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Even if you live in the South like I do, practicing hospitality—that is, having people in your home—isn’t something that necessarily something that comes naturally. When you think about practicing hospitality, you might be picturing what would be better called a dinner party, and the idea of doing that sounds stressful and complicated. But it doesn’t have to be! Here are 12 tips to help things run smoothly for everyone.
12 Easy Tips to Practice Hospitality
Plan who you’ll have over
The first tip is to be strategic about who you’re going to have over. Our family has one night a week that is usually a good night to try to have someone over, but that means there are only so many people we can have over! Usually at the beginning of every season, my husband and I sit down and make a written list of people who we would like to have over. It might be a new family at our church, or someone from our small group, or a neighbor we’d like to get to know better. We also ask people spontaneously, but having a list can help us be really intentional, too!
Ask about allergies or dietary restrictions
Once you’ve decided who to invite over, make sure you ask them if they or anyone in their family have food allergies, dietary restrictions, or just any foods they plain don’t like! For example, one time I asked this and someone said her husband really hated onions. What I was planning to make included onions, but it was easy to leave them out to accomodate that particular food dislike.
Cook simple recipes that are easy to multiply
Now you know who you’re having over and that they don’t have any particular dietary restrictions (if they do, check out some of our keto meal plan recipes or vegan meal plan recipes) that could also be adapted to be gluten-free, paleo, or vegetarian). Here are some of my favorite recipes that are easy to serve to a larger crowd:
Meatball subs: Use our easy meatball sub recipe and just make enough for the crowd you’re having. Serve with chips and salad or another green vegetable.
Taco bar: Brown ground beef or saute chicken, then make sure you have all the fixins’ like cheese, salsa, sour cream, and lettuce. Serve with black beans or boxed Mexican rice and corn.
Pasta casserole: My favorite pasta casserole is this Three Cheese Baked Ziti from a now defunct recipe blog. I’ve made it dozens of times and it’s always a hit! Serve with a salad and garlic bread.
Soup, salad, and bread: Pick your favorite soup, pick up a salad mix or two and a loaf of bread from the grocery store bakery.
Homemade brownies: If you don’t have a box of brownie mix you picked up on sale from the store, you can make really simple but delicious homemade brownies at home. I love this copycat Betty Crocker fudge brownies recipe.
Ask your guests to bring something
Depending on who you’re inviting, you may not want to ask your guests to bring something (for example, maybe they just moved into town, or maybe you’re inviting them over because they’re going through something difficult). But many people ASK what they can bring, and realize that it might make them more comfortable to bring something rather than to come empty-handed. When someone offers, I usually ask if they’d rather bring salad or dessert and make clear it’s totally fine if they pick something up at the store on the way!
Run and empty the dishwasher before dinner
Even though we have a large dishwasher, it usually gets filled up with just dishes from our one family. So what I love to do is load everything that’s dirty mid-afternoon and run the dishwasher, then empty it as soon as it’s done. Then I have a totally empty dishwasher where I can load the things I got dirty making dinner as well as all the dinner dishes.
If they have kids, put some toys out in the living room
Even as our kids have outgrown different toys, I try to hang onto a few small bins of toys that appeal to a variety of ages. For example, when a family with little boys comes over, I have a big bin of matchbox cars that I can pull out. If you don’t have kids or an easy way to acquire these toys, but hospitality is important to you, then check garage sales and see if you can stock up on some fun toys for cheap!
Don’t have dinner ready right when they come
While the picture of your guests coming in to the table set and all the food laid out might sound nice, it can also be nice to leave some things undone. Then when your guests come and ask if there’s anything to do to help, you can make them feel useful by stirring the soup or setting things out on the table.
Turn on some background music
To create a warm and friendly mood, try turning on some background music. We use either our bluetooth speaker or the Spotify app on our Roku TV.
Offer coffee or tea after dinner
I like to set out a little ‘hot drink’ station before we even eat dinner so I don’t have to think about it. I make sure our Keurig is full of water, set out coffee mugs, and then put out a little basket of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Then guests can make their own or I can go make a bunch at once.
Don’t apologize for how not-clean your house is
If you’re comfortable and relaxed when you greet your guests, they will be, too. They likely will not notice if you haven’t had time to vacuum or if there’s dust on your baseboards. What’s attractive to them about your home is the people in it—that means you!
Include your guests in your family rhythms
If your toddler is going to be going to bed while your guests are there, ask if they’d like to read your little one a book while you wash up. Or maybe they could play a short game with your older child while you put your younger kids to bed. This doesn’t mean you should turn your guests into free labor, but if they seem willing, try asking them! We often have single men and women from church over, and they love bein included in our evening family routines.
Let them help you clean up if they offer
I actually read an article recently that said you should always say no if your guests offer to help clean up, because it’s rude and they probably don’t really want to help you. I’ve never found this to be the case! That’s not to say that everyone always offers, but if they do, I normally take them up on it.
We really love having people over, but it’s definitely taken time for me to be more relaxed and comfortable about it. I hope that these tips help you enjoy practicing the gift of hospitality!
Do you have any tips for practicing hospitality? Let us know in the comments!