Texas Living

Holiday Host Tips

By Abi Grise Morgan 12.1.23

Confession: I am the hostess with the mostest. To me, my house is only a home because my family and friends gather there. My husband and I jump on any excuse to invite loved ones over, but the holidays are when we really get to show off our skills. Mind you, it’s taken many years to get our hosting formula down to a science. Here are our ultimate holiday hosting tips.

homemade holiday crafts

Make Stations

When hosting a big crowd, create opportunities for guests to walk around the common areas of your home to mingle with different people. Guests tend to follow the food, so spread out your fare: appetizers in the living room, a buffet in the dining room, and a drink station at the bar. (Do not sequester all food to the kitchen, or you’ll be hosting a kitchen party!)

Sprinkle activities around, too. Create a kids-only area with game consoles, toys, and holiday crafts. Throw on a classic holiday film and lay out some games for adults to enjoy in the den. For daytime events, break out lawn games, like cornhole or giant Jenga, in the backyard. By nightfall, you can light a cozy chiminea or firepit (in which case you might as well make s’mores!)

Enjoy making use of every corner of your home. To quote Martha Stewart, “To entertain at home is both a relief and a rediscovery — of rooms and settings, of your favorite things, and particularly your own tastes and ideas.”

Add Wayfinding

Mini wayfinding chalkboards are a holiday host’s lifesaver because they make it obvious what guests are supposed to do without your needing to repeat yourself every time the doorbell rings. Use signage to show guests where to put their coats, shoes, and purses. Let them know where to drop off food or presents. Show them where the trash lives so you have fewer cups to dump and bag yourself at the end of the night. Ideally, have a trash can for each station.

Mini chalkboards can also prevent medical emergencies by alerting guests to potential allergens inside dishes. Note what dishes contain common allergens: dairy, nuts, shellfish, eggs, soy, and gluten. Help guests find dishes that suit their dietary preferences by indicating whether a dish is vegetarian/vegan-friendly.

Consider the Guest List

Not every person you enjoy needs to come to every event. Your most reserved friends may not enjoy a loud, raucous party of competitive games. (Or maybe they will! Use your best judgment.) Likewise, a family with five young children is not a good fit for a contemplative, candlelit winter solstice poetry reading. Save their invitation for the next affair.

Christmas turkey

Make It a Potluck

My husband and I used to make elaborate meals for events, some of which had to stew for days. Then, we had our daughter, and potluck-style events became our friend. If event attendees are coming from across town (and not across the country), it’s reasonable to request every person or family unit contribute to the meal. To avoid repeat dishes, have guests note what they’ll bring via text chain or online on an event page. As the host, you’re expected to take on the main course. (May I suggest a Texas-style Christmas turkey?)

Remember: While important, your event’s food is not the main attraction. To quote Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, “I’d like to think when I invite friends to my house, they know what I’m really saying is, ‘I love you; come for dinner.’”

Turn Down the Heat

This one gets me just about every time. Turn down the temperature at least an hour before the party starts. If you wait for guests to arrive, you’ll forget. Then, guests pile into your home, the body heat compounds, and, suddenly, your turtleneck is insufferable, and guests are dabbing at their temples with cocktail napkins. Keep it cool from the start.

Check for Hazards

A trip to the ER can really zap the holiday cheer. Take a full sweep of your home for hazards before guests arrive. Salt the front stoop if the forecast dips below freezing. Clean your chimney if you plan to light the fireplace. Avoid decorating with real mistletoe since it can be poisonous to children and pets. Make sure the wiring on your holiday lights is in good shape and you are not overloading your outlets. And lastly, if the weather looks bad and the roads are treacherous, cancel the party. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

gift insurance

Get Liability Insurance

Holiday hosts are responsible for many things: creating a festive atmosphere, refilling the punch bowl, etc. And, legally, you can be held accountable for accidents on your property. Liability insurance can protect you from costly litigation should a guest slip on a step or burn themselves reaching into the oven. Your homeowners policy includes personal liability, but if you have significant assets, umbrella coverage can cover expenses that exceed personal liability limits.

Roll with It

Your job as a host is to set the scene for a good time and address any needs as they pop up. Once the party starts, do your best to become a guest of your own party. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guests.” Relax and take a moment to be grateful your house is full of people you love so you can show up as your best.

Are you buying big-ticket holiday gifts this year, like a car or diamond ring? Here’s what you need to know about insuring your holiday wish list.

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