Hosting comes naturally to some people, while the rest of us are scrounging and yelling orders to our kids seconds before our guests arrive. But when the door opens and your guest(s) are greeted, the stress is written all over your face, and most likely, manifested in a tense hello. Hopefully, your guest won't realize that your exhausted and would like for the evening to just be over with. And dinner hasn't even been served yet!
Being a good host is definitely a skill set that matures over time, but with this tutorial we will explore a few of the ways in which you can create a wonderful ambiance to set your guests at ease and promote stimulating conversation. Using the 5 senses, we'll help you set the right mood for a wonderful gathering, one that may in fact, have repeat occurrences. The rest will be up to you!
Step 1: Scent
There's a reason that real estate agents use aerosol sprays that smell like chocolate chip cookies! Besides for really making you crave cookies, the ubiquitous aroma makes you feel comfortable because your brain recognizes the scent and automatically associates the entire space with satisfaction.
Even when you're not trying to sell your house, this idea can be reformulated for any space and really help build a great ambiance. Scented candles are great for this reason, aside from the warm and endearing appearance of the flame, they mask any other smells that may be lingering around.
Please note: don't go down the avenue of chocolate chip cookies aerosols. If your guests smell chocolate chip cookies, you better have some on hand.
However, if you've just cooked (or ordered out, let's be real here) something similar to a Brady Thanksgiving, go with it. Let your guests be welcomed with the amazing, but hopefully not too overpowering, aromas of the cuisine you've created. There's nothing short of love in a good meal, and your guests will feel that immediately as they walk through the door.
Step 2: Music
Having some light music play in the background will make your guests feel relaxed, whether they realize it or not. Music is magical in the way it can so swiftly change our mood. Restaurants, hotels, and even department stores will almost always have some tune playing ever so faintly to subconsciously make us feel something or other.
Play music that is most acceptable in your circumstance, so music played at a birthday party may differ than music played on a first date. But as a safe rule, classical instrumental is typical. However, if you can't even recall this genre, it may be a safe bet to veer far from it. You want your guests to feel comfortable, and if you have Bach playing, they'll immediately feel you are forcing a formality on them. Play music that is the best representation of you, that your guests can easily identify you with.
Step 3: Lighting & Temperature
The importance of good lighting cannot be overestimated. An appropriately lit room can completely transform a space, making it seem larger and more inviting. However, if what you're going for is a more intimate setting, you may want to try dimming the lights ever so much without having your guest(s) straining to see whats in front of them.
If you're hosting during the day, take care to allow a balanced amount of sun light in. Open curtains but draw blinds if sun rays are overwhelming. Usually, however, you would want as much light as possible in your space to make it seem airy and not constricting, even opening up some windows to allow for a light breeze when the weather calls for it.
Humans are most comfortable at about 70'- 74'F, with the latter being on the warmer side. If the temperature inside your home is far from this range, adjust your thermostat accordingly to allow your guests to feel comfortable in a way they may not even realize. Better yet, turn on your fireplace. Nothing says cosy and comfortable than a nice crackling fire. Whatever the temp, just remember there's a reason its called "warm welcome"
Step 4: Sight
Stand at your front door, living room, or dining area, and take a look at what your guests would see once they arrive. If you're not thrilled at the sight, make a few, simple changes.
Fresh flowers or any type of foliage really breathes life into an otherwise dreary space. Scientifically proven, plants can improve our mood, but beyond that, their presence can feel like a special occasion all on its own.
Conversation starters come in as many forms as there are conversation topics. Use this to your advantage. Whatever things you're into, be it traveling the world, spelunking, cars, art etc., your home probably has some sort of associating memorabilia that can spark stimulating discussion. Just be mindful that what you may be so passionate about may not be a sujet d'interet (topic of interest) for your guests, so don't go on too much if they seem lost.
There's nothing more calming than a clean orderly environ, one that is free from clutter and disorganization. With that said, you want your guests to feel as comfortable as possible, without forcing a formal, "this isn't my ordinary lifestyle, and having you in my home makes me feel that I cannot be myself." Your guests will immediately pick up on this, and feel awkward and uninvited. A clean house is awesome, but having it spotless is not relatable conduct, one that your guests would have a difficult time accepting as true. A little controlled chaos makes you human, and your guests will enjoy their faulted hosts more so.
Step 5: Food
Depending on who and how many people you intend to have over, the intricacies of your menu will vary widely. In many cultures, food is used as a way to communicate love and caring. However, do whatever feels right to you and serve your guests accordingly.
With that said, endeavor to have your guests enjoy themselves fully. Personalized, or small portioned individual ramekins are great for making someone feel special as it shows that you really thought about them in preparing your menu. Avoid overly-messy foods that are an eye sore to see someone consume (ribs are better left for bbq's.) Small, appetizer type foods even for an entree work well in a home setting.