Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Expecting Houseguests? Here are some of my tips for entertaining

A few days ago I received an email from an out of town friend who said she was coming to New York City for the weekend.  My response immediately was "you must stay with me!".  I absolutely love entertaining out of town house guests!  It sounds strange, but nothing makes me more relaxed than entertaining.

I know entertaining in general can stress people out, but I've come up with a few steps to make entertaining house guests easy and fun.

Most of us know our friends and family well enough to get by when entertaining them.  But, to truly make our of town guests feel at home, it's best to get to know them even better.  Before any guest arrives, send them a questionnaire with pertinent questions for them to answer such as their favorite food and drinks.  What they don't like or what they've been craving (your favorite appetizer perhaps?).  Find out everything you can about that person.  Ask them to send it back at least a week or two before they arrive.  Then, keep a binder with this information; you can add or delete information as needed and it will help you with other parties down the road.  Knowing your guests better will help you manage their expectations and make life a little easier on their next visit.

Coming up with a menu is sometimes the hardest task when entertaining family and friends.  Before my guests arrive I send them a rundown of things I am thinking of making for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I may not necessarily make all of the items on the list, but it allows my guests to know what to expect.  And if there is something they don't like, it gives the opportunity to readjust before they arrive.

I live in New York City and believe it or not, it makes it harder for me to entertain because I never know what my guests want to see and do.  Do they want to see all of the sites or do they want to go to the neighborhood joints?  Do they want to see every TONY award winning musical or do they want to take a stroll through museums?  Before any of my guests arrive I give them an annotated rundown of everything I think they might want to see in the time they have with me. I then open it up for discussion (the same rules apply anywhere you may live).  Then, keep the document on file and update it as needed.  You've now just turned yourself into a personal Tourist Center.  You can even go as far as providing maps should they wish to venture out on their own.

Speaking of guests venturing on their own, don't ever feel as if you need to entertain your guests 24/7.  As the host, you need your rest as much as they do.  A great tip I've learned from my friends Shannon and Dave it to let the guest know your schedule when they arrive.  Are there errands you must run?  If you're like me, you like your afternoon nap on the weekends.  Let them know your expectations and they'll be all the happier.

Upon their arrival to my home, I always like to show guests where everything is located, even down to the laundry.  This way they can help themselves...Mi casa su casa.  Of course, any good house guest will ask before they do a load of laundry, but opening up your home like that will really allow them to feel comfortable and it will make you look like an amazing host.

I always think it's a nice gesture to have a little goody bag waiting for my guests, especially after a long journey.  For example, when I entertain in NYC I always provide my guests with a little goody bag that includes water, apples, granola bars, maps, a weekend subway card and ear plugs.  I think that's the one thing guests thank me for the most; while I might find honking traffic relaxing, my guest might have a horrible night's sleep.  A rested guest is a happy guest.

I travel a lot... and, if your like me (and others), you covet the travel sized soaps, shampoos and conditioners the hotels provide.  I actually take these and make little baskets for my guests.  These little gestures go a long way in making your guests feel at home.

I once had a friend ask me about visitors and pets.  I have two dogs that I adore and love, but sometimes I forget others don't feel the same way.  Or they might be allergic.  If you have a house guest that might not be comfortable with your cat or dog try to find a neighbor who can watch them for the weekend.  While it sounds like you might be displacing your family member, you might actually find it less stressful for both you and your pet which will allow your house guest to feel at home and you to feel less stress.

Often my house guests ask what they can bring.  If you're like me you feel obligated to bring something because it makes you feel good and it's a way of saying "thank you".  Rather than tell your guests "no", ask them to bring something such as a bottle of wine or prosecco, something that will help you when you entertain.

And the number one piece of advise I can offer is to have fun!  Remember, anytime you entertain it may not be perfect.  But if you smile and are relaxed, your guests will be too.

Until next time,


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