Tips to be a great host

December 24, 2020

Tips to be a great host

The gift of hospitality comes very natural to some. My mother is one of the world’s greatest hosts. Her photo should be next to “The hostess with the mostess,” in the urban dictionary. Everytime she invites people over they leave feeling refreshed, relaxed, and wishing the party wouldn’t end. The interesting thing is her parties are not always the same and the guests cover a wide range of people. She hob-nobs with the elite and the common, the wealthy and the poor, the extroverts and the introverts. No matter who is sitting at her table I can almost guarantee they will leave her home feeling warm and cozy and hoping to get another invite soon. How does she do it? 

She has perfected some of the basic rules of being a great host. Seeing that many of us will be hosting Christmas soon I wanted to share these practical ideas to help you be the “Hostess with the mostess” this year. 

Tips to be a great host.

Create a welcoming environment

When we take care to create a welcoming environment it immediately lets our guests relax. Just like when you walk through the doors of a fancy hotel and you see the gathering areas, the reception, and take in the beauty that is how our guests should feel when they come into our home. You might be thinking…I only have a small house. I have had the same grand welcome in tiny homes that I have in mansions. Here are the practical things you can do:

  • Make sure things are clean – I’m not talking about 5-star-hotel or white-glove clean but tidy. Ensure that toys, books and clutter are stored out of site. If you have pets make sure that couches and surfaces are free of pet hair. Give the floors a sweep or vacuum. Lastly, make sure that bathroom toilets and sinks are clean. 
  • Put clean towels in bathrooms – there is nothing more off-putting than a crumpled and sour towel on the rack
  • Light candles – If there will be children make sure these are put up high enough so as not to burn little fingers. Candles bring a relaxing ambience to any setting so light one in the bathroom if possible and definitely one on the table or kitchen counter. Don’t choose a scent that is too overpowering though. Here are a few links to my favorite candles and scents. 
  • Music – now this is definitely a matter of taste so consider WHO will be joining you and WHAT the event is for. If you are hosting Christmas with a mixed group, choose music that you might hear in a local coffee shop or nice restaurant. Spotify has some fabulous playlists that set the soundscape beautifully. Here are the names of a few of my favorites.
    • Dinner lounge – think high-end hotel or bougie restaurant
    • Hipster Cocktail Party Radio – I love this mix of old and new songs and it is what you would imagine in a room full of hipsters
    • Classy Dinner Party – this is one that you would imagine your grandmother would love to listen to BUT it’s AWESOME jazz from the era of Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Etta Jame
    • Mexican Beach Vacation – this is my backyard go to list for BBQs and casual outdoor hangs
  • Setup lounging and gathering areas – When guests know they are allowed and welcomed to sit down somewhere they relax. There is a place made for them. Wherever you want guests to gather make sure you have ample seating and preset items like appetizers in the areas where guests are welcome. 

Serve food and drinks

You don’t have to go all out like Italians…although they do parties better than any other culture I know. If you are wanting to really make your guests feel honored then by all means recreate an Italian party menu. Regardless, if you are handy in the kitchen make something you are confident in preparing. If you aren’t a cook, put together a charcuterie board! Just have something your guests can nibble on as you gather. Always offer water and offer a selection of other beverages. The food and drinks don’t need to be fancy or over-the-top but they do need to be prepped in advance. If the host is banging pots and pans in the kitchen looking like an episode from “Hell’s Kitchen” the guests feel stressed out for them. 

Encourage conversation

This is where my mother shines. She can start a conversation with a house plant. She easily asks questions that launch into interesting conversations. Think about what you might want to learn about your guests. If you are curious, other people would be too. Here are a few intro questions that will get you thinking.

  • What’s the last movie you watched?
  • Do you have any interesting plans for the upcoming week/weekend/month?
  • What’s your favorite way to waste time?
  • What’s one food item you would have a hard time living without?
  • Do you have pets? If so, what are their names?
  • What’s one of your favorite toys from childhood?
  • Are you a paper book or audio book person?
  • If you could drive any kind of antique car what would it be?

Lead out with a few general questions like the standard; “What do you do for a living? Kids, married, etc.? Have you always lived here?” Then move on to some of these more personal but fun questions.

Have an above and beyond spirit

Great hosts cater to the needs of their guests. If someone is gluten-free they have alternatives for them. If someone is afraid of dogs they put their animals away for the evening. If someone is painfully shy they introduce them to others by sharing similar interests so they have a talking point. Have a servant hearted attitude. This will ensure more than anything else that your guests will love their time in your home.

Great hosts know that the environment plays a huge role in making guests feel welcome so they spend time cleaning and setting up the area to help guests relax and feel safe. They carefully select food and drinks that are tasty and they can put together without stress. They enjoy their company by encouraging conversation. The main thing that sets apart a good host from a great host is focusing on making your guests feel welcomed, loved, and cared for. Just like a 5-star hotel goes above and beyond making sure your requests are met, a great host goes above and beyond meeting the needs of their guests. I hope that as you plan to host you will not feel stressed about people coming over but excited that you get an opportunity to serve those in your world. What are your tips to be a great host? If you have more that aren’t listed here I would love to hear from you!

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