How to Be a Gracious Host

by Brett on November 17, 2008 · 14 comments

in A Man's Life, Friendship, On Etiquette, Relationships & Family

Image from magarell

Yesterday, we set down the rules of being the perfect houseguest. The host likewise has important responsibilities and expectations to fulfill. The ability to show hospitality has been a measure of one’s character across cultures and time. Hospitality goes beyond providing simple room and board; it involves making your guest feel comfortable, welcome, and at home. For many men who have finally landed their own place, this holiday season may be their first time hosting travelers. Following a few simple guidelines will ensure your guest’s visit will be a happy memory they will have forever.

1. Be on time to pick up your guest. No one wants to be standing at the airport like a dope with no one to greet them. Make your guest’s first impression of their trip a pleasant one by being there to warmly greet them as soon as they arrive.

2. Stock up on tasty treats. Your guest is on vacation; they want to relax and eat delicious food. Don’t leave them at your house with only an old jar of mayo in the fridge. Make sure there’s plenty of snacks to be had.

3. Make your abode as clean and pleasant as possible. After a long trip, there’s nothing like stepping into a host’s inviting home. You may not mind living in a mess, but that’s no condition in which to have a guest. Make sure the guestroom is particularly hospitable with an inviting bed and clean sheets. Even if your guest is sleeping on the couch, make the couch look cozy and comfortable.

4. Cook for your guest. Preparing food for your guest is an ancient rite of hospitality. It doesn’t matter if you’re not much of a chef, the effort is what counts. And always make breakfast for your guest on the first morning of their stay. There’s something quite welcoming about waking up to a home cooked meal.

5. Plan interesting activities for your guest. You want your guest to have a memorable visit and the best possible time while they are with you. Show them all your favorite spots and take them on all your favorite excursions. But also research some activities you know will particularly appeal to your guest and their interests. Even if you cannot accompany your guests on these sightseeing trips, give them a list of ideas, maps, directions, and everything else they need to go out and enjoy themselves.

6. Never act imposed upon. Every guest worries a bit that they are imposing on you. There’s never a need to magnify this insecurity. Always act as though you could not be more pleased that your guest is staying with you. You shouldn’t have to fake such a sentiment; while you may experience moments of annoyance, keep in mind that such visits are infrequent and that your guest will soon enough be returning to their distant locale.

What’s been your experience in hosting travelers? Have any advice you’d like to share? Drop a line in the comment box.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 alfred November 18, 2008 at 1:01 am

i wish the host of the last party i went to read this, there was no food just drinks.

2 Harland November 18, 2008 at 5:54 am

Excellent post – I’m glad you posted both sides of the hosting experience. I think you missed some themes here you had in the last post. Such as spending time with your guest – as much as possible. It is important as a host to try and change your routine to meet their schedule and needs. I’ve had hosts who sat on the couch and watched a ton of TV. Not very interesting.
Also I think it is as important for hosts to understand the culture, habits and norms of their guests as it is the guests to understand their destination (ie. your house). This is esp true for foreign guests. It is always nice to make them feel at home by thoughtfully trying to appreciate and add in some of their customs or even treats. Of course guests traveling far want to experience something new, but a taste of home makes the experience heartwarming.

3 NZR November 18, 2008 at 7:49 am

I personally like hosting. In fact, I feel in my element with a lot of people at my house and I rushing around tending to a lot of things. Also, i like cooking for the people I care about and I don’t mind cooking for many and cooking for my own parties. (Often, my birthday involves me cooking a whole mess of food for my party guests).

4 MPS November 18, 2008 at 9:32 am

My wife and I struggle with the hosting thing. I come from a family where we like to impose on each other and we are always happy to host guests at our house. My wife, on the other hand, comes from a family where they don’t like to impose so it is common for family members to stay in hotels when they visit. I think it is good for guest to not impose too much or expect to be housed for weeks but I also would like family to feel welcome and want to visit us.

5 cory huff November 18, 2008 at 11:03 am

I love hosting. I love cooking for people. It’s probably one of the things I do best. For my birthday party, I cooked brats and had a root beer tasting party. I did all the cooking and loved it a ton.

Hosting and going out of your way to serve is a great way to build lasting friendships. I love it!

6 steph November 18, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Here’s my suggestion: if you have precocious little boys, set up plenty of playdates at OTHER kid’s houses during the guest’s stay. You can always return the favor later and it will be relaxing not to have to exhaust yourselves trying to keep the kids from setting the house on fire.

7 Sean Sentenn November 18, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Whenever guests are visiting our house my wife and I always make sure to have a few bottles of good booze and a special bottle of wine available to offer on the evening they arrive. For booze we make sure that we can mix a great Manhattan, shake a good martini, and of course offer an elegant scotch. For wine I recommend something with some age and a great story; “we found this little gem on a tasting trip in Mendocino, Ca. The vineyard was surrounded by redwoods. We’ve been saving it for a special occasion”.
Offerings like these signal that their visit is a special occasion much better than rummaging around in the fridge for a stray beer or two day old bottle of Charles Shaw.

8 April Braswell November 18, 2008 at 4:16 pm

@MPS

How wonderful. Indeed, understanding and communicating those differences is essential for long term marriage happiness and filial relationships over the long haul.

It is all within the purview of the host, is it not? If you INVITE them, then they are your guests, and there is no imposition.

Of course, communicating the EXTENT of the invitation, essentially communicating boundaries, and being upfront about that in a tactful fashion is best. Don’t you find doing that helps to avoid hurt feelings? Formalized invitations, those in writing, i.e. on Crane’s bonded paper, are SO helpful that way.

So and so request the pleasure of your company for the Thanksgiving Holiday, Tuesday, November 25-Friday, November 28.

And of course, they are family. So, sometimes they will then book their travel to fly out of the airport furthest away late Friday night actually Saturday morning. And we all live with it then don’t we? :)

On the chick front, we LOVE being greeted with roses at the airport and will often have GUEST ROOM accoutrement. Little baskets of STUFF in the guest bathroom. Scented soap, lotion, toothbrush, STUFF. Some of which will be totally girly and some of which will be appropriate for our MALE guests.

All the best,

April Braswell

Online Dating Expert, Romantic Relationship Coach, Romance Coaching

Online Dating Sites Review, Internet Dating Sites Guide

9 Virilitas November 18, 2008 at 8:23 pm

I like Sean Sentenn’s suggestion, above, about having good drinks on hand when hosting. Let’s be honest: sharing a drink (or two) together helps us bond with guests and get along better.

10 Fotios November 20, 2008 at 11:07 am

Definitely good timing on this article. Having recently moved into a townhouse in a touristy area (right outside DC), I’ve been having more houseguests who come into town to visit me, but also the city. A few things I’ve learned :

– If you have a guest bathroom, keep some basic items in there. If it’s not in your main bedroom, guests might be more apt to look in the medicine cabinet (or use whats on the counter). Some things like Advil/Tylenol, Tums/Pepto Bismol, bandaids can really save a night. It’s the worst feeling when you think a guest is having a bad time, only to find out later they had a headache, but didn’t want to impose on you.
- If you will be at work with your guests at your house, make sure they know how to operate your super fancy TV/Entertainment system. Also make sure they have the password to your wireless network, or maybe let them know they can use your computer to check email or whatnot.
- Have some visitor guidebooks or brochures around, so that when they get in, they can look over some things. Also, when your guests do these activities, you can put a post-it note in the book commenting on it.
- If there is public transit in the area, have a few pocket maps around. Bonus points for circling your stop on the map and explaining how the ticketing or schedule works

11 Barry November 21, 2008 at 6:00 am

Great article. Also make sure the guest’s sleeping area has some basic conveniences like an alarm clock, a lamp next to the bed, night light in the hallway to prevent nighttime accidents, good window shade, extra blanket, etc.

In preparing for a guest, I think it is a good idea, before they arrive, to use the guest bathroom yourself to shower and get ready for the day. You will probably find problems doing this and be able to correct them. You might find that the shower head is broken or the electrical socket doesn’t work or a towel rack is needed, etc. It is hard to notice these things unless you actually go through the process of using everything. And be sure there is plenty of spare toilet paper in there. Nobody wants to have to ask for that in the moment of need.

Also remember that you are not just hosting a person, but all their stuff, too. Make some room for their stuff. If you can clear out some drawers and some closet space and surface area on dressers just for them to use, it will help them settle in much better. If your coat closet is jammed, pare that down. And they will need some space in the bathroom. A way to keep their stuff organized and accessible is always a major issue for a guest.

12 Michael May 25, 2009 at 10:05 am

I recently visited friends in the USA. By and large all the points made regarding both guest (me) and host obligations were met. However, on one occasion I was tired (probably some jet lag also I am 60) and didn’t want to watch TV in the evening but go to bed early. I was criticized for not being a good guest. I said that they were not being a god host putting an obligation to do something that I didn’t want to do when it had no impact on them in not watching TV. If they had gone to trouble to get a film or something I would have made the effort but plain TV, I just felt that the host had the duty to make me feel at home and that was not the case. Who is correct?

13 Les September 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm

One thing I have always done is to have a matching set of towels ready before my guest(s) arrive. After we have eaten and it is getting time to get ready for bed, I show them the towels, already laid out in the bathroom, and let them know the towels are for them. I always include 2 bath towels, 2 hand towels and 2 wash cloths for each guest.. People seem to appreciate this.

14 Leigh March 25, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Wish this site was still alive and jumping’ but here are my thoughts: We have a house in a warm weather destination and are very popular in the snowy months. First rule of guesting – wait to be invited! You have no idea how many will angle for the guest room months in advance. If you want a reservation then call a hotel. Once invited, then it’s up to the host to have a welcoming room with flowers and a plan for arrival evening and the next AM. Guest, it’s up to you t offer, I’m not going to ask. And btw, whipping out your credit card after we planned a dinner out doesn’t count. Take the initiative to offer to cook or make a reservation – the planning was a bigger deal than paying. Happy to host, please don’t make it hard.

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