When planning an event, including ideas on making your home inviting to guests is just as important as the theme and menu.
I can remember back when I was first married and began hosting for the first time, my sole focus was on the event itself. When we hosted Thanksgiving for the first time, it was all about the menu. When we hosted our son’s first birthday party it was all about the theme, the decorations and the cake. It wasn’t until I had hosted several events, and started to pay attention to what it was exactly when I really enjoyed attending an event, that I began to think about the importance of the experience of our guests. I think it’s something that’s so easy to overlook when you are caught up in all of the details required when planning a party, but the comfort and enjoyment of your guests is also an important part of the process. Aside from just wanting your guests to have a good time, you also want them to actually return the next time you extend an invitation. Making sure they have a pleasant experience is a good way to make that happen.
Some of the tips listed below may seem like no-brainers, but the simple details can be easy to overlook when you are in the hustle and bustle of it all. I will admit that sometimes I put a little too much thought into this part of my planning (as evidenced by the look on my husband’s face when I run the 17th idea past him!) but following are a few of my regular go-to details:
- Turn on a small wax warmer in the restroom. I find candles to be a bit overpowering for a small room, plus leaving unattended candles in a full house might not be the best idea. I like to opt for either a small warmer on the counter or a nightlight style warmer plugged directly into an outlet (unless you’re going to have toddlers in the house, if so it’s probably best to skip this one). I like to use just a clean smelling scent so that it has a wide appeal. I know it’s hard to believe, but not everyone loves the smell of a cinnamon bun in the restroom (I know, I don’t get it either 😉 ) so I think it’s best to stick with a rather neutral scent. Besides offering a clean scent to the room, since a wax warmer uses low watt lights to heat the wax, the soft glow they provide when guests enter the room is a nice touch.
- Have a dedicated drink area. Don’t wait for your guests to ask where the ice or the cups or the drink options are, go ahead and put them all out and in one spot. If you have some drinks that are best left chilled in the refrigerator be sure to announce what it is, where they can find it and an invitation to help themselves. Guests can feel uncomfortable asking when they are ready for a drink and the options are nowhere to be found, or there are pitchers of tea and punch readily available but not an ice cube in sight. Make it easy for guests by creating an obvious area dedicated to everything needed to help themselves to a drink.
- Have plenty of seating available. People feel more relaxed when they can find a seat and settle in. The seating doesn’t have to be fancy or formal. We have a set of old wooden chairs that had seen better days that a family member was giving away at a yard sale. We snagged them, painted them black and now pull them out everytime we have a gathering. No one cares that they aren’t top quality, they are just glad to find a seat when they need one.
- Greet each guest as the arrive or shortly thereafter. I know this seems so obvious but when you’re finishing up all of the last minute preparations it’s easy to forget to acknowledge a guest’s arrival. Your personal greeting can go a long way towards making them feel like you really want them to be there. Also, if they’ve never been to your home be sure to give them a quick run down on where they can find the restroom and tell them where that drink station is located!
- Have a designated spot for coats and purses. A coat closet with plenty of empty hangers is ideal but if this isn’t an option, have an alternative available. If the “coat closet” needs to be on the bed in the master bedroom, that’s okay. Maybe ask your kids to be the runners. Coach them ahead of time to politely ask guests if they can take their coats as they arrive and to nicely lay the coats, in a single layer if possible, across the bed. Absent this instruction, you might find all of the guests’ coats in a wrinkled heap on your bed at the end of the night!
- Change the toilet paper out with a new roll just prior to guests’ arrival. As a guest, there is nothing worse than having to track down the host to ask where the spare toilet paper is kept! Depending on the number of guests and the length of the party you may also want to consider placing a small basket with additional rolls somewhere in plain site just in case additional is needed.
- Consider adjusting the temperature of your house. If you keep your house on the cooler side in the winter, consider kicking the heat up a couple of degrees about an hour before guests arrive. Remember however that if you have a lot of guests, the body heat produced from having a large number of people may really warm up your home as the night progresses. You may actually have to adjust the temperature again during the event. Pay attention to whether guests seems to be pushing up their sleeves and fanning themselves or rubbing their arms while they shiver and adjust accordingly.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to have a perfect setup for your event to be successful. Making your home inviting to guests is important, but even if things aren’t just right they will appreciate the chance to visit with friends or family and indulge in some delicious food. These tips are all things I keep in mind as I’m planning to host a holiday or event, but sometimes I get so busy with all of the other preparations that a few of these may fall through the cracks. However, even with the lack of perfection our friends and family still keep coming back!