As the practice of entertaining at home has, unfortunately, fallen by the wayside, many people have missed out on learning how to do so politely. I know that I am not at all qualified to host, for instance, a formal dinner. There are basic guidelines to follow as a host, however, that I have learned over the years.
I do not feel at all confident in my skills as a hostess, and I am therefore asking for a lot of input and feedback in this area.
1) Please provide a clean environment for your guests. For some of us, mold, mildew, dust, and smoke present health problems. Clutter is not nearly as much of a problem as dirtiness is.
2) Ask your guests about any dietary or other restrictions (pet allergies, etc.) in advance. Provide vegetarian dishes when hosting people who prefer them. Always provide non-alcoholic beverages if you are providing alcoholic ones. The same goes for standard drinks if you normally use those containing aspartame or other artificial sweeteners—some people are very sensitive to them.
3) Provide plenty of supplies in bathrooms, such as toilet paper, a fresh hand towel, and lots of soap. It is best to make extra rolls of toilet paper readily available so that your guests will not have to ask for them.
4) Make napkins plentifully and obviously available.
5) Coasters should always be readily visible in living rooms, dens, etc.
6) Be ready for your guests at least 30 minutes prior to their scheduled arrival. Do not, for instance, schedule a game to begin at 11, then expect your guests to wait while you finish preparations for the game.
7) Do not expect guests to assist in food preparation or cleaning unless you have made that expectation clear in advance and the guest has agreed to do so.
8) Set appropriate boundaries with your guests, and maintain them. You must stay aware of what is happening at all times. If, for instance, one guest is acting in such a way as to cause others to be uncomfortable, you must intervene immediately and graciously.
9) Endeavor to make your guests feel truly welcome. I was taught that one must always offer guests something to drink, at the very least.
10) If you share a living space with someone who has guests over, you must at the very least be polite to those people. If you cannot manage civility, keep yourself wholly out of contact with those people. Yes, this requirement applies to children as well as to adults who reside in a home.
11) If a guest violates some normal rule of behavior in your home, politely inform him of that rule so that he may rectify his behavior.
12) If you have a pet who may scratch, bite, or jump up on anyone, inform guests of this fact in advance. If your animal is particularly aggressive, you should probably confine it away from guests.
13) Nobody should know that you have an animal because they smell it or its waste products.
14) Scented candles, incense, and other fragranced items can cause problems for some guests. Be considerate in your use of them.
15) Do not smoke while in the presence of your guests unless you have asked if doing so will discomfit them.
16) Do not have a television, video game, or computer on at all unless it is in some way vital to the planned occasion.
17) The presence of guests takes priority over non-emergency phone conversations and absolutely any kind of activity that might take place online. Do not sit down at a computer to check your email or engage in conversations with others online or on the phone while you have guests. Doing so is every bit as rude to do so as it would be to simply walk out the door, leaving your guests there.
18) Music should be selected to complement the occasion. It should never be so loud as to cause anyone difficulty in following a conversation.
19) Do not expose minors in your home to any sexually explicit or overtly violent materials. If you have artwork or other items on display in your home that may violate this rule, inform parents of this fact before they bring their children into your home, so that they may make informed choices. “Mature” video games or movies with adult content should not be present.
20) When hosting overnight guests, provide clean, fresh sheets and bedding. Yes, you need to change the sheets before they arrive, and strip the bed after they depart. Make sure there are plenty of clean towels and bath cloths available to them, as well.