With Thanksgiving around the corner, now seems like a good time to discuss practicing civility in the home when we entertain guests. Some people are of the mind that just offering their home up for a party or meal makes them a good host. But I have attended enough awkward get-togethers to know that is not the case. Being a good host means being charming, gracious, thoughtful, and putting your guests at ease. (As for being a good guest, we’ll cover that next week!)
Think about bad parties you’ve been to. Perhaps the host did not offer you a drink, or failed to make introductions, or made you feel like you were an intruder. I once read a blog which posted a woman’s Thanksgiving dinner commands to her guests (many of whom were family members). She told each person exactly what to bring, how to present it, and what utensils to accompany it, plus what dishes or brands they should absolutely not make. What a nightmare! Who would want to be bossed around like that?
To make sure everyone has a great time, follow these simple host rules of civility:
Be prepared. If you’re serving food, make sure that’s clear and ask if there are any allergies or dietary preferences that you should know about. If you’re not cooking, let people know. I once went to a wedding that was held at 7pm. The reception was immediately after but only had alcohol and dessert—not a great combo on an empty stomach. I had to leave early because I was so hungry. Had I known food was not provided I would have eaten beforehand. Beyond food, think about factors like beverages, music, entertainment, seating, child care, etc. that may impact your guests’ experience. A little effort goes a long way.
Don’t micromanage. There’s a fine line between being prepared and being overbearing. For instance, it’s fine to delegate responsibilities to other family members for Thanksgiving dinner, but don’t order them around about every single detail. If it’s mandatory that you have a specific red wine with dinner, buy it yourself. Don’t get mad if a guest shows up with a bottle of white, or doesn’t make green bean casserole the way you like it.
Provide icebreakers. As host it’s your job to greet each guest warmly, offer them refreshments, and introduce them to the other guests. Sometimes a board game, charades, or even Rock Band can help people get to know each other and form a bond. If the conversation hits a lull, or one person is monopolizing the topic, it falls to you to steer the talk back to other subjects.
Don’t lose your cool. Yes, you’ve been cooking and cleaning all day, and there will be a million dishes to do later. But save the martyr act. It was your choice to throw a party, and it would be a shame to make guests—provided they’re not destroying your house—feel like a burden. Also, thank your guests the next day for coming to the event.