Hosting House Guests 101

May 27th, 2013 posted by Amanda Formaro

by Kathy Bertone

Hosting House Guests 101 - 12 tips for being a great host to family and friends -

Your brother and his family will be coming to town for your niece’s wedding and needs a place to stay. Your mother-in-law wants to come see her grandchildren for a week, or maybe your friend from college is coming to town and would love to catch up with you. Whether it’s family, friends, holidays or not, here are some great chaos-free tips for hosting guests in your home.

1. Be Welcoming: Getting your house ready for guests is important, but it’s the way you greet them that sets the stage for the entire visit. If you open the door with the phone on your ear, a dirty dishtowel in hand, or acting anxious or disheveled guests could feel like they are imposing on your busy life. Open the door with smiles and a warm embrace, offer guests something to snack on and a beverage after their long trip – your efforts will be rewarded when you see the grateful smiles on their faces!

2. Be Gracious: While visions of Audrey Hepburn in a white flowing gown, moving effortlessly among her guests with a plate of homemade canapés might seem like the ideal host, it’s really time to come back to reality. Being gracious includes making a nervous guest feel at ease (your brother’s girlfriend you are meeting for the first time, for example), and keeping any criticisms to yourself (i.e. you still can’t believe your brother allows your niece to have face piercings). This is a time for keeping opinions at bay and making your houseguests feel welcome.

3. A Master Planner: Don’t wait until your guests come through the door to decide where everyone will sleep. That evening is not the time to be rummaging through the freezer looking for something to defrost for dinner. Good planning includes communicating with your impending guests before they arrive to find out if there are any food allergies to be concerned with, any sleeping arrangement preferences, and where the cars will be parked for the duration of the visit. Have a basket of toiletries in the bathroom, freshly washed sheets and blankets on the beds, and a place for little ones to play safely if needed.

4. The Picture of Restraint: Yes, your lifestyle is perfect for you, but keep in mind that your mother-in-law or your partner’s parent is on their way for the weekend. Do you love to argue about sex, religion, and politics? Maybe this is not the right visit. Respect yourself, but also who is coming.

5. SelfCaring: During the course of the visit you must take time for yourself. Take an adult “time out”; go for a walk alone or a soak in the tub. Tell the adults where you are going and why, but don’t tell the children, they will only come looking for you!

6. A Great Communicator: Let your guests know what is expected, and the house rules, if any. No matter how initially painful for you, or how petty sounding, you must speak up. Biting your tongue for days is just not comfortable. In expressing concerns, a message delivered with a smile or a short, logical explanation is better received.

7. In the Moment: Of course you have a thousand things to do throughout the length of the visit, but you also have to be in the moment, that is, accessible to your guests and enjoying them. Does your father want to play cards, or the kids a video game? The dishes can wait. Go join the fun.

8. A Skilled Ringleader: It’s literally raining on the parade, children want to go to the zoo and Uncle Henry wants to go to the neighborhood bar. However, there is only one car and someone caught a cold, no doubt, from the airplane flight to your home. It’s a Three-Ring-Circus and it’s only noon. Time to take proverbial whip in hand and get everything running smoothly.

9. Flexible: When the aforementioned whip doesn’t work, embrace this quality, necessary when that event so diligently planned has been cancelled; someone decides at the last minute they don’t want to do “X”; steaks are on the grill and someone forgot to mention they are vegetarian. Stay flexible and adjust as necessary.

10. Cool Under Pressure: For whatever reason your guests are wound tighter than a pair of Spandex shorts on a sumo wrestler. Not only do they hold you personally responsible for the terrible weather but they have gone and insulted your decorating prowess. Smile. An uptight host makes the guests even more so.

11. A Diplomat: a great host must jump into the middle of things when necessary to smooth feathers. A family member has brought up a past incident that no one really wants to talk about. You must have the ability to let people know what is and is not allowed or acceptable (it is your home so you rule) in a way that is not offensive or offending.

12. Able to Ensure a Happy Departure: How your guests feel when they depart is as important as how you made them feel when they arrived. Now is the time for big hugs and happy faces, even if you have been counting the minutes. You want this, weeks or months or years from now, to be remembered as a wonderful visit and a cherished family memory, as it should be.

Kathy Bertone is the co-founder and former managing partner of a merger and acquisition firm located outside Washington, DC. For years, she and her husband have enjoyed entertaining friends and family in their three homes. She currently lives in Naples, FL where she continues to perfect her hosting expertise. Kathy is the author of the new book, The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host, Becoming the Perfect Guest. For more information, please visit:

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