Last week was Thanksgiving and it was my very first time hosting a large holiday gathering at my house, and boy did I learn a thing or two. I would have done a few things differently, but I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve learned by seeing my mom (the greatest hostess ever), from doing some research, and from my experience. Hopefully I’ll be able to help you avoid any disasters, fights, and being stressed to the max. So here are my eight to tips on how to host a memorable holiday.
1. Communicate Early
Don’t procrastinate when it comes to communicating to your guests or family. Make sure to contact your family through email, or over phone at least 2 weeks time before the holiday. When I planned Thanksgiving at my house this year a couple weeks prior I emailed everyone in the family to tell them what to expect, how many people I could accommodate sleeping, possible activities you could do as a family, and ask if there’s any certain foods the family wants or food allergies, and food assignments for each family member. Make sure you include the nitty gritty details like your wifi password.
2. Clean, Organize, and Wash
This is the thing that will take up most of your time if you can’t afford to hire a cleaning service to come and deep clean your house. If you can’t afford a cleaning service like me, you’re going to have to plan ahead and do a little deep cleaning each day. Here’s a great list of suggested things you should do to get your house ready for guests. They suggest you take 30 days to do this, where you can spend 30 minutes to a hour each day. Make sure to keep the house pretty tidy the week prior. The day before make sure to do a thorough tidy clean up.
Make sure to change the sheets and bedding for your guests, this is a MUST. It gives me the heebie jeebies thinking about sleeping in sheets that someone else slept in. We had some family members sleep on air mattresses, and a couch. Just make sure you thought about where and assign each of your guests a place where they can sleep, change, get ready, and have a little privacy.
*On Thanksgiving day some of my family members needed to prepare some of the food for our dinner in my kitchen. Because I made my side dishes ahead I spent my time being an assistance to my guests. I gave myself the assignment to tidy up after people in the kitchen and the living room. Assign someone to be the constant dishwasher and one person to keep the kitchen tidy by putting things away and tidying up (I did this because I knew my away around the kitchen and was helping people find things that they needed). By doing this I was able to avoid an entire counter full of dirty dishes and having a kitchen look like a disaster.
3. Take Inventory
Take the time to make sure you have all of the china, utensils, cups, goblets, napkins, tablecloths, chairs, tables, serving ware, pillows, bedding, towels, toilet paper, and etc you’re going to need. I ended up going to Cost Plus World Market and grabbed a couple of things to help spruce up my table. Another thing to do is you’ll want to think about how you’re going to want to set your table. I would play it simple unless you’re hosting the Queen of England. For my centerpiece I got two of these silver twig candle holders, 2 packages of gold striped candles, ivory herringbone table runner, and some fresh cedar garland,
4. Go Grocery Shopping
Plan ahead of what you’ll be making for the holidays and the meals you’ll need to feed the crowd for breakfasts, and lunches if you’ll have guests staying overnight. Try to plan meals around leftovers from your big meal (like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner). If you do have family stay for a couple of days, assign them to be in charge of providing a breakfast or lunch. I see no problem doing this especially of how expensive it can be to feed a large crowd. Unless you come from a family of chefs try to keep the meals simple and nutritious.
5. Deck the House
One way to set a cozy mood for the holidays is to get it decorated. You don’t need to have every spot in your home decorated but have at least these three places:
–The Front Door/Porch: It’s the first place people see when they come to your house, make a great impression by adding some fresh garland around the door (make sure to check out my tutorial on how to preserve fresh greenery including garland, wreaths, and Christmas trees here), hang a pretty wreath on the door, install some lights on the house.
–Family/Living Room: Depending the layout of the house this is the second place your guests will see. I would put your Christmas tree in one of these areas. I have my tree by my bay windows in my living room so you can see it from the street. I have my nativity scene (high and far away from children), and I added a little cedar garland on top of my china cabinet, and that’s it!
–Fireplace Mantel: If you have a mantel this is the place where I kind of go crazy. Add stockings, garland, lights, wreaths, holiday pictures, candlesticks, and Christmas trinkets.
Make sure to not put out your nicest, expensive, and precious decorations out where children can touch, get their hands on, and break. If you do put them up really high so they can get into them.
*I’m a huge believer in setting the mood with music and scent. I’m kind of obsessed with these two things because I strongly believe these two things can really enhance the holidays. My favorite place for music is Pandora and I’m really loving my Indie Holiday Playlist. It’s the perfect combo of classic, contemporary, and quirky. I highly recommend you get a really great smelling candle like the Capri Blue Jar Candle from Anthropologie, it’s smells like angels frolicking in tropical fruits, sugared oranges, lemons, limes, with lightly exotic mountain greens. Sounds like heaven on earth.
6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
I swear, the holidays sometimes bring out the worst in all of us. It can be due to stress or the thought of spending a lot of time with family members you don’t get a long with. I always try to play the gracious and “better person” card when dealing with people, but sometime that can only go so far. If someone does something you find offensive, stupid, or selfish I would definitely stand up for yourself, but try not to be a dictator and try to let the little things slide.
We got a new rug in our house a couple months ago and it’s beautiful, but it has white in it and ever since then I’ve been really neurotic about people taking off their shoes in our house to avoid the rug getting dirty. I don’t know why but I feel kind of bitchy asking people to take off their shoes when they come to your house, so I put a cute sign on the door asking people to take off their shoes. If people didn’t see that, then I designated my husband to be the shoe Nazi where he would kindly remind family members to take off their shoes. Get help from your spouse or partner for enforcing rules that are important to you like no smoking, no shoes, and etc.
And remember that not everything has to be perfect. Do your best and forget the rest.
7. Assign People to Help
The worst thing is spending all week preparing, cleaning, cooking, and then spending all Christmas/Thanksgiving day cleaning, cooking, and preparing and then being left to clean up all by yourself. Ask family members for their help to clean up after dinner, or after they get ready to leave. Ask them to strip the beds and place the dirty towels and sheets in the laundry room. I strongly believe that if they really care about you they’ll be more than happy to help. Plus this will allow you to actually enjoy your holiday and not spend two weeks afterwards cleaning up (unless you have that handy dandy cleaning lady).
8. Plan Activities
Every family is different. Some like to go do lot’s of active things and some prefer to sit around and chat. I have both extremes on both sides of my family. To ensure that your guests aren’t bored put together a potential list of activities that the kids, adults, and the entire family can do on different budgets. Here are some of the things both of my families like to do:
-Run a 5K
-Play soccer, football, baseball
-Snow shoeing, cross country ski, skiing, or snowboarding
-See Christmas lights
-See a movie
-Go to local museums or art galleries
-Do some service at an animal shelter or a old folks home
-Go out to eat
-Read books at the library
I’ll be honest, hosting family for the holidays is a lot of work. It takes a lot of coordinating, planning, cleaning, and organizing. You probably ask yourself, who the hell would want to host for the holidays? Someone crazy possibly, haha. I found for me that hosting gave me the “power” to be in charge to create the holiday that I want my family to experience. If you have control issues, this could be a good and bad thing. The great thing is that you’ll be able to start your own traditions in your own and create some special memories.
Hope this inspires you to want to be brave and host Thanksgiving or Christmas or some major holiday at your home. There’s nothing like sharing a great holiday at your home sweet home. I would love to hear some of the tips you have for hosting a wonderful holidays with friends and family.
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