Many people get anxious when it comes to last-minute guests, and I totally get it; being caught off-guard is never fun, and as the seasons go, the holidays bring people together, and to your door, more than any other time of the year. The trick is to create a casual atmosphere that is welcoming, without looking as if you tried too hard, and making everyone (including you) feel at ease.
Gone are the days of dishing out horderves and cooking five-course meals for guests; and in is a relaxed environment where guests take center stage. If you haven’t already, now is the time to “deck the halls” with some holiday décor, including mistletoe in a prime location. You never know who will show up this year, and it could be someone who stays around longer than the holidays.
Keep reading to find out how I prepare for last-minute guests, and what I can’t live without this holiday season:
Set the Tone
I think one of the most common fears people have about last-minute guests is the idea that our homes must be picture perfect. No one is suggesting that you live immaculately until January; far from it. In fact, I prefer to create a zone for friends and family to hang out in, and like a Shepard will round those late arrivers into that area away from other zones by telling them to “Go around the back!”
In California, I’m blessed with patio weather year-round, but if you are limited on space or the weather is not on your side, choose one area to entertain and keep it looking spiffy. Remember, this isn’t a house tour. I prefer to keep people near the door to keep uninvited interactions brief. This is especially handy if people arrive when you are hosting and you need to be in two places at one time.
Ditch the Expectations
When entertaining last-minute guests, skip dinner and head straight for the two things that no one can resist – dessert and drinks. A great way to set a party mood with no prep work is to set up a candy station (read: tear open and empty candy) or a few staple snacks into rustic buckets for guests to help themselves too. Popcorn, pretzels, and M&M’s are always a hit; and if they get mixed up, so much the better!
For drinks, I always keep a stash of Mike’s Hard Lemonade on the ice. I throw a couple of their delicious variety packs into a metal bucket with ice and slam it on the back deck for guests to help themselves too – with so many great, all-natural flavors, there’s sure to be a flavor each guest will love. I prefer to get into conversation than spend all my time in the kitchen making cocktails, and sometimes, beer doesn’t quite cut it. I also find guests feel more like family than a weary friend, when they can just help themselves. Go on, break the rules!
Go the Extra Mile
For me, the holidays are all about letting the people I care about know how much they mean to me. A simple way to show someone they are appreciated is to keep a stack of token gifts on hand to hand out to guests as they leave. Now, you don’t want to give someone something so lavish they feel obligated to return the gift, but something quirky to thank them for stopping by. Check our page on the best bronzers for men.
This could be something as simple as a wine bottle stopper or a pack of playing cards; party favors, much like hand-written thank you cards, have fallen out of fashion, and I think it’s time to change it. I will look for gender-neutral gifts when I’m shopping and will put them in a jar near the door and hand them out to guests as they leave; you’d be amazed at what a small gesture can do, and how many smiles it gets.
How do you deal with last minute guests? Do they make you break out in hives, or are you the host with the most? Leave a comment below and share your best tips!