HOLIDAY HOSTESS TIPS: So I’m the most organised I’ve ever been this year (applause please!) so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts as they occur to me that have helped me along the way which you might also find useful…
We’re hosting several Christmas events this year, including a dinner with our semi-adopted German son, Nikolai, as well as the “Mr Luscious side of the family”, and various house guests over the Christmas-New Year break.
- HOUSE CLEANING AND GARDEN TIDY-UP: From the approach from the street to the front door, think about every room your guests might have something to do with, from bedrooms and bathrooms, to living areas, mudrooms and laundries. Look out for weeds, overhanging branches, cobwebs etc, and ensure as much rubbish is emptied so that your bins are not full (you’ll be needing the bin space post-festivities until your weekly council pickup resumes).
- VIEW YOUR HOME AS YOUR GUESTS WILL: Look around as your guest might do when they visit your home – when I do this, I always see something I’d missed day-to-day. Also, walk around your home pretending to be a guest with a glass in their hand – is there space for you to put your glass down? If not, why not move some knick-knacks away for the time being. And what about people with bags – is there a place for them to access them comfortably? We have a black Barcelona chaise which is perfect for this, so perhaps find a space which is convenient for all. And don’t forget to move anything valuable that might get knocked with a crowd or unruly children.
- CHRISTMAS DECOR: A few years ago I learnt the value of buying massive clear plastic storage boxes to contain all Christmas-related paraphernalia from decorations to cards, and it’s been so helpful knowing we can just find everything in one place. We have a rule that we can put up the tree and start decorating the house from December 1. I also try to stock up on decor items well ahead of time so I have a theme ready to go and can snap up bargains as I see them.
- PLAN YOUR MENU IN ADVANCE: I know this sounds so obvious, but guests will start asking you what they can bring so you need to know what you intend to cook and what you’d welcome from someone else. Shop early for non-perishable items such as unusual spices which you might need to travel to buy. And stock up on “backup” items for the pantry in case you get unexpected visitors on the days when the shops are shut.
- LINEN FOR THE TABLE AND GUEST BATHROOMS: Get ironing done as early as possible, including tablecloths, placemats, napkins, tea towels and hand towels for bathrooms. Have extra supplies in case things go wrong – for example, I dropped an enormous vase on a table once, just five minutes before everyone was due to arrive. I was beside myself because not only was the table drenched but all the candles, decor, napkins and cutlery which I’d laid out. Fortunately, I had backup table clothes and napkins, so we quickly dried all the other items and started again. Not ideal but it was salvageable and no guests were the wiser.
- LINEN FOR GUEST ROOMS: We’ve got several groups of friends coming to stay, which is nice but also exhausting as I like to give everyone the same experience with freshly ironed sheets and nice towels etc. This means lots of bed stripping, washing, ironing and bed re-making, in addition to flowers, chocolates and small bottles of water, so I suggest having extra supplies of linen, water and chocolates ready to go. Ensure the guest bathroom is well stocked too, with all possible items that your guests may enjoy (eg. bath soaps and lotions) or have forgotten to bring themselves (eg. toothpaste, hairspray).
- HOUSEHOLD WASHING: OK, so it doesn’t sound like anything to do with Christmas, but getting your normal washing and ironing done as early as possible can ensure that your laundry is not cluttered and can be used for storage of wine bottles, extra glasses, cutlery etc ready to be brought out for guests as required.
- CLEAN OUT THE FRIDGE AND MAKE ROOM FOR GUEST FOOD ITEMS: Give the fridge a spring clean to a) get rid of outdated items, b) make room for new Christmas produce and items which arrive with your guests such as your sister’s salad or brother’s Christmas pudding, and c) ensure the fridge is hygienic as possible to reduce the chance of poisoning your guests! Make room in your freezer too, in case you want to store leftovers, and double-check that there are enough lidded containers ready to go. Also, set up a separate table for food, and if possible, another table for drinks and glasses.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: Schedule time to get personal things done such as a hair cut and colour, facial, massage or anything else that can help make you feel better about things when it’s all getting a bit frantic.
- FIND SOMETHING TO WEAR: Getting outfits organised early is very useful. As my feet always get sore when we’re entertaining, I tend to wear mid-height heels and have two pairs which tend to suit most outfits, slipping them on just as the first doorbell rings. I hang up each outfit such as a dress, and necklaces around the collar, and even the underwear if something specific is required, so it’s all washed, ironed and ready to go.
- STATIONERY: Stock up on scissors, sticky tape, wrapping paper, gift tags and cards etc throughout the year (especially the week after Christmas) when things are on sale.
- GIFTS AND GIFT WRAPPING: For once, I’m getting all presents bought and wrapped ahead of time, thanks to a list I started a little while ago for each person and ideas of what to get them. It feels like a miracle to be this organised! I cleared our long “Martha Stewart table” last weekend and set it up with all the wrapping paper, scissors, sticky tape, gift cards and gifts, then laid out all gifts with sticky notes so I could show Mr Luscious what we were giving everyone. And then each day I’ve turned the radio on and wrapped a few more items. Slowly but surely, it’s almost done.
- DEAL WITH ANNOYING STICKER REMOVAL: Get those awful price stickers off new items as soon as can, especially pesky ones from IKEA which seem to the worst to remove. I found that spraying an orange-based sticker-removal product to be the most helpful, but elbow grease and time is still required.
- CHRISTMAS MUSIC: Mr Luscious is obsessed with Christmas music and compiles several collections for us each year which we play in our home and cars, from contemporary Christmas fare to classic carols. This year we did French and Italian CDs too. We do specially-curated CDs for close family and friends, so this is ready to be played during all festive occasions. I encourage you to think about music early on too, as having music playing and drinks being opened when guests arrive makes all the difference, even if the turkey isn’t cooked yet!
- CHRISTMAS FOOD, WINE AND GROCERIES: Each year we stock up on wine found online at auction and pre-order food such as rolled turkey from the poultry shop. We also bulk buy boxes of San Pellegrino mineral water, and anything else which we can find cheap and early. Having all the boxes open but stacked in the laundry so I can see what’s what (eg. able to grab another bottle of champagne or rose to put in the fridge) is very helpful. And don’t forget to check your fridge and pantry for all the staples such as butter, olive oil, salt and pepper, gravy mix.
- CUTLERY, GLASSWARE AND SERVING ITEMS: Because we entertain a lot, we have everything we need, fortunately. But it still gets a bit dusty so I bring everything out for a fresh wash a couple of days before we’re going to use it. Doing so is also useful for table setup anyway, and forces me to start setting up the dining tables and serving tables ahead of time. I also get out all the large serving dishes and smaller condiment dishes and label them with sticky notes to identify each menu item, serving utensils required, and condiment, eg. apple sauce, cranberry sauce, mustard.
- DINING TABLES AND CHAIRS: Whilst we have proper tables, we also have a stash of folding tables and chairs which we bring out for large events. The may be cheap, but once you’ve covered the tables with with nice tablecloths, flowers, glassware and ornaments, no one would have a clue. Once again, we’ve purchased these slowly over the years when we’ve seen them on sale.
- FLOWERS, SCENTED CANDLES AND LINEN SPRAYS: In the last couple of days before an event, I take my trusty silver bucket and head off looking for flowers. We have flowers and candles in multiple rooms, from the front entry, bathrooms, living areas and guest bedrooms, as well as a formal display on the table, so I buy several different types to suit each space. I stock up on room scents and linen sprays whenever I see them on sale.
- THANK YOU/HOSTESS GIFTS: Whilst we tend to do most of the hosting, we are also delighted to be guests at other events, so having hostess gifts and thank you cards at the ready is also useful.
- WORKING FROM HOME: I’d like to say I was organised and had Luscious blog posts etc ready to go so I could not think about it during the festive break but I’d be a liar. Luscious is being responsive to requests from Luscious Lifers, and what my own mood and inspiration is on a given day. But the logical side of me says that we should all try to minimise work-related activities so we can focus on family and friends. Easier said than done, I know!
- ALLOW MORE TIME…FOR EVERYTHING: Build in more time than you think you need in case you get stuck in Christmas traffic, poor staffing issues in the shop you are in causing a long queue for service, the oven starts playing up, the power goes out, or someone announces they have 5 friends visiting from overseas who’d really love to join in on the celebration at your house at the last minute. This time of year is stressful enough without being rushed, so accept that things might take longer. And hey, if they don’t, then you can put your feet up and enjoy a cup of tea and mince pie, no?
- ANTICIPATE GUEST NEEDS: Whether it’s ensuring we’ve got seating for my hip-challenged mother-in-law, gluten-free vegetarian food for my sister-in-law, or a place for my niece and her husband to change their new baby, there are myriad things to think about in advance so that your event goes smoothly. Try to think about each guest and ask whether they need anything in particular and do your best to accommodate it before they arrive. Does Uncle John always forget to bring fresh batteries for his camera? If so, have some on hand. Does Cousin Jane always get a bit tipsy and need a nap? Then have a bed ready for her so she can lie down.
- PREPARE FOR THE AFTERMATH: There is going to be discarded wrapping paper from gifts, empty bottles, leftover food, food scraps etc. I like to ensure we’ve got cardboard boxes or large plastic tubs for people to throw rubbish and items for recycling, as well as a bucket for the compost heap, extra garbage bags and tea towels, and a bowl for Mabel-friendly scraps.
- JUST BEFORE GUESTS ARRIVE: About an hour before people start arriving, I like to light candles and/or spray room scents, get the music playing, ensure main lights are turned off and lamps are turned on. I try to have wine and champagne glasses and a tray of canapes ready to go within 30 mins of the first arrival, and I’m trying hard to get showered, dressed and coiffed earlier (I have a history of guests arriving when I’m still getting ready! Thank goodness for Mr Luscious!). This year, I’m also thinking of trying an orange-and-clove trick by boiling them up to fill the house with a festive smell.
These posts might also be useful:
- Preparing for household visitors
- How to be a great house guest
- Luscious organisation: Workspaces
- Luscious cocktails
- Delicious desserts
And here are our Pinterest boards relating to festive celebrations:
- Christmas Gift Guide
- Luscious gift ideas
- Sale alerts
- Luscious Shop
- Luscious entertaining
- Party time!
- Luscious food and drink
- Martha Stewart
- Luscious flowers
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Leave a comment below to give me some of your own tips!