We all have been in a situation where someone important is coming and we are looking around our house and kitchen quietly mumbling “Oh gosh.. Where do I start?”.
It could be anyone – your in-laws (it’s a double stress if it is their first time visiting your place), friends that you have not seen for ages (probably coming to announce that they are getting married) or someone that you want to impress. In this post I am not going to teach you how to absolutely wow them with fireworks or Brazilian dancers in your lounge (hahaha just try to imagine that for a second!), just how to be remembered as a great host that provides a warm and charming welcome.
Since I was little, we had guests around all the time. I remember very clearly how my mum would make me set the table, cut the bread and prepare the snacks while she was making something extraordinary in the kitchen. I knew exactly what needed to be done, what plates needed to be put and even how I needed to act (or shall I say behave)!
First of all there are four main things that must be taken care of: your house, food/drinks, your attire and most importantly the atmosphere. If you get all these main points right – you will ALWAYS be remembered as a great host. So shall I teach you my (or my mom’s) secrets?
Let me just point out that that this post and advice are not for a dinner party because that is slightly different. I will cover how to host a perfect dinner party in my future posts.
Okay, let me state the obvious here – it must be clean. Make sure you open all the windows to let some fresh air in, hover the floor, do the dusting, mop the kitchen.
Do not forget your toilet – most likely people will need to use it so do not leave things like used razors and pills laying around! Bleach it, put some extra rolls of toilet paper (don’t make your guests feel awkward by asking for it), hang a clean towel for hands and put some soap next to the sink. Tip: It is always a good idea to keep a bottled soap for guests (one that has a pump). This way it is more convenient, looks much nicer and cleaner! If you really want to go that extra mile, make sure you put some scented candles around for that fresh smell and relaxing atmosphere. Sounds silly and maybe obvious, but trust me, A LOT of people forget it.
Important! Do not overdo on using very strong chemicals (for example thick bleach) or something with an overpowering scent! It might make eyes watery and itchy. It might even cause some allergic reaction. We don’t want that, do we?
Serving the table:
Of course, once again, everything must be clean (I know I know, I just needed to say it). Make sure you double check that there are no chipped glasses, bowls or plates. No cracks as well! Polish your cutlery and clean your glasses so they have no water marks on them. It is the little details that will leave your guests impressed. And of course, aim for that restaurant quality table setting. Let me add that you might not have a matching cutlery or glasses set and that’s okay! Sometimes I even prefer mix-match because it gives more charm and shows personality (and that is always a bonus!).
So what is needed for a perfect table?
- Water jug/bottle (extra points if it is glass!)
- Water glasses (for all the guests)
- Juice jug/bottle (again, well done if it is glass)
- Juice glasses (put just a couple, not everyone likes juice)
- Small plates for snacks and nibs (for all the guests)
- Cutlery (fork + butter knife for all the guests). Put one sharp knife on the table in case if someone needs to use it (like cut an apple or a wrap in half)
Optional: Wine glasses, whiskey glasses, champagne flutes and etc. Candle holders + candles (if the guests are coming in the evening). Toothpicks.
Anything that is not used while guests are there – just remove it. It is not nice to sit next to an overcrowded table and be afraid to move. You might raise your eyebrows “So why did we place so many things on the table then?”. Well, we want to be prepared and you never know! Your guests may use all the glasses and plates.
I personally, do not like table cloths therefore I did not mention it here.. Leave it for your dinner party. Don’t you think it makes the setting a bit too formal? We want a bit more relaxed and cosy atmosphere. However, if you wish to use it – go for it!
If the guests are coming in the day time (around mid-noon), skip the juice jug/bottle and glasses and place some cups for coffee and tea. Don’t forget a little jug/bottle for milk (keep it in a fridge and get it out as soon as guests are at the table)! There is a 90 per cent chance that they will want to start with a hot drink.
How to serve tea and coffee
I believe this requires a separate paragraph. We are going very much into detail and you do not need to follow everything, some might even find it very obvious or ridiculous but I would’ve been very grateful if someone explained it to me when I moved to England 6 years ago! Also, my boyfriend (who is English) after reading a rough draft of this post, gave me his opinion and rhetorically asked “But HOW do you serve tea and coffee the “correct” and polite way?”. Well, let me try to explain you.
I worked in a very fancy-shmancy restaurants and cafes and the way they serve tea and coffee is simple and easy – one big hot water pot with 2-3 teabags in, smaller pot with just hot water to adjust the strength of tea, milk pot/jug and a bowl of sugar or sweetener. Bring extra saucers to place used teaspoons. Same with coffee – just put it in a cafetiere and bring a small pot of hot water if someone finds it too strong.
Of course, you might not have that many teapots/jugs (I don’t… yet) and you might need to make every cup separately. If you have guests often it might be worth considering investing in a teapot (or two).
There you go! You served your tea (or coffee).
Tip: Always offer choices. Herbal, green, peppermint, decaf?.. If you have it – offer it. That would show that you are able to cater for everyone (and lets be honest… it would show that you actually care).
Keep in mind that hot drinks are usually served after a meal/snacks, but let me remind you that this post is not about a dinner/lunch party, more like someone is popping in for a couple of hours!
Phew, okay, we got that one sorted.. Let’s move on to food!
Okay, it is not a rocket science really – keep it simple. What always paid off in my place (for 10 years now) is “do it yourself” concept.
Basically cut a lot of different things and serve it on a plate (haha that sounds dodgy, doesn’t it!). For example, slice some cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, any meat products, fish (like smoked salmon), put different types of hummus in little bowls (at least two), slice some bread (white and brown), place some rice cakes, maybe some pita bread. Do not forget to put a bowl of fruits on a table (for example washed strawberries, grapes and etc) and some snacks (nachos, crisps, sweets or anything really). But keep it simple and make sure you separate everything – one plate for some veggies, another plate for meat and etc. This way your guests have a choice to eat what and how they want and it could also be a good conversation starter. When I prepare my table (vegan of course), my guests tend to be very interested in how do I make my hummus, is it vegan, how this and that are made, are they healthy and etc. Let me remind you once again – just keep it simple!
Of course you can stick with a more “traditional” way – some bite size sandwiches, pastries, biscuits and etc. Whatever is more convenient for you. After all, you must know your guests better. But I do recommend trying “do it yourself” concept at least once, you might find it more stress free and easier to prepare.
Important: Always offer choices! So many times I found myself sitting and investigating the ingredients (sorry, it might be just my annoying thing) while everyone were just loading their plates with snacks. For example if you offer tzaziki (greek dip that main ingredients are yogurt and cucumber) as a dip and that is the only choice, most likely it will not suit everybody’s taste (I tend to avoid dairy) and the flavor might be too unfamiliar with some. Aim to offer something more traditional (butter, plain hummus, bread, butter biscuits and etc) and something a bit more adventurous (sun dried tomatoes hummus, rice cakes, double chocolate biscuits and etc). This way everyone is happy and might wish to try something more unusual.
Let me add that my concept also wins if there are leftovers – you can easily use it to make something for dinner as it is just separate ingredients, not finished products (e.g. a sandwiches, wraps).
Okay, I will not go into detail with that one. Look clean, be yourself! Of course try to avoid t-shirts that say something like “Angry Bitch” haha! Those ones are for lazy Sundays or girls night in.
Okay, girl, you got this! We are almost there.
Make sure your house smells lovely – scented sticks or wax melts could help you achieve a lovely home-y scent. I like to use vanilla wax melts and all my guests always point out that my house smells like candies or vanilla coconut paradise (I love it!). Sometimes I use vanilla or sandalwood scented sticks but I tend to burn them before my guests arrive as I find the smell a bit too exotic and strong (I love it, but it is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea).
Okay, now the complicated part, if someone super important is coming, do you leave the TV on? What channel? Maybe radio? Maybe just an Itunes or Spotify playlist? Or maybe nothing on?.. Right, I do find silence awkward. Again, it might be just my thing, but have you ever been in a situation where it was super quiet and it was even a bit awkward to eat or drink because it might be too loud? Or a situation where it was very quiet and your tummy made a weird noise? That’s what I would like to avoid. I tend to put a music channel on TV quietly, something neutral (make sure it is nothing like “50 best twerking videos” haha!) so if you are sitting in front of TV you might even discuss how Queen’s song Bohemian Rhapsody is the best ever or how much you miss “old Beyonce” haha! So it is sort of like a win-win situation – it is not quiet and if you have nothing to talk about just discuss what is on tv! Another good idea is to put on youtube – just search house chill out music. It is nothing too much and great for background!
Extra bonus points: Offer slippers! Back in my parents’ house, they have a lot of different slippers just for guests – all of them are unisex but just different shapes and sizes. It is a great idea if you want to keep your house clean and make your guests feel like at home.
That is it! It is not complicated, does not require you to spend a day in the kitchen stressing and I promise you, people will remember you as a great host! That’s what we want, right?
How do you make your important guests feel welcomed? What tricks do you have? Share it in the comments section!
• Pictures from http://www.pixabay.com