If you’ve ever suffered through unpleasant aromas to avoid offense, gagged on bad water, or been horrified to discover you’re locked in a bathroom with no T.P., congratulations, you’ve already awakened your inner flair for hospitality ;)
Hospitality extends outside the home too! When my wife and I, in our adventurous 20s, moved a long way to Texas in an old 1970 dodge truck, we discovered eastern Oregon is seriously bereft of gas stations. Thankfully we puttered out near a hospitable gentleman who, most kindly, gifted us a full 5 gallons of extra fuel, enough to make it to the next stop!
“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
~ Hebrews 13:2
But don’t be overwhelmed.
As with most things, there are guiding principles that once discovered, can guide you along the road to success.
If you’ve ever taken a course in Psychology, you might remember a little pyramid from a man named Abraham Maslow (1943). In it is described a 5-tier “Hierarchy of Needs” that succinctly lays out basic people necessities.
Three of those necessities, we can make some attempt to fulfill as a host!
- Physiological Needs - food, drink, temperature, rest, etc.
- Safety & Security - accommodations, physical, emotional, mental peace, etc.
- Love and Belonging - relationships, friends, social inclusion, etc.
With those in mind, every suggestion/tip below starts and ends with considering your guests.
Consider their tastes, their diets, beliefs. Consider Extroverts and Introverts. Consider any detail about them that seems relevant!
It matters! This principle or category is tightly coupled with multiple needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. But the basic question to ask is this, “Is the space comfortable to all Five Senses?” Also ask, “What’s the Mood for the event?” For example, a 4th of July get together might call for tiki torches, outdoor lounge chairs, patriotic flowers, bug repellent, and the smell of BBQ.
- Aromas - No one likes a funk, of course. Use natural scents if you can. Essential oils like Lavender or Vanilla in a diffuser can add an extra layer of warmth and welcome.
- Seating - No one likes to stand for long.
- Cleanliness - This just goes without saying.
- Art - We’d be crazy if we didn’t mention Art! Art can make for unique discussion, or simply add some life, inspiration, and character to a room. Be careful you don’t hang anything offensive. Need some? Check out our Wildlife Art.
- Temperature - No one likes to be too cold, or too hot of course. Depending on your situation and time of year, have some extra blankets around, hand warmers, extra ice in the freezer, cold water, or anything else that comes to mind. Setting the thermostat works too!
- Outdoor Covered Area - A patio or deck is always nice to have. But you don’t need to spend a fortune. A few large umbrellas and some simple seats can help beat the heat or make for a refreshing escape in the rain. If you want to go the extra mile, you can turn your backyard into a wildlife paradise. Critters make cheap entertainment - Check out our article 7 Ideas for a Wildlife-Friendly Yard.
- Rendezvous point - Every room or space can use a convening point. This can be a fireplace, BBQ, or even an outside bench with a view.
- Background music - If your guests are close friends, you probably have similar tastes and needn't give this too much thought. If not, try some neutral playlists like Classical or Instrumental music - something seasonal can also enhance the atmosphere. Got skill? Bust out your instrument and strike up a tune. Your guests will surely appreciate it.
- Lighting - There’s no question, lighting has a major impact on the mood of your environment. If using electric lighting, pay attention to the color temperature of your bulbs or LEDs as well. We recommend avoiding daylight or bluer tones unless that’s the vibe you’re shooting for. Think about the brightness, ways to accentuate plants or illuminate art, and directing lights away from eyeballs.
- Plants - Bring in Nature! Whether it’s inside or outside, studies have shown that plants clean the air, improve cognition, and add an organic depth that soothes body, mind, and soul.
“Could I call this home?” That’s a good question to ask your guests. Not literally - although you might elicit some great feedback. But, put yourself in their shoes. What do you know about each person? What makes them comfortable?
- Parking - Along with directions, making sure there are safe and secure parking arrangements for your guests is critical to reducing stress and putting their minds at ease during their stay.
- Coat Hangers & Storage - Now that they’re inside, it’d be nice to have a safe place to store any personal items just-in-case. A coat hanger is a must during cold & rainy seasons. Also, consider a shelf with small baskets that each guest can claim.
- Toys - Are there kids? Is your house pristine? Having designated games, activities, and a place for kids to play will make your guests feel ultra welcome. Not only does it say “I’m cool with kids” but also works as a defense against the mischievous minds of children.
- Quiet Room - Speaking of kids, the smallest versions of the bunch do require a diaper change on occasion, not to mention nap time! A quiet/private space for baby naps and phone calls is good to provide. This could just mean picking up laundry in your master room and having a made bed.
- Talking Points - Even the most introverted of guests often desire to participate in conversation; After all, people don’t just come for the food :) Some talking points could be discussing your latest projects (we like to be nosy about what others spend their time on), art pieces in your home, or something interesting you read lately. (We recommend avoiding talk about work or politics unless it’s mutually enjoyed).
- Anti-Boredom - Not everyone wants to be the life of the party. Some prefer to kick back quietly and observe others, or just relax. Sometimes it helps to have a few simple brain puzzles on hand, or some choice books on investing, gardening, technology, etc.
- Foreign Cultures - If you want more ideas, looking at traditions in other countries can spark imagination! In Russia, sometimes slippers are offered to your guests! Small gifts anyone?
Food! Vittles! Sustenance! Concerning hospitality, it's usually the first thing that comes to mind, and for good reason! What’s to eat may even determine how successful many guests are in actually finding your destination. Wink. Wink.
- Diet & Variety - Not every one of your guests may eat what you do. It can also be a bit overwhelming if you try to cover every scenario - nut allergies, celiacs, organic foodies, vegans, pegans, and paleo lovers. Whew! To cut yourself some slack, try asking your guests ahead of time if they have any food sensitivities, or ask your guests to bring a small dish that’s guaranteed edible.
- Snacks! - Go crazy. Go variety.
- Drinks - Depending on your guests, you might go simple or high-class here. Personally, we avoid high-sugar heavily-processed drinks like soda pop. Coconut water, Kombucha, Sparkling Water, or even home-made freshly squeezed lemonade sweetened with honey might be just the punch the party needs!
- Tableware - Cups, Plates, etc. If going disposable, try eco-friendly options for extra green points!
- Extras - Ice, Hot Water, Napkins, etc.
For the future, build a basic checklist for consumables for faster preparation. Also try to introduce something to your space for each get-together and keep your guests guessing!