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Hosting Guests

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.

  • 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. See Grunge Lev­els for an expla­na­tion of min­i­mum stan­dards of clean­li­ness if you are unsure of them.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Make nap­kins plen­ti­ful­ly and obvi­ous­ly avail­able.
  • Coast­ers should always be read­i­ly vis­i­ble in liv­ing rooms, dens, etc.
  • 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.
  • If any mem­ber of your house­hold is or has recent­ly been sick or infest­ed with any par­a­site (such as lice), please inform your guests in advance so that they may make an informed deci­sion about expo­sure to con­ta­gion.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Endeav­or to make your guests feel tru­ly wel­come. I was taught that one must always offer guests some­thing to drink, at the very least.
  • If you share 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.
  • If a guest egre­gious­ly vio­lates some nor­mal rule of behav­ior in your home, polite­ly inform him of that rule so that he may rec­ti­fy his behav­ior.
  • 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, con­fine it away your from guests.
  • Nobody should know that you have an ani­mal because they smell it or its waste prod­ucts.
  • Scent­ed can­dles, incense, and oth­er fra­granced items can cause prob­lems for some guests. Be con­sid­er­ate in your use of them.
  • Do not smoke while in the pres­ence of your guests unless you have asked if doing so will dis­com­fit them.
  • Do not have a tele­vi­sion, video game, or com­put­er on at all unless it is in some way vital to the planned occa­sion.
  • 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.
  • Music should be select­ed to com­ple­ment the occa­sion. It should nev­er be so loud as to cause any­one dif­fi­cul­ty in fol­low­ing con­ver­sa­tion.
  • 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. Cru­ci­fix­es depict overt vio­lence and are high­ly offen­sive to many peo­ple as a result.
  • 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 bath­cloths avail­able to them, as well. (I like to keep new tooth­brush­es on hand as well, just in case any­one has for­got­ten theirs.)

Last updat­ed August 9, 2003