Entertaining Friends.

(All images from Pottery Barn)

(Fell free to pretend this is how my house really looks.)

(Or this is really how I entertain.)

Ha. Ha!

I was thinking about something lately– and I`d LOVE to have ya`ll weigh in on this.

When having people over to eat and entertain; or when you go away to do the same at someone else`s house– what is the number one “must” to you?

What`s that thing you do– or that you like when other`s do to you- that makes you feel really happy and special when you are being entertained or entertaining?

I`m sure it`s different for everyone.

For instance: My husband`s NUMBER ONE THING when we go out: is serve me something good to drink.

That`s all it takes to make him happy, there would not even have to be food. [And when he says, ‘something good to drink’– that could definitely be a soda over ice.]

Basically anything BUT water.

My must on the other hand is: that the one thing I think is so crucial to making guests feel loved is…

Never, EVER start cleaning up the mess, dishes, toys etc. before they have left out the door. There`s something about just leaving the mess that says, “you are so interesting fun to be with, oh, company, that the world can just sail on by (and the dishes can just pile up)”…

No one likes to feel rushed or “pushed along”.

Oh, and never make them help with dishes. No one REALLY wants to help with dishes, you know?

Or maybe that`s just me. Selfish me.

I`m sure a flurry of you will disagree with me on this– and that`s wonderful.

I want to hear what you think.

What`s your mantra?


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  1. Tracy Cassel says:

    Hi Jenny. I’m a first time commenter and I love your site! I especially enjoyed your recent posts on sewing and repurosing. Keep it coming. And today’s piece is very appropriate for me. We’re having guest for supper tonight that I haven’t seen in ten years (reconnected through facebook). I insist when guests come that they DO NOT bring anyting. I invited them! =) Nothing like ‘can you come for a meal….and bring half the stuff!’ =) Now there’s a place for that when going to a larger gathering, but not with traditional hospitality in the home. I also do not let anyone clean anything up. I do that later! Thanks for taking the time for this site.

  2. Tracy says:

    This was so interesting. Something that makes me feel so special, relaxed and right at home is when not every little corner of their house is perfect and polished. It helps me not sit on pins and needles thinking my kids are gonna touch something. I also love that the people feel comfortable enough to not stress about the small stuff but to just enjoy their guests. I know this probably sounds weird but oh well. What they have to eat is really not a big deal to me it’s more about the fellowship.

  3. Teresa says:

    When I have company, I like to just visit afterward too and not worry about the dishes. Occasionally people will insist on helping, but I really don’t mind doing it later either. I try to stay relaxed about it all, and hopefully the guests will feel relaxed too. (now getting ready for company, ha, not always so relaxing for me, but I’m trying to do better. I think the hardest part is getting and KEEPing the house clean. I like it in order when they get here, but after they’re here, I don’t care if it gets messy.
    I love what you did with the clothing post. Cute, cute!

  4. julana says:

    funny- you wrote the same stuff i’ve been thinking about .:) i totally agree… DON”T i mean DON”T start cleaning up till they have left and even if the house is up side down while they are there and your going nuts pretend you’r NOT stressed at all! when i leave someones house and am like “wow that was fun!” it’s usually how the hostess was and for me that’s usually when they are relaxed! i’ve just learned this.. i use to think that cleaning up while they were there was a good hostess cause people like a clean place right and it looks like you watching out for them “you done with that cup.. i can take it for you.” nope dosn’t work that way .. for me at least.
    funny about galen… now looking back and the few times he was here i can tell your right.. even though i didn’t think of it at the time.

  5. Esther Glick says:

    using cloth napkins & no doing the dishes! 🙂

  6. Judy says:

    The one “do not do” thing for me is this: Do not apologize for the messy counter, the food, the remodeling project half-done, the kid’s toys all over the floor. Makes one feel bad for coming and can get awkward, especially if it’s a drop-in visitor. I have come to realize that I reveal my insecurity when I do that, and I’m self-focused rather than guest-focused. NOT comfortable or inviting at all!

    I’m with you on leaving the dishes! I might clear the table of everthing but something to drink, especially if there are lots of little kid messes, but NO DISH WASHING!! 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    Their house does not have to be in perfect order, but a clean bathroom and fresh hand towels is nice. 🙂 🙂

  8. Kendra says:

    I am comfortable when the hostess seems relaxed and is not flying around in high gear and acting all stressed out….that really bother me and almost stresses me out too. I also like when not everything is tip top and cleaned. It doesn’t offended me that they didn’t do it for me to come. It actually makes me feel good, and in turn I’m more relaxed when I have them over at my house.

  9. Carla says:

    A relaxed hostess makes the night for me. If she stops what she’s doing, gives me a hug or a kind comment, I am set for a great evening. Problem is when I entertain this is one of the hardest things for me to do because I’m usually racing around with last minute things.

  10. Joann says:

    Interesting post. Loved reading the comments.

    I enjoy when the host/hostess is relaxed about her house and her food … which to me says she is relaxed about herself and her role. (okay, big mouthful there but something I personally have to work on.)
    I do like when people serve something even if it’s not much – just because I think it has a way of naturally making people relaxed and hopefully spark good conversation. And good conversation and connection is a highlight for me.

    … and tell Galen that since his brother lives at this house and because he feels the same about good drinks … he could probably help himself to some in the fridge …. OH wait, did he want that served to him in a chilled cup w/garnish or is that not important.

  11. julana says:

    i’ve been thinking of this still… wanted to add something. first i really like what kendra had to say… but the whole letting the house get a mess and not cleaning up while guest are still there i still think is true but it i’ve been thinking it still should not give the company a excuse to abuse the hostess and not try ANY … even if the company just offers a apolige for the mess they’ve made is nice… the company should still be polite .. even just say how much fun they had to the hostess (that sure makes my day!)

  12. Jennifer says:

    I’m a dissenter on the no-dish-washing…hope that’s okay. 😉 I love it when my guests help, especially if there’s a crowd of them. I honestly don’t mind helping when I’m invited away, and I love leaving the kitchen clean whether it’s at my house or someone else’s. Then I feel like I’ve done my hostess a little favor and maybe helped her not be burdened with a lot of cleanup when we leave.

    One thing that’s becoming more important to me is not apologizing for flops or a simple meal. I want my guests to know that their presence is the most important thing, not my performance as a hostess. It’s also important to me to have a reasonably de-cluttered and clean house, since that makes me feel relaxed when I’m a guest.

    • Jenny says:

      hey that`s cool. we love dissenters. 🙂 and i def see what you mean. i think personality plays in here too.

  13. Carmen says:

    So good to read these comments!

    For me having a nice atmosphere is very important. I love to go “all out” for my guests….doing little extras. For overnight guests….a chocolate on their pillow, ice water in their bedroom, fresh flowers in bedroom and bathroom is a must! Fold the toilet paper that fance way like the motels do. =) (I don’t always get all of these things done tho).

    Take time to meet your guest and welcome them – personally and with feeling. I love hugs, and love to recieve a hug from the hostess when I am the guests. I know this isn’t everyone’s love language, so use discretion. (Taking time to go to the door w/ my husband is challenging because so often I’m working on last minute food prep. But, it’s worth it and I try to remind myself that the guests are usually not starving, so waiting a bit until everything is ready isn’t a big deal.) I just recently found a nice easle w/ chalkboard at the Thrift store that I want to fix up, and have in mind to use it by the front entrance to write a personal welcoming message on for my guests.

    I love to have things aesthetically (cough – big word for this southern gal) pleasing to the eye! Good tasting food is important, but I am firm believer that if you have it ‘looking’ nice, it really does do something for the taste buds as well! I love to use lots of candles to add sparkle. Easy listening background music is something that adds a very nice feel to the occassion.

    I personally love to use china and crystal.

    I could go on and on….. Not because I know so much, but because I love having guests and trying to make them feel special.

    Because I love to do the little extra’s, I have to remind myself though that it’s okay to have friends/guests and keep things very simple too. Cuz if I always think I have to do the extra stuff, then I won’t have company as often, or on quick notice.

    An important key that I have learned is to do as much of the preparations the day or two before! Cleaning, setting the table, and any food prep that can possibly be done ahead of time helps me feel more relaxed and at ease when my guest come!

    Okay, I’ll quit now…..

    BTW, Jenny you are the perfect hostess in my opinion. I want to hear more from you!!

  14. Rachel says:

    another great post! everything about entertaining I/we love, course you knew that…..but…

    i’m with you on the not letting guests help with clean up; maybe it’s because i went to too many homes growing up where we always washed the dishes after the meal, and i hated!! it. plus, i always saw my mom focusing on the company while they were there instead of the dishes and it impacted me hugely. way i see it; the dishes will always be there, the company will not. i’m also a big believer in keeping my guests drinks filled…maybe because i’m always thirsty myself?

    lovely to read your thoughts and always, always am excited to see when you’ve posted!
    happy weekend!

  15. Julie says:

    Hmm…my big thing would probably be to have MORE than enough food. Leftovers are always better than running out of food! Nothing is worse when you go to somebody’s house and feel as though you have to take tiny portions, or the last one in line may not get any. We also have been invited places where they tell you “they were going to have hamburgers (or whatever), but instead decided on pasta, because it was cheaper”. NEVER, ever make your guests feel as though they are burdening your grocery budget (esp if you invited them)! 🙂

  16. Gloria says:

    company, hostessing….what IS that? :/

    Yes, as much as I love people, having them to my house isn’t something I really enjoy. I would much rather we meet at a mutual spot and hang out there.

    HOWEVER, if we were to have folks here, you know, in an imaginary world, the thing that is important to me is the same thing that makes me feel appreciated when I go to other’s homes. I feel uncomfortable when the hostess is totally busy, rushing aroud serving everyone the majority of the time we’re at their house. It’s important to me to just be able to sit and visit. I don’t enjoy a visit at all if the other party is focused on making everything “just so”. Feed me what you want. Just make sure we get the chance to sit and visit!

  17. I echo a lot of what Carmen said, having learned so much from great entertainers and hostesses like her.

    The atmosphere of a home is so huge to me. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, elaborate, or fancy. But please let it be clean. This doesn’t mean it has to have every corner picked up, but that it is pleasing to the eye. This makes me feel as though I am a special guest, and important enough to take the time for. I have been a guest somewhere, where I took half the food upon request, and arrived at a dirty (not as in toys scattered, but as in real dirt) house. It felt like I was an afterthought, and that she looked at me like, “Oh, great! Now we can have lunch since you came!” Not a good feeling.

    When I have guests over, I insist upon them not cleaning up. However, they don’t all listen to me. 🙂 When I go somewhere else though, it makes me feel at home to help with cleanup. Especially if I’m at a home with a lot of young children, and I know that the mother will be busy with putting kids to bed after we leave, and thus I hate to leave her with a messy kitchen. It just seems like a small token of thanks I can offer for being invited over!

    Much more could be said. I loved reading the other people’s comments. I can learn so much from them all!

  18. Jo says:

    Sometimes a host or hostess lets it out of the bag that they called ten people before they could find anyone (us) to come over. Not fun to hear. I so want to be a better hostess. I tend to worry over whether or not people are having fun. I love when the hostess says to let the toys go… esp if they have a gazillion trinkety ones that each have a special spot. Although there would be times that one should flat out refuse and pick those toys up. When the hostess is 9 months pregnant for example or if you know they’ve got a lot going on in their life.

  19. amber says:

    i want my home to be peaceful~ which means ME being peaceful. i’ve learned through the years that in order for this to happen i have to SIMPLIFY!!! instead of that big fancy meal grilling hotdogs or even ordering pizza~ i tend to be a bit of a ocd perfectionist and love details and planning things, BUT if i’m an exhausted strung out basket case by the time my guests arrived they can sense that and never fully relax b/cause they keep feeling like they should leave so i can go to bed, where i obviously need to be- ha!

    a friend once told me something a long time ago that’s stayed with me – “is your home a place to bless, or impress?” that always crosses my mind when we’re having ppl over.

    another great post, girl. love hearing others thoughts/ ideas. and yours about NOT cleaning up kinda got me.. i can DO that. but i never thought of it b/fore communicating to guests that i was ready for them to leave! NEXT time i won’t. i take the BaileyandMe2 pledge to SIT and visit and enjoy my company!!! =)

  20. terri says:

    yikes. this post made me think about how many times i may have made someone feel badly by my hostessing! i’m a total cleaner-upper after meals. it grosses me out to let it sit there. and i think too i’m not good at relaxing when i hostess. i love to hostess. but i can’t stand crazy messyness when you’re in as tiny of a house as we are in–especially if there are lots of people here. simple and meaningful makes me happy. but i am so a person who loves to see things look clean. it makes me feel better. i don’t expect anyone else to clean up with me–in fact, i’d rather do it myself while they relax. i’m gonna keep thinking about this!

  21. Ruth says:

    Music. I absolutely love when people play music in their homes. Something soft and in the background if it’s a quiet evening, something a little louder and fun if it’s game night. I think it makes me feel like I don’t have to make up stuff to talk about and it’s ok to just BE rather than to have to talk all the time, especially if I don’t know them well.
    And I always feel a little more comfortable in a house if I know where the bathroom is right from the start and don’t have to wonder if I’ll find it if I go down that hall or will I walk into a bedroom or something. I’m not sure exactly how to make that known ’cause saying, “Welcome, here’s the bathroom.” would be pretty awkward. But it just makes me feel better knowing.

  22. Cindy Fox says:

    yeah, I know I’m a little late in reading this post and commenting… very good though Jenny! I love hearing your thoughts. I too had to cringe at times you guys were pry at our house and I’m busy cleaning up. I too like things clean and its hard for me to relax when the house, esp kitchen is a mess. BUT I do want to work on that. I like to help clean the kitchen esp when we’re at other people’s houses, it just feels wrong for me to leave when the entire place is trashed. I don’t expect people to clean up at my house or help w/ the dishes, but its fine if they do.

    Its fun staying somewhere and you can tell that they looked forward to you coming and did something that took extra energy to make you feel welcomed! It doesn’t have to be much. jenny, i often think of weekends at your house, chocolates in the bedroom, fresh, WHITE towels (my favorite!) rolled up on the bed, a pitcher of perfect looking lemonade in the fridge, etc… you do an awesome job at making people feel welcomed!

    thanks again for the thoughts. I too need to do more thinking on this! =)

  23. Amber S says:

    Not sure how I missed this post, but loved reading it and all the comments. I totally agree with not feeling real wanted when you find out you were the ‘last resort’. Or hearing that the husband wanted company, but the wife really didn’t.

    I have so much to learn about being a good hostess, but the best way to do that is to practice!

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