Hosting 101: 20 Ways to Welcome Weekend Guests

Ensure a stress-free visit — for both you and your guests — with these hosting rules of thumb.
By: Jennifer Huskey and H. Camille Smith

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Know Your Limits

The first rule of thumb, says entertaining expert Dana Christine, is to know the limits of your home and don't invite more guests than you or the house can accommodate. 

Make Accommodations for Both Kids and Furkids

If children are on the guest list, determine if you'll need to line up a babysitter if adult-only outings are on the schedule. If pets will be visiting as well, set up pet-friendly areas to ensure your furry guests are comfortable as well. 

Designate Kid Space

If your home is an ode to artful arrangements and small children are on the way, this is a good time to put away your most precious objects. A basket of dollar-store toys and books will occupy them while the adults catch up. 

Offer Refreshments on Arrival

So guests don't feel like they have to forage for food and drinks the minute they arrive, be sure to supply them with snacks and beverages on a tray.

Create a Retreat

"To help rejuvenate their spirits, give the guest room a 'bed-and-breakfast' feel," says interior designer Kevin Simon. Dress the bed with fresh linens and blankets and use baskets to hold towels and toiletries. For the ultimate guest experience, provide robes and slippers.

Provide Designated Storage Space

Equip the guest room with a bench or luggage rack for their suitcase and for guests staying more than one or two days, clear out a few dresser drawers or space in the closet so they can completely unpack.

Make Guests Feel at Home

Stock the guest room with a basket filled with magazines and books and gather postcards so guests can have a take-home memento.

Ready the Bathrooms

And don't forget to spruce up the bathroom, says event planner Damon Pease. "Simple indulgences like fresh flowers, luxury lotion and candles make guests feel welcome."

Happy Hour, Anytime

A stocked bar will be much appreciated by guests who like to end a busy day of sightseeing, shopping or sports with a cocktail. But, don't feel obligated to purchase every imaginable combination of booze and mixers; just stick to the basics. For liquors and liqueurs, you'll need: gin, dark or light rum, whiskey, scotch or bourbon, vodka, vermouth and cointreau. For mixers: a variety of fruit juices, tonic water, club soda, ginger ale, lemon-lime soda and diet and regular cola will ensure your guests can act as their own mixologists. 

Or, Offer Up a Different Type of Bar

Especially during cooler weather, guests will enjoy whipping up their favorite hot cup of coffee, espresso or cocoa. Stock a variety of flavored add-ins, like syrups, creamers and spices, to create coffee-shop favorites anytime. 

From: Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines

Set Up an Outdoor Gathering Area

Pull a few outdoor chairs together around a low table or firepit to create an alfresco gathering spot for relaxing with your guests while enjoying a morning cup of coffee or evening cocktail. 

Simplify Entertaining With Pre-Visit Meal Prep

To minimize your time in the kitchen once company arrives, prep ingredients in advance so easy meals and appetizers can be thrown together quickly.

Make Breakfast Grab-and-Go

For breakfast, organizing expert Pam Hix relies on doughnuts, bagels, pastries and a variety pack of single-serving cereal boxes for an easy morning spread that stays fresh for late-sleeping guests.

Serve Light Lunches Buffet Style

Especially on days when your plans include a big dinner out, simplify lunch duties by laying out an assortment of breads, cheeses and deli meats along with fresh fruit, veggies and a shareable dessert. A light, but filling, meal like this will hit the spot while cutting down your time in the kitchen. 

Keep Guests Satisfied Until Dinner

For midday munchies, offer a crudité and fruit platter and a couple of warm chip-and-dip combos to keep everyone satisfied until dinner. Also, be sure to have an ample supply of bottled water on hand so guests can quench their thirst on the go.

Make Guests Feel Comfortable in the Kitchen

So you're not waiting on your guests hand and foot, "make a list of where items are in the kitchen," says organizing expert Pam Hix and let them help themselves. Point out where plates and glasses are as well as what food you have in the fridge.

Designate a Rendez-Vous Spot

If you're hosting a large group whose plans have them headed in different directions, set a time each night to meet up at home for a quick cocktail or appetizer before dinner. This ensures that everyone will get a chance to socialize with the bigger group, no matter how hectic their schedules. 

Plan Group Activities

Plan an activity that guests of all ages can enjoy, like game night. In seasonable weather, take the party outside for lawn games like croquet, badminton or bocce. On rainy or cold nights, break out the playing cards, classic board games or even a big puzzle. Provide easy-to-munch snacks that can be passed around. 

Act as a Local Tour Guide

To keep everyone on track "write the day's events and weather forecasts on a chalkboard," says Kevin Simon. If guests will be spending time on their own, make sure they have a spare house key so they can come and go as they please. Also, supply them with a travel packet of brochures and a city map and "be sure to place a big X on the map to point out where your home is," offers Pam Hix.

Set Realistic Dates

Most importantly, entertaining expert Dana Christine says to establish arrival and departure dates and avoid inviting friends and family for an open-ended stay. "If you can't handle guests for more than a week, don't be shy about setting limits. This puts everyone on the same page and avoids surprises."

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