Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Holiday Entertaining: Out of Town Guests

This year we are thrilled to be able to host both of our families for the holidays.  First, my parents, siblings, and their families will be joining us for Thanksgiving weekend {and we'll be joined by my aunt and uncle on one of those days}.  Then, my husband's family will be here the first week of December to celebrate an early Christmas.  I can hardly wait!

One of the tendencies for many of us in entertaining {or just the thought of entertaining} is to become overwhelmed and run away, or to overwhelm ourselves by creating too much work and not being able to enjoy those who come to visit.  I tend to be a 'task-oriented' person, so it's taken me 5 years of marriage to my husband to learn that I need to relax a bit and focus on the people in our home instead of what my home looks like or how good the food is.  Don't misunderstand, those two things are still very important to me, but I've learned {am still learning} that people are more important.  So, in preparation for these days of out of town guests, I've made some attempts to get as much done ahead of time as possible.

1.  Create a menu several weeks in advance.

I don't think this far ahead with many things, I work much better under pressure, but by creating my Thanksgiving menu last week, it has enabled me to relax and prepare for a weekend of feeding 12 people {okay, 11 if you don't count my 3 month old nephew}.  I enjoyed looking through recipes online, gathering my family's favorite Thanksgiving meal dishes, and keeping a variety of foods so we aren't overloaded with foul.

2.  Carry a grocery list while shopping of said menu items.

Now that my menu is created I'm able to look at the deals each week in the stores and find some great buys on items that we'll need.  For example, Kroger is having some awesome sales this week on numerous canned items; I was able to match those deals with coupons from the paper and saved a TON of money.  Having guests doesn't have to break the bank, it just takes some thought, planning, and yes, time :).

3.  Inform guests of weekend plans. 

This may not be necessary, but I think it's helpful for people to have an idea of what to expect when they'll be staying in someone else's home.  I sent everyone the weekend menu and requested some baked goods from them.  They also know what the sleeping arrangements will be so those with young kids are able to prepare for a different environment.  We don't have cable, or even basic TV, so I also tried to find out if anyone had specific football games they were hoping to watch, so that we could do our best to provide that.  {My husband and I are still working on some activity plans, but if anyone needs a 'heads up' on that, we'll be sure to send out another email.  If my family is reading this, don't worry, we aren't getting too crazy}.

4.  Take inventory of linens.  

Source: bhg.com via Nicole on Pinterest

The weather has gotten a bit colder, and so we've been adding blankets to our beds.  As I was doing this over the past couple of weeks, I realized that we don't have enough blankets for everyone.  Rather than going out and buying tons of extra blankets, I simply asked for some to be brought.   Thankfully, I do have enough towels, but you want to be sure that everyone will be comfortable when hosting a large number of guests. 

5.  Line up a cleaning schedule.

I haven't done this yet, but I'm going to have one written out by the end of this week {someone keep me accountable!}.  I clean every week, but this is an opportunity to clean some areas that don't normally get cleaned.  In my house that means baseboards, doors, cabinets, drawers, closets, ceiling fans, maybe more, but that's what I can think of right now.  Nobody wants to see dirt, hair, dust, etc., around your baseboards when they're putting their kids to bed on the floor for the night.  I used the word opportunity intentionally, as it somehow enables me to have a positive outlook on tasks that aren't my favorite.

6.  Cook/Bake what you can in advance.

Many recipes have notes on them indicating that they can be made in advance and will keep for a certain number of days.  If you have a large freezer, consider baking and cooking things that can be frozen and then it's just a matter of pulling it out of the freezer when your company is there.  My freezer isn't large at all, but I'm emptying it out now so that in the next 2 weeks I can do some things in advance.  I also plan to chop up veggies, shred cheese, mix together dry ingredients, and label all of these for the dish/meal that they go with so that my food prep time is cut in half.  There are simple steps that we can take in order to avoid being in the kitchen the entire time we have company.

7.  Use paper products.

I realize this is a controversial issue, and we rarely have paper plates/cups in our home.  However, I don't like to run the dishwasher more than once a day, and with 12 people it would be impossible to keep to that by using real dishes for every meal.  So, I'm going to buy some {nice} paper products.  My Thanksgiving Day table will definitely be decked out with my fine china, but I'm going to be un-green with some of our other meals.

8.  Eliminate unnecessary tasks from the to-do list.

There are countless projects still unfinished in my home, and it really drives me crazy!  But, who is going to know what projects are unfinished?  I had great plans of painting furniture, hanging things on the walls, decorating my girls' room, sewing all kinds of things, etc., and my husband gently told me that was not necessary.  I had to let it go.  And, that's okay!!  The most important thing is that our families get to be together.  Sure, I want them all to see a beautiful home that's fully decorated, but the bottom line of that is my pride.  My big projects can wait.  I do have a small list of projects to finish up, but it is certainly more attainable and won't require sleepless nights, extra stress, and unneeded pressure from myself.

9.  Send your kids to the Grandparents.

Source: piccsy.com via Amanda on Pinterest

This last one is obviously meant as a joke, but it actually is happening for me!!  I'll be attending a family wedding the weekend before Thanksgiving and my parents offered to just keep the girls until they drive down later that week.  I will have 2 whole days to myself to finish getting ready!  This will really enable me to get some deep cleaning and food prep done. {And, for the record, because my mom will probably read this, her hands do not look like that}

10.  Relax and Enjoy your Company.

Nothing has to be perfect.  Just enjoy your company, whoever they might be, and have fun spending the holidays with the people you love.  Entertaining can be enjoyable, and even energizing, when we have the right mindset.  Serve the people who come into your home and make them feel welcome and loved; you'll come away from a weekend of entertaining with a full heart.  I guarantee.

Linking this to:
Tutes and Tips at Home Stories A to Z

Home Stories A2Z


  1. Excellent post, Lauren! Excellent! Thanks so much. We are home this year for Thanksgiving and Christmas also and it is quickly sneaking up on me so I HAVE to get busy planning. You have inspired me! :-)

  2. You'l laugh when you read some of my upcoming posts... :) We think alike!

  3. Wonderful post, Lauren! You have learned in 5 years of marriage what it took me much longer to "get": hospitality isn't about making people think I'm fabulous, but about spending time with them. I am encouraged to see that you have learned that early on! Your organization is indeed inspiring and helpful - thank you! :)

  4. This is such a great post! It's helpful to me for guests even who aren't going to be here over the holidays! You are very organized and that pays off when you're on top of things and not trying to pull something together at the last minute! I laughed at #9 haha but I'm glad you get a little break! Thanks for doing all this work to have us! :)

  5. These are great tips! Luckily my house is smaller so I don't have to worry about entertaining that many people---but one day I will! I hope Sherri and the rest of your family are worth it :)

  6. Great post Lauren! Sounds like you will be more than prepared for everyone!

  7. Loved reading your post, Lauren. We are so looking forward to our visit with you in the second wave of visitors. And by the way, those aren't this Nana's hands either!

  8. This list is so true! Make a plan, take your time, and just enjoy your company! Love this!

  9. What a thorough post, Lauren! It inspires me to clean my closets because not only do my hands not look like those, but my linen closet doesn't look like that one, either! Inspiration!

  10. This is a great post! Congrats on your feature at AtoZ by the way! That's where I saw your link! :) We are entertaining in the next few weeks too and I am SO guilty of stressing too much and trying to do too much, so this was very helpful!!!


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