How to Be a Good Host

Updated November 24, 2007

If you or or another family member (even your child) wants to have friends over, you’ll need to have some hosting know-how to make sure that everybody, especially your guests, feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.

The Invitation

If you’re having a party, definitely send out invitation cards. Having everything written down improves your chances that everyone will know when, where, what to bring, what to wear, etc.

If you’re just inviting over a couple of friends, a phone call works well enough, and a face-to-face invitation works even better. Avoid email and text messaging unless you’re inviting over your friend who comes over every week anyhow.

The Preparation

  • Clean your house, car, etc. wherever the gathering will be. Cleaning up the area makes your guests feel comfortable and safe. It’s not about showing off. It’s about respecting your guest enough to not force them to sit in a dirty, messy environment where they can catch some illness or trip and hurt themselves.
  • Ask about special diets. If your guest is diabetic, vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, allergic to anything, etc., find out before you plan the menu. The easiest way to find out is to… ask them!
  • Always have something to eat and drink. If you’re just getting together for a few minutes, have tea, coffee, juice, soda, etc. and some snacks. For mornings, have brunch foods. For afternoons and evenings, have desserts and savory snacks. If you’re planning a party, a gathering that will last more than a few hours, or a gathering that happens during a typical meal time, always have a meal planned. Even if you don’t expect that your guests will stay for the meal, having one planned means that if they do stay later than expected, you can say, “why don’t you join us for dinner” and have all the ingredients and tableware that you need, so there’s no last-minute scrambling.
  • Put away anything that you don’t want your guests to see, touch, etc. This is especially important if your guests are children. Close off rooms that are off limits, and lock them if you can. Most bedroom door locks can be locked from the inside and opened from the outside using a small key (or in some cases a screw driver or even a paper clip). Make sure you can unlock the doors quickly and without much fuss before your guests come over; otherwise, you’ll spend your time fumbling with the lock instead of tending to your guests.
  • If you are planning activities, plan activities that your guest and you will both enjoy. Don’t just say, “Hey, I really like…” without asking the most important question, “Do you like…?”
  • Have a place where your guests can put their things. If you or they have children, or if you have pets, they should be able to put their belongings in a place where children and pets can’t get to them. Have a place to hang up coats, jackets, bags, etc. If you prefer to have shoes removed in the house, have a place where they can put their shoes without having to pile them up in the corner.
  • Have cleaning supplies ready to use. If there’s a spill, you can get to it quickly. If your guest spills grape juice on her dress, you can offer her the appropriate remedy (or at least a dab from your laundry stain stick).
  • Have emergency medical supplies that are easily accessible. If somebody gets hurt, you want to make sure you can do everything you can to help them.

The Arrival

  • Always greet each guest cheerfully. This includes adults, children, and pets. Don’t just say hi to the entire group. Address each person individually.
  • Introduce your guests to your family pets. This is especially important for dogs since they may see the guest as an intruder if not properly introduced. If any animal needs to be left alone, this is the time to make that clear.
  • Give guests a brief tour, so they can find important rooms, like bathrooms, by themselves.
  • Explain house rules to kids. Examples:
    • If somebody gets hurt, no matter how tiny, you must tell a parent.
    • Which areas are off limits.
    • No leaving the property without permission and/or parental supervision.
    • Don’t lock any doors.
    • Bedroom doors need to stay open.
    • No toys or playing in the kitchen or bathroom with permission from a parent and/or supervision.
    • No yelling, hitting, etc.
    • Eat only in designated areas.
    • No borrowing, trading, or giving away toys, possessions, etc. without permission from a parent.
  • Offer refreshments, drinks, snacks, etc.
  • Give your full attention to your guests. Don’t take phone calls that can wait until later. Don’t work on projects or engage in activities don’t involve your guests (e.g. video games, television, reading, etc.).
  • If the guests are there to visit your children, such as a play date, step back and let them play without too much adult interference. Continue to pay attention to ensure the safety of all children as well as stop any bullying, but try to let kids figure out how to interact with each other with minimal guidance.
  • Ask your guests if there is anything they would like to do. Never say, “We are going to….” Always ask, “Would you like to…?”
  • If you have to discipline a child guests, explain why their behavior is inappropriate. If the child’s parents are there, be sure to let the parents know about the situation.

The Departure

  • If you need the visit to end at a specific time, pay attention to the clock, and let everyone know that “it’s getting late” or “wow, it’s almost time to wrap things up already.”
  • If your guests are children, give the children 30 minutes notice to end their game, clean up, and get their things together. (They may not know where everything belongs or how you clean up things in your home, so be sure to help them.)
  • Show each guest to the door, and thank each guests for coming over and tell them how much you loved having them visit. If they brought any gifts, be sure to say thank you for the gifts.

The Aftermath

  • For parties or special gatherings, send your guest a “thank you for visiting” card.