From the gifts to the décor to the food to the mood, the pressure of holiday hospitality can be nerve-wracking. The expectations and obstacles can be enough to make us want to lock our doors and shut the front porch light off for good. We worry about our furniture, our housekeeping, our holiday decorations, our cooking, and all the flaws that keep us from feeling like our home is ready to welcome guests.
Even grand plans for holiday entertaining often fall apart somewhere along the way between our visit to Starbucks for a triple Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha and our fifteenth trip to the mall! Flat tires, burnt roasts, head colds, plumbing disasters and the aroma of dead rodents wafting through the air as your guests arrive can nearly ruin your mood for a holiday party! Trust me, I’ve seen all these things. Life happens, and it isn’t usually in our plans.
So should we start panicking or pull the blinds and pretend no one is home? Before you say “YES!” let me share with you some simple and foolproof things anyone can do to create a beautiful and memorable gathering, even at the eleventh hour.
Ambience is one of the secrets to a warm and welcoming home. It tells your guests you care about them and thought of their enjoyment as you prepared your home for their arrival. Simple ambience will help distract from a multitude of flaws and shortcomings so you can focus on what hospitality is all about, serving others. By doing just 10 simple things before opening your doors for a party, you can create a welcoming and festive mood no matter what other obstacles stand in your way!
- Sweep your front walk and porch and make sure you have a clean doormat outside the door for guests to wipe their feet.
- Turn on your outdoor lights. If your walkway is poorly lit, here is a simple idea to light the way to your party in simple but festive style. Fill Mason jars about ¼ full with Epsom salts and add votive candles. Line your walkway and/or front porch with these little candles and your guests will feel they are walking into a warm and inviting place.
- Pay special attention to your entryway. First impressions of your home will go a long way to making your guests feel comfortable. Have a candle to scent the air (I usually light mine for two hours in the afternoon, then I blow it out to let the wax cool for about an hour, and then re-light it about 20 minutes before the party. This trick ensures your house will smell wonderful and will allow you to keep the candle burning for the duration of your party without your wick drowning in wax.). Be sure to put away clutter and shoes, have a clean mat inside to wipe feet, and prepare a place in a closet or bedroom for guests’ coats.
- Have an inviting and sparkling clean powder room stocked with clean hand towels, extra toilet paper, empty wastebasket and a good smelling candle ready to light before guests arrive. Make sure the candle is in a safe place away from little hands and fire hazards.
- Have soft music to play during your party–not so loud that people can’t talk without shouting but loud enough to add a festive feeling to the atmosphere. Instrumental usually works best for background music. Pick something soothing, yet not so mellow that it will put your guests to sleep. Lightly upbeat will keep the mood right.
- Have plenty of places for your guests to sit, with extra chairs or footstools to pull up to conversation areas, and places for them to set their drinks near the seating areas. Setting out bowls of nuts or snacks can give guests something to nibble on before the main meal is served.
- Turn off the TV!
- Turn on all the lights in the house, including hallways and stairwells. This is no time to worry about saving electricity. A poorly lit home feels unwelcoming and depressing and makes your home look dowdy. You can dim lights if you have dimmers, but make sure that the house feels cozy and welcoming with no dark and dreary corners.
- Have beverages ready to serve as guests arrive, including pitchers of ice water. Hot-spiced cider steaming on the stove always makes a house smell wonderful and is a festive beverage to offer guests when they first arrive. Here is the recipe I use:Hot Spiced Cranberry Cider
8 cups apple cider
8 cups cranberry juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
8 whole allspice
8 whole cloves
1 orange, quartered
Combine apple cider and cranberry juice. Stir in brown sugar, add cinnamon sticks, allspice, cloves and orange. Heat in a large kettle to just below boiling point, reduce heat to simmering. Strain and serve hot.
- Let guests know not only when to arrive, but when the food will be served so they know what to expect and can plan accordingly.
Now you can open the door with a smile and say, “Come on in!” knowing your guests will have a delightful time in your home, in spite of the inevitable disaster or two!
1 Peter 4:9-10 “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully, administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
©2007, Melissa Michaels
Photo credit, Melissa Michaels