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The art of gracious hosting

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Making overnight guests feel at home

If you're hosting overnight guests for the holidays, you want to give them a warm welcome and make sure they feel comfortable. Follow these tips for showing your company there's no place like your home.
Guest room

It's no secret that we at SheKnows love hosting. From the best recipes for your dinner party to great decorative touches, we've got you covered. But, when you're hosting guests overnight, some special touches will not only make your guests feel welcome, but it will make them glad they didn't stay at some fancy hotel.

candlePreparing the guest room

When you're hosting overnight guests, set up the guest room as comfortably as possible. Your guest room should be clean and uncluttered. As cute as all those decorative pillows and stuffed animals are, they should be put away while guests are in town. You don't want it to take them half an hour to pull back the covers, after all. A few choice pillows are elegant and easy to set aside at bedtime.

You should also make sure there's plenty of assorted reading material, especially if there's no TV in the room. If you know your guests well enough, make some special selections they can take with them for the drive home. If not, provide an assortment of modern magazines for men and women and a few books of different genres. You should also include these creature comforts:

  • Extra blankets
  • Extra pillows
  • Tissues on either side of the bed
  • Water glasses
  • Alarm clock
  • Closet space and extra hangers, empty drawer
  • A bag or hamper for dirty laundry
  • Scented candles (with lighter or matches)
  • Flashlights (in case they need to navigate through a dark house they aren't familiar with)
  • Assorted movies on DVD (to watch on the computer if there's no player or TV in the room)
  • Multi-device universal USB charger
  • Pen and paper

If you really want to go all out, a mint on the pillow is a great cap to the evening. But, instead of a regular mint, try providing guests with a liquor-infused truffle or even mini-bottles of brandy for nightcaps. Don't forget the brandy snifters next to the bed.

towelsPreparing the bathroom

When you're staying overnight at someone's house, there's nothing more uncomfortable than getting used to a new bathroom, especially if you realize you've forgotten something.

You can make your guest's time away a lot easier by making the bathroom as comfortable as possible. Nothing says, "we love having guests in our home" like those extra touches.

Purchase an attractive glass decanter to fill with mouthwash and set out two small glasses for rinsing (shot glasses work well). Surround it with lovely aromatherapy candles or attractive little soaps. It's an inexpensive way to make your guest bathroom both elegant and welcoming.

You should also make sure you have nice, matching towels that aren't too decorative set out. Guests may question whether they're supposed to use towels that have extra special designs (like Christmas trees or snowflakes).

You should also have some backup emergency supplies in hotel sizes on hand. Many grocery and discount stores have aisles of sample-sized bins (or you can finally put those hotel soaps and shampoos you've been stealing for years to good use).

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Toothpaste, unopened toothbrushes and mouthwash
  • Extra medicine (pain reliever, allergy medicine, lozenges, etc.)
  • Unopened bathing poufs
  • Lotion
  • Shaving cream/gel and disposable razors
  • Cotton swabs
  • Extra hand and body towels
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Saline solution for contacts
  • Essential oils, perfumes and colognes
  • Extra heater

pancakesPlan the menu

Don't forget about food. If they plan to come in later in the evening, plan to have snacks and appetizers to snack on while people catch up. There's nothing worse than leaving your guests to amuse themselves while you cook steak and potatoes.

For breakfast, plan to have something a little special. You don't want to serve your guests cold cereal. It's easy to make pancakes in the morning — all you need to make it a little fancier is some special toppings (regular and strawberry syrup, whipped cream, nuts, bananas and fruit chutneys, etc.).

If your guests aren't staying long, you might skip a fancy home-cooked meal the next evening and opt for taking them to a great new restaurant in town. But if you do plan to cook, don't forget to invite your guests to help if they're also home cooks. It will probably be fun to collaborate.

Last, but not least: The tour

When your guests arrive, give them the tour. Don't just focus on the new wet bar you added since they were in town last. Show them their room, the bathroom and any amenities they may need to take advantage of.

Simply showing them what you have and where they can find it in case they need it goes a long way to making them feel comfortable making themselves at home. Don't forget to show them their way around the kitchen (glasses, fridge and snacks, etc.) and tell them to help themselves.

If they have any special needs, show them how to take care of those, too. A new mom will appreciate knowing she can use the rocking chair in your craft room to nurse privately because she can lock the door (the parenthetical there is that you both know your husband won't set foot in there, anyway).

The goal, after all, isn't just to impress your guests, it's to make them feel welcome and at home. Think about what would make you feel comfortable, and you’ll be guest home free!

More hosting tips

Make your guest room feel like a hotel suite
Tips for relaxed hosting
Top 5 holiday hosting don'ts

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