I used to believe I knew exactly what it took to be a good host. I’d try my best to offer delicious food and drinks and make sure the house was sparkling clean.
And yet…my guests never seemed to feel at home.
Then I visited one of my close friends, Jenna, and her husband Joe to stay for a few nights, and immediately noticed my entire visit felt like a warm hug.
The decor invited me in. Things were clean enough to make me comfortable but not so spotless that I couldn’t relax and actually use items, like the throw blankets and pillows scattered about.
From the relaxed and unscheduled vibe, to the pile of clean towels in the guest bathroom, to the multiple areas arranged for visiting, I felt like I was being treated to a hotel stay.
But this time? I left feeling more relaxed and refreshed than when I arrived.
And it left me wondering…what exactly was it that made me feel so at home there? And how could I recreate that same feeling for a friend or family member?
I collected my own thoughts on this topic and then opened up the conversation to you, our readers, on social media. And friends, you did not disappoint!
Whether you’re hosting close friends, a dinner party, a holiday season gathering, or overnight guests, here are the big and little things we all agreed on:
Be a Good Host at the Front Door
Invite others to visit your home.
It sounds like a given, but to be a great host, you have to first extend an invitation.
If you’ve never invited your neighbors over, don’t expect them to immediately feel at home when they step inside your door for the first time to ask a favor or return your escape artist dog. If your potential guest has to decline your invitation at the time, be sure to let them know that your door is always open.
Sincerely welcome guests.
Your facial expressions, words, and tone at the front door all send a message to your guest about how truly welcome they are. So even if you’re stressed out and covered in gravy from an explosive kitchen mishap (maybe that’s just me?!), take a deep breath and sincerely smile as you say your hellos.
Greet your guests with a warm hug (if you’re both comfortable with it).
One of the most popular reader requests was for hugs the moment they step in the front door. The warm and welcoming tone of a hug helps set the stage for the rest of their visit.
Offer a place to set their things.
I know I often awkwardly scan a room to find an appropriate place to set my purse. I want it to be easily accessible, away from pets, kids, and feet, and also acceptable to my host.
Take the guesswork out of the equation by immediately offering guests a table or closet to safely house any purses, coats, diaper bags, or other belongings. This is one area where a little effort can go a long way to make guests feel welcomed from the moment they step through the front door.
Be a Good Host Entering the Main Living Area
Another popular request? Offering hot coffee, tea, water, or another drink.
Most guests will feel like a bother asking to drink something from your fridge if you haven’t offered. So eliminate that possibility as soon as they step in the door, and before you start visiting and forget!
Offer a snack.
You don’t necessarily have to make a special shopping trip to have your guests’ favorites on hand. (Although you can never go wrong with that approach, especially when food allergies are at stake.)
But I always try to keep some crowdpleasers at the ready. Think chips and salsa, cheese and summer sausage, break-and-bake cookies, or veggies with ranch dip.
I love making up a small tray of fruit when children come to visit. The sweetness makes it feel like a special treat to them but it’s still a healthy option, sure to please parents.
Want to class things up a bit? Consider making or buying a cheese board to snack from while you visit!
It’s truly the little things that count!
Bonus points: Show your guests where to find those drinks and snacks in the fridge and pantry, and tell them to help themselves whenever they’d like.
This makes your guests feel more like family.
Show guests where everything is and invite them to make themselves at home.
The single most repeated and requested phrase in reader comments was “make yourself at home.” This seems to be the magic phrase that sets people at ease and convinces them they really are welcome.
Don’t stop offering drinks and snacks.
Just because your guest wasn’t thirsty 30 minutes ago doesn’t mean they aren’t thirsty now. Or maybe they’d like to finish that cup of coffee but believe they’ll need to make it last.
Freely and frequently making those small gestures helps to sustain the welcoming feeling.
Invite guests to take a seat and relax.
Again, this seems like a given. I mean, they’re obviously going to sit for the majority of their visit, right?
But by ushering them to the comfiest chair in the living room and using that magic phrase, “relax,” you’re not only allowing them to sit, you’re inviting them to.
Be a Good Host By Tweaking Your Home
Keep things (just somewhat) clean.
Sure, a bit messier home might make your guests feel more like family. Buuuuut most people don’t want to have to relocate a pile of laundry to find an open seat…or navigate a pee-splattered toilet.
The general sentiment was that too clean makes your home feel almost unrelatable, but that a little spot cleaning will go a long way in making guests feel more comfortable.
Overnight guests? Ensure you provide clean sheets and towels and a guest room (or “pop-up” guest room in the living room) free from clutter.
Make your house smell like home.
Whether it’s the crockpot roasting dinner, freshly brewed coffee, or a clean or yummy-smelling candle, be mindful of the scent guests will encounter as they walk through the door. (I love to burn seasonal scents like pumpkin or gingerbread.)
This is especially key if your home tends to smell like smoke, pets, or other strong scents.
(Want some extra help in this area? Check out How to Make Your Home Smell Good | Combat Odors & Create a Signature Scent.)
Provide a comfortable seat.
Unlike inviting guests to take a seat, this tip is all about making sure the seat is comfortable.
For example, if your guest is under five feet tall, don’t offer the high barstools on the kitchen island for her to climb up into. If they’re elderly, be sure the seat isn’t too low, making it difficult to get in and out of.
Most readers said they’d opt for a cozy couch and nothing so fancy they’d worry about ruining.
I’d personally add offering a pet hair-free place to sit. Your guests may not enjoy animals like you do, may not want to leave your home covered in pet hairs, and may even be allergic.
Offer guests a comfy blanket.
Of course, they aren’t planning to take a nap. But lots of people enjoy cozying up to a warm blanket or throw pillow while they chat, especially during colder months.
Keep a few nearby, folded in a basket, hanging on a ladder, or simply draped over the arm of the couch. Not only will it make guests feel at home, it will also help to contribute to that hygge home feeling.
Be a Good Host By Giving Guests Your Full Attention
Turn off the tv and put down your phone.
Judge me if you will, but I strongly dislike when family and friends come together to…all look down at their phones…or silently watch tv together. I don’t feel like we’re visiting much at all.
After all, I don’t want to interrupt someone’s Instagram feed with my conversation. And I’m not fully convinced my host is truly listening to me if they’re simultaneously checking notifications.
Eliminate technological distractions if you’re aiming to hold a conversation.
Make sure you’re listening as much, if not more than, you’re talking.
Have you ever had the feeling someone was talking at you instead of with you? To be a great host, one who makes guests feel fully heard, follow the old adage that we have two ears and one month…and try listening twice as much as you speak.
Be a Good Host to Overnight Guests
If you’re hosting overnight guests, consider going the extra mile to load up on their favorite beverages and foods.
One of the hardest parts of staying the night away from home is losing the ability to walk to your own fridge, filled with all of your favorite things. Providing this comfort to guests is an easy way to make your home feel more like theirs.
Stock the bathroom with toiletries and be sure to invite guests to use them.
Most guests will pack their own toothpaste and other toiletries, not knowing for certain if their host will provide those items. So making the extra effort to stock the bathroom with shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, Q-tips, tweezers, and fluffy towels, will make their stay feel more like a treat than a necessity.
Stock their bed or guest room.
Pile your guest room high with extra pillows, blankets, and clean sheets so guests can choose as many or as few as they prefer. Leave a note with the WiFi password. And consider any personal touches they might enjoy, like a few bottles of water or fresh flowers at their bedside.
Let them know they’re welcome to the fridge, or to relax in the living room, even if you’re asleep or doing something else.
I can think of several times I’ve stayed in a guest room, trying to pass time reading or scrolling social media, because I didn’t feel comfortable hanging out in the living room or any other room when my hosts weren’t there. Verbalizing this to your overnight guests is incredibly helpful in putting them at ease to move about freely.
Give them a tour to show them where everything is.
Another popular request was to show guests where to find things, rather than simply providing them. After all, if overnight guests need another blanket in the middle of the night, they don’t want to be left with the choice of either waking you up to ask or rummaging through your hall closets uninvited.
Showing guests where to find what they need provides a clear and open invitation to truly make themselves at home.
Be a Good Host By Making Just-in-Case Plans
The best hosts prepare for the unexpected! By making a few “just-in-case plans,” you can help turn moments of potential discomfort into opportunities for connection and an enjoyable experience.
Facilitating Conversations and Activities
We’ve all experienced awkward silences, or even full-on stops, in conversation. One of the best ways to minimize this experience is to make a short mental list (or even jot one down on your phone!) of appropriate topics to fill the gaps if/when they pop up.
These could include asking about your guest’s family, hobbies, job, or even that delicious meal they posted on social media! Try to keep your conversation starters focused on your guest, keeping in mind the two-ears-one-mouth rule mentioned above.
Guest not a big talker? Combat awkward silences by bringing out a few board game options they might enjoy!
Kids experience lulls too! So help your child brainstorm a few different activity ideas you can have on hand when the inevitable “we’re booooored!” pops up with younger guests.
Handling Unexpected Situations
It’s highly unlikely that everything will go as planned with your visit. You might need to tackle a sudden spill on the carpet or a guest feeling unwell.
Be sure to keep cleaning and first aid supplies, as well as common medicines close at hand so that you can move swiftly and calmly to address any unexpected situations.
Hosting with Pets
Your furry friends add joy to your life but it’s important to remember that your guests might have allergies or feel uncomfortable around animals.
Ensure you establish a pet-free zone for those who might need it, and keep lint rollers or a small laundry kit handy for guests who may find pet hair on their clothing. Always check in advance if any of your guests have pet-related concerns, and plan accordingly.
By becoming more mindful of how you greet and invite guests in, arrange your home, and give guests your full attention, you’ll be one of the best hosts in no time.
Incorporate just a few of these tips, and you’ll already be a great host. Try half or even more of them, and your home will become a favorite destination of family, close friends, and even strangers.
Enjoy your company!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I make sure my guests have a good time?
Ensuring your guests have a good time involves a mix of preparation, attention to detail, and hospitality. Here are some tips to ensure a good time is had by all:
- Prepare in Advance: Prepare as much as you can ahead of time. This includes cleaning, setting up the space, and prepping the food. The more you prepare beforehand, the more time you’ll have to spend with your guests.
- Create a Welcoming Atmosphere: Greet your guests warmly as they arrive. As mentioned above, a sincere welcome can set a positive tone for the event.
- Serve Simple Yet Delicious Food: You don’t need to create a complicated main course and 20 sides. Simple, delicious dishes that can be prepared ahead of time will allow you to enjoy the company of your guests instead of being stuck in the kitchen. Of course, don’t forget to check with your guests for any food allergies!
- Offer a Variety of Beverages: Provide a selection of drinks to cater to different preferences. This could include alcoholic options like wine or beer, as well as non-alcoholic choices like water, soda, tea, and coffee.
- Engage Your Guests: Facilitate conversations and introduce guests to one another. Sharing stories, playing games, or even having dedicated entertainment such as music or a hired performer can help keep guests engaged.
- Be Attentive: Pay attention to your guests’ needs. Make sure they have everything they need, such as refilling their drinks or offering them more food.
- Create a Comfortable Environment: Ensure that the temperature is comfortable and that there is enough seating for everyone. Background music can also help set a relaxed mood.
- Plan Activities: Depending on the occasion and your guests’ interests, plan some activities or entertainment. This could be anything from board games to a DIY photo booth.
- Be Flexible: Even with the best planning, be prepared to go with the flow. Adapt to the mood of the gathering and be open to your guests’ suggestions.
- Send Them Home with Something Special: A small party favor or a leftover treat for the road can be a pleasant surprise for your guests. This is one area where a little effort can go a long way!
These are some of the best ways to create an enjoyable and memorable experience for your guests, ensuring a good time is had by all.
Where can I find dinner party menu ideas?
You can find dinner party menu ideas for any special occasion from sources like PureWow, which offers recipes for stress-free entertaining, or Food Network, which provides a list of impressive yet foolproof main course ideas. For those looking for affordable options, Taste of Home features recipes for dinner parties that won’t break the bank.
If you need a full dinner party menu including cocktails, appetizers, main courses, sides, and desserts, you might want to check out thekittchen. Again, be careful to review your guest list for any food allergies!
What are the essentials for throwing a successful house party?
To throw a successful house party, your essentials include a well-planned guest list, a comfortable setting, a selection of delicious food and drinks, and a fitting music playlist. Pay special attention that your space is prepared for the number of guests and that there are engaging activities or spaces for mingling.
What should I include in a guest room essentials basket?
Creating a guest room essentials basket is a thoughtful and easy way to welcome overnight guests and make their stay more comfortable. Here are some items you could include:
- Toiletries: Stock the basket with travel-sized essentials such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. You could also add a razor, deodorant, and face masks for a spa-like touch.
- Snacks and Drinks: Consider adding some light snacks such as crackers, chocolates, or fresh fruit. A few bottles of water or a selection of teas and coffee can also be appreciated.
- Comfort Items: Items like cozy slippers, a soft throw blanket, or a small pillow can make your guests feel at home.
- Entertainment: Include a couple of magazines, books, or a puzzle book. You could also provide the wifi password and any instructions for using the TV or other electronics in the guest room.
- Personal Touches: A handwritten welcome note can add a warm, personal touch. You might also include a scented candle or a small bouquet of fresh flowers to make the space feel inviting.
- Practical Items: Don’t forget practical items like extra chargers, an alarm clock, a small flashlight, or a nightlight.
- Local Information: If your guests are from out of town, include a map, a guidebook, or a list of your favorite local restaurants and attractions.
Remember, the key to a great guest room basket is to tailor it to the needs and preferences of your guests. This will help to make their stay feel like less of a necessity and more of a special occasion.
Can you recommend any books with tips on hosting guests?
Yes! Consider reading books like The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker for innovative insights, or Entertaining by Martha Stewart for classic hosting etiquette. These books offer a wealth of tips on the best ways to host guests and can inspire you to create memorable experiences for everyone on your guest list.
What are some hosting tips shared by users on Reddit?
Users on Reddit often suggest personal touches like tailored playlists or home-cooked meals. Some hosting tips shared by Reddit users include offering a range of beverages to cater to all tastes and having a clear end time to manage expectations.
For hosting guests over an extended period, what should I consider?
When hosting guests for more than a day, you should consider their comfort and privacy.
Have clean sheets and linens, extra toiletries, and a space for their belongings. Plan for a mix of group activities and alone time to ensure they don’t feel overwhelmed.
What traits define the perfect host?
The perfect host is attentive, gracious, and adaptive, able to respond to guests’ needs while ensuring that the atmosphere remains welcoming and enjoyable for all attendees. They are well-organized, good communicators, and pay special attention to their guests’ experience, whether it’s their first time visiting or their hundredth time.
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*Updated November 25, 2023.
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