12 Things a Good Host Should Never Do
Whether you’ve invited family to stay over for the weekend or you’re hosting friends for cocktails, avoiding these faux-pas will earn you a blue ribbon in hospitality.
The most fundamental task of your role as a host is to please your guests and ensure that everyone is enjoying themselves. Thus, heeding your guests’ various personal needs is essential—within reason, of course, since you can’t be everything for everyone. If grandma likes to head to bed early, find her a quiet room to sleep away from the commotion. If you have a vegetarian at dinner, ensure the menu is well-rounded.
Hosting guests is always cause for a celebration. Step up your normal routine a notch, so the occasion doesn’t feel like every day. Pull out the fine silver. Have your florist make a beautiful bouquet for your entryway. Let the kids stay up extra late.
Whether you’ve invited friends for appetizers or extended family for a long holiday weekend, being a host is stressful and usually involves a lot of moving parts, so this is not the day to attempt a maiden voyage. Don’t try making pulled pork for the first time when you have 12 dinner guests to feed. Don’t plan a movie screening with a projector you purchased three hours earlier.
There’s no quicker way to kill the mood of a get-together than running out. Stock your bar with more wine than you think you need (reference this handy guide to figure out how much). Order an extra pizza for your kids’ pizza party. Make sure there’s enough toilet paper in your vanity to get you through the winter. (Oh, and speaking of your vanity, put a plunger in every bathroom.)
Things may not have gone as perfectly as you envisioned when you were first inspired by Pinterest to host that celestial-themed brunch of yours, but you are a spectacular host—just for trying. Own it. If you apologize that the chicken is a little dry or the mattress is too firm, you’re drawing attention to something that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Also, profusely apologizing can appear as if you’re just fishing for compliments—and no one wants that. Think happy thoughts. Speak happy thoughts. Set a good mood.
Attempting to do it all is never a good thing. First of all, it’s rarely possible, so something usually falls through the cracks when you attempt. Secondly, guests like to help, whether that means picking up ice on the way to your party, bringing dessert, or loading dishes into the dishwasher. It makes them feel useful and also at home. Letting your guests help here and there can also give you some great bonding time, as dinner hosts often get stuck in the kitchen.
If you’d rather not involve your guests in the dirty work, at least let yourself take a load off by picking up a store-bought cake or get your better half to help here and there.
Guests should thank their hosts—that’s what hostess gifts are for. It’s appropriate for guests to write thank-you notes if they feel so inspired, but not the other way around. Send off a quick email to tell guests how much you enjoyed seeing them if you wish, but unless you were given something more substantial than a bottle of wine, don’t send a thank-you note for a thank-you gift.
No one’s asking you to mop the hardwood floors at midnight, but at the very least, wash your dishes or pop them in the dishwasher at the end of the night. Entertaining is wonderful, but it will become a major turn-off if you find yourself waking up with a headache to a living room full of half-empty wine glasses the next day. Ask your guests to pitch in at the end of the night, and you’ll be surprised how quickly it all gets done. On the same note, if you’ve hosted friends or family for several days, politely ask them to strip the beds before they leave. Every little bit helps and putting it off will only make you resent entertaining.
If a guest needs to take an important phone call in the middle of dinner, arrives late to your event, or sleeps in unusually late, don’t pry as to why. People need space and privacy, especially when they’re not in the comfort of their own homes. Odds are they’ll open up if you make them feel like they have nothing to worry about.
I’m all for inviting two single people to a party or weekend getaway whom you think might hit it off. But leave it at that. Don’t repeatedly ask people to sit together or say things like, “Oh, you like football? Jane once saw the movie The Blind Side!” If there’s going to be chemistry, it will happen naturally… and we all want to feel like there’s some serendipity in the world, don’t we?
Life is unpredictable, and the only thing you can bet on is that things won’t go as planned. So be flexible. If your cousin brings her new boyfriend to your house for the weekend without warning, add another seat at the table and show him where the pull-out sofa is. If you planned to go for a walk in the morning, but your guests want to sleep in, let it be.
As much as entertaining is about pleasing your guests, it’s also about enjoying yourself. Take your shoes off at the table. Put food on the grill a little later so you have time to take a dip in the pool. Pour another glass of wine, even though you know you won’t finish it. Enjoy the moment and your friends. You are lucky to have them.
What hosting faux pas can you add to this list? Share with us in the comments below.