Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Few Useful Entertaining Ideas

Today I am passing on some interesting tips about successful and enjoyable entertaining.

Anticipate problems and have plans in mind to prevent them or correct them. Most guests have common enough sense to refrain from exploring rooms that are off-limits, but if you anticipate that there might be some children or others who feel that your home is their home and are inclined to wander, there are a number of things you can do.

a. Turn off the lights in all rooms except the ones which will be used by your guests. 
b. Close doors to private areas such as the garage, laundry room, bedrooms, office and others. If there might be some extra curious little ones who tend to wander and open doors, place a chair in front of the door, and on the chair a basket of flowers or a plant. If a particular area of the house is off limits, you can place a rolling cart or some piece of furniture in the entrance.
c. Stay with your guests as much as you can, to avoid having them go looking for you in other parts of the house.

d. Allow guests to be seated in your living area first. Only when that room is full, should you begin to bring out extra chairs, and the reason is this: When several rows of extra folding chairs are on display, guests seem to automatically sit there and leave the living room empty. Another reason is this:  The extra chairs may not be filled at all, due to guests who do not come. Those 15 empty chairs can make a get-together look like a failure. It is wiser to bring out one at a time, as extra people come, than to leave a large amount of chairs sitting out that will never be filled.  I received this tip from a minister who believed that empty chairs announced failure, but a full living room announced success.  Of course, one extra empty chair would not hurt the morale of a group you have invited, but if there are too many, guests may begin to ask "Is anyone else coming tonight?"

e. If you are serving food, set it out in a way that makes it easy for guests to help themselves, which will free up your time to visit.  Place a small trash can in an accessible place near the buffet area so that they can dispose of the paper plates, cups, cutlery and napkins, and not feel they must go into the kitchen and look for the trash can underneath your sink.
f. If your house is available for touring, by all means, announce this to your guest and tell them they are free to look around.  But if it is not, say nothing. Just follow the techniques listed above and they should get the message.

If you have a Ladies Bible Class in your home you will need to have some priorities.  It is not necessary to have every shelf and every cupboard perfectly organized, or anything else that your guests will not see.  Take care of the things they will see: the floors, the furniture and the room where they will be sitting, the front porch and entrance area. Preview the area where your guests will be entering and sitting, and look around to see what they will be seeing. That way, you can tell what their view will be and what needs to be straightened or cleaned. The restroom must be sanitary and sparkling and fresh, so make this a priority. Your kitchen must also be clean, even if guests do not see it, for it will make you more at ease as a hostess, knowing you do not have to hide a room the guests might see.

Sometimes guests come extraordinarily early and the hostess is still finishing up some details she is tending to, to make the event go smoothly. You might offer a pretty magazine or book  or point to a stack of reading material that they can browse while they wait for the event to get started. Tell them you have to finished up a few things.

Having a weekly class can sometimes make it tempting to be less than excellent in preparation. Someone told me that no matter how frequent an entertainment even was, that the hostess should treat it as though it was the most important day of the week and make her personal appearance a priority. I knew a woman who hosted  a weekly Ladies Bible Class. She dressed her very best, in a dress and even wore the strand of pearls her husband had bought her many years ago, and had taken pains with her hair and general appearance. She felt that dressing her best helped her serve others better.

Church at Home is something that needs to be addressed, also. Some people romanticise the idea of gathering in the homes of the church members on the Lord's Day, and shun the idea of having a facility or building of their own to share. They seek the comforts of home rather than the meeting house.  While I agree it is sometimes enjoyable to be invited to worship in the home of a church member, there are many other things to consider. Firstly, consider that a meeting house is already prepared for the purpose of hosting the members for worship services. There are usually several washrooms set aside for men and women, and the seating areas are adequate for many more people. There, members may come as early as they like and not inconvenience anyone.

Meeting at home can mean an intensive amount of preparation for the woman of the house. The home is used for many different purposes, whereas a church meeting place is always available and prepared for a gathering of people intent on worship.  When services are over, the members can linger as long as they like to visit with their brethren, and not inconvenience anyone.

Because hosting church at home can cause a tremendous amount of stress on the lady of the house, it will diminish enthusiasm for showing hospitality. This is one reason the church meeting house is so ideal. It is always there and always company-ready.

  Sometimes when people meet in a home, they expect refreshments afterwards, which may also add to the burden of the homemaker. In my own experience over the years, I've seen the church start out very small, meeting in someone's trailer home, and then as they grew larger in number, they rented a space in the local library, then another facility, and finally they felt it would be more convenient to have their own church building. This enabled them to use it as often as they liked during the week.

Meeting at home can bring on a host of other problems, as personal property is treated as public property and maybe not as carefully as it should. It creates a lot of wear and tear on the facilities at home, and some stress for the homemaker to get everything ready, even if she delegates the preparations to others.

When a church meets in a home, it often comes about that the family who hosts it will have an illness and have to reroute everyone to another home, which has to be hurriedly cleaned up and made ready. From many years of personal experience, I can say that I much prefer meeting in a church facility that is made especially for the members to worship and have fellowship activities.  It is always enjoyable to invite someone from the worship services home afterwards for a meal

However, if you are in the position to host a church gathering in your home for worship, it is important to prepare the house in such a way as to keep the member's minds on the solemnity of the worship service to God, and not create distractions. Make it clear there are places in the house not open to the public, and set a time when the service begins and ends. Having church in a home can be wonderful, but as the congregation grows, I think it is a blessing if they can pool their money and get a facility for themselves to share.  The homemaker can have a place to go on Sunday where she can forget about her housework for a couple of hours. 

Give your guests the best that you can afford and the best of yourself. Avoid making last minute preparations, as this will cause tension and worry. Prepare as far ahead as you can so that you can entertain with ease.  

It does no harm to add to your table "wardrobe" by adding interest, using tablecloths to your collection or a bright centerpiece of some kind. If you have a regular class of some kind in your home, you will need some changes in tea cups and dishes, if only to keep your own interest alive and fresh.

While we want to be welcoming, warm and friendly, it is important not to reveal too much personal information about yourself, your relatives, or things that you do not have the privilege of discussing. Some guests who are not used to being entertained, will ask all kinds of things. Think ahead to what they might do with any information you give them and whether it can be twisted or misconstrued to sully your family's reputation.  For example, one young lady asked her hostess, "Do you ever see your mother?" The hostess replied that since they lived such a great distance apart, due to her husband's job, that they were unable to get together often.  The young lady concluded that the hostess and her mother had no communication between them and were not close.  You never know where people's minds are going to go, so when asked about personal things, you can always say, "We are doing just fine," or, "They are doing just fine." Fostoring uplifting, meaningful conversation is worth practicing when you need to steer a guest onto a more productive subject.

If there is a special occasion you are observing, it is good to have a small departing memento for your guests, especially the ladies. A small box or bag with a soap, candle, food, or some other delight, is always appreciated. Try a pretty notebook and a pen, a fresh flower in a small vase, sprigs of herbs like rosemary, mint, sage, tied in ribbon, or any thing that will give the heart of the recipient a lift. To get ideas, imagine what you, yourself would like to receive.

The purpose of hospitality is three-fold: It builds up your guests, it encourages you, and it pleases the Lord. Often the hostess feels she has received more satisfaction by giving of herself and her home, than those who are entertained.  It is more blessed to give, than to receive, and this is certainly the case in entertaining others in your home.

If you have any more tips that have been especially helpful to you, I would be delighted if you would leave a comment.


Secondhand Blessings said...

Great tips! I really liked the one about placing a chair with a plant or basket in front of a room that you prefer guest not to go into.

Anonymous said...

When I entertained a group of adults in my home some time ago, several of the women actually opened closed off rooms, turned on lights and went inside to view the room.

Another time some older children actually entered my master bedroom and took small reading books, which I never got back.
Should I confront people who do this or just ignore it?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your useful tips on entertaining. They will be most useful when we have open house this holiday season.

Mrs. J.

Lydia said...

If it were me, I would certainly pursue getting back your belongings and also would caution the guests about the way they behave, so that they will not have problems in the future. Sometimes people wonder why they do not get invited back, and they should be shown the reasons. Young people should be taught every scenerio possible that would inform them of rudeness which causes hostesses not to want to invite them again. You could ignore it just to keep peace, but it is not wise to allow people to take things and not return them. It is bad for them, as well. You do them harm by not making them return the items.

Lydia said...

I believe also you could inform guests that the reason the rooms are closed is that you want them to stay out of them. You don't have to give a reason, but if you give a reason, you can say that it is private and just as you don't go into their bedrooms and look through things, you don't want them to go through your bedrooms and other rooms.

Jill Farris said...

I love the suggestion about not putting extra chairs out until they are actually needed! Great idea! I have had the experience of being left with lots of empty chairs.

I just wanted to add that hospitality is a biblical mandate even if you are an introvert like me and it does not come naturally! I am always surprised at how many "tries" it takes to get someone to accept an invitation. People are very busy these days. We have learned to pray about whom to invite and then begin inviting, trusting that, eventually, that we will find the folks who are open to the invitation!
Also, I teach a Jr. Speech class in my home and have a standard of dress required for those who come (8-11 year olds). I also look nice for each class. I think it has helped to raise the bar for the class and the parents appreciate the standard!

Jill Farris

Anonymous said...

At first glance, Lady Lydia, this article you've written might seem like just a few friendly suggestions for people who want to know, tips to make things run a bit more smoothly.

I think, though, that you've written what could possibly be the first of a series, & the subject matter is much more important to good living, as a whole. I think you've given advice both to the hostess as well as the guest on how to behave around others, how to pick up on each other's cues, etc. You can often tell alot about a person, how his/her own home functions, by the behavior in your home. Some people want very much to be around others, but they just don't know how to do it gracefully. And while it's the hostess's job to try & make all her guests feel at ease, poking around shouldn't fall into this category. This is why home gatherings are so important, because they train the individual to better behavior.

To the lady who is missing the books: yes, I would pursue that as well. I hope you get them back.


Jackie from NYC said...

This post was FILLED with so many great points. Well done! It was a pleasure to read!