and conversation, a guest enjoys popping a bottle of wine or a beer that THEY brought.
If your guest doesn't drink, invite them to bring a salad or a dessert, which are both portable and easy to make.
8. Have most things ready before they come
This might just be me, but if I'm ever being hosted by a couple who hasn't even begun boiling water before I walk in, I sometimes feel a little stressed. It can be nice to make conversation while the men are out grilling, but other times I truly prefer to just walk in and have things on the go or ready.
I usually don't eat for at least 3-4 hours before I go to someone's house for a meal, so if I have to wait another 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, it can be a little annoying. If you can't have dinner ready, have some appetizers, bread, and drinks readily available so the guest won't feel agitated.
9. Learn the art of conversation
Before guests arrive, think of their life and pick out a few topics you are curious about. This is a fool proof method. If you are genuinely curious about your guests and their lives, the evening will sail by smoothly.
I usually choose a few topics beforehand, and will even look up the name of their dog on Facebook if I've forgotten it. I always ask about work/school, upcoming vacations, past holidays, the new house, family matters, and church. These are of course, surface topics, but never underestimate how useful it is to have a go-to surface conversation.
10. Know the "flow" of an evening
Formalities, Food, then Fun. This is my mantra. When a guest arrives, don't immediately direct them to your dinner table. Take at least 10-15 minutes to do the formalities. Then, enjoy a long dinner of conversation and wine. After this, take time to laugh over drinks, play a game, or enjoy a dessert, which would of course be the FUN.
A guest is welcome to stay for as much or as little time as they want at this point. This method of Formalities, Food, then Fun is foolproof and works at a bbq, girls' night, or evening spending time by the fire.
There you have it, my 10 ways to be a successful host! Notice that I am saying "successful" not "perfect." I don't think that anyone is the perfect host but we can all enjoy a great evening by following these steps!