The holidays are sneaking up on us once again, and there is no better time to collect some hosting hacks than right now. Hosting the holidays or really any day can feel overwhelming, but hospitality is such a beautiful and godly characteristic to cultivate. Opening our homes to someone who doesn’t live in them should be a joyful, stress-free experience. These 15 Holiday Hosting Hacks will simplify hospitality and help you to open your home without worrying about what it looks like inside!
When this year began, I set a goal to practice hospitality more. I had hoped to host a simple dinner at least once a month, and I had challenged myself to invite more than our usual house guests. We have fallen short on some of those goals; however, I have become all the more likely to open my door without stressing over what people may think when they see the home behind it.
I’m not here to give you tips on hand painting pumpkin place settings, polishing silver, or arranging a centerpiece from foraged objects in your yard. This is not about hosting a Martha Stewart grade party. Instead, I want to encourage you to simply open the door of your home and fellowship with others within its walls. And the truth is sometimes being a hospitable host looks like Little Caesar’s pizza and laundry stashed away in the back room.
Becoming the Perfect Hostess
When my husband and I first got married, I had this Pinterest board vision of what kind of wife I would be.
Picture June Cleaver and Johanna Gaines in one person- and yes, that’s me!
(I have to tell you guys I love reminiscing on how naive I was. Ignorance is so blissful.)
So our first get-together (Friendsgiving) I bought a 16-pound ham.
Sixteen pounds of ham. For like 7 people.
There may still be ham stashed away in a freezer somewhere.
I figured we would need about 15 sides and a variety of about 6 desserts so that everyone could find something they liked.
I laid out the table. Folded every napkin just so. I sat up games and walked through the house inspecting for absolute perfection over and over and over again.
We had fun, but I was exhausted.
I thanked God that I only had to do that once a year.
Listen, Pinterest boards are beautiful.
Instagram has some fun inspiration.
Hallmark movies fill our minds with perfect scenes.
But in real life- the floors never stay mopped. The laundry basket automatically refills the minute you empty it. And life never slows down.
The land of comparison is a dark place, and if we aren’t careful it will leave us frozen. Planted in feelings of inadequacy of our homes, our cooking, our children, and ourselves. And in that state, we bar the door.
We shut the world out and ourselves in.
Here’s the truth no magazine wants you to know: There is no such thing as a perfect hostess.
I’m about to give you 15 hosting hacks, but none of them are going to change your name to Martha Stewart. Instead, these hacks are designed to take the stress and guesswork out of hosting so that you can be a cheerful, present host!
The Importance of Opening Your Home
When was the last time you invited the new family from church into your home?
What about the family with eight kids that no one else asks over because they seem like “too much”?
What about the widow dining alone at night who is praying for company?
When was the last time you set an extra spot at the dinner table for someone outside of your family?
There are a million reasons to open your door- and none of them care that you live behind it.
If there is one thing I can do with this particular blog, it would be to call you out of the land of comparison and into fellowship with those around you.
Mamas, this is a good and godly thing to do.
Read through the New Testament and just mentally highlight every time Jesus is dining in someone’s home.
His feet were washed, His head anointed, and dinner served.
Over and over He breaks bread with people unworthy to sit in His presence.
But they opened their door and invited Him in, so He dined with them.
I fear that if Jesus knocked on our door today, we would pretend we weren’t home because the house was a mess.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
My friends, Mothers are the key to changing the stigma around perfectly hosted get-togethers.
When our children are raised in a home where people are welcome to dine and fellowship together- they will be more likely to emulate that in their own home someday.
So here are 15 Holiday Hosting Hacks to make getting together simple and beautiful- not just during the holiday season, but the whole year through!
15 Holiday Hosting Hacks
1. Don’t stress about cleaning your entire home!
Why, oh why, oh why do we feel the need to clean out the closets, drawers, and hidden areas before someone comes over?
I am so guilty of this.
If someone is going through your stuff to see if it is tidy- well then they are the odd ones, not you for not folding your underwear.
I used to have this mindset that my home reflected me, which is true to an extent. But I took it to a very spiritual level and deemed hidden messes in my home equivalent to hidden messes in my life.
Now of course we all want things to be organized, but with five kids, a less-than-organized husband, and mail that arrives every single day the closet shelves get disheveled sometimes.
That does not mean that we have secret sin in some closet shelf of our hearts.
Please hear me loud and clear on this one: You do not have to clean the entire house before you invite someone over.
Satan will fill us with any silly idea that works to keep us closed off.
The homeschool room may be askew, the junk drawer overflowing, and the shoes piled up on the closet floor- that is okay.
The reality is if your home isn’t a mess before your holiday get-togethers or dinner parties, it will be after!
I’m certain your company has a junk drawer of their very own. It is okay. Don’t kill yourself to scrub every square inch of your home before you open your front door. Take a deep breath, and don’t worry about how clean it is.
2. Create an Inviting Atmosphere
There is really no place like home.
The ultimate job of a homemaker is to cultivate an atmosphere that is both inviting and comforting.
I have an aunt who keeps a beautiful home. It is arranged with beautiful antiques, spotless glass, and priceless crystal. Her home is pristine, and when we visit- I do not breathe until every last one of my children is out the door and tucked safely in the van where their wandering, sticky fingers can do no harm.
Hospitality is not about having the best home; it is about having a home that is inviting.
A place where your guests feel welcome.
A place where they can kick their feet up, lose track of time, and just be present for a bit.
Scent plays a huge role in creating that atmosphere.
Synthetic scents and paraffin candles can be bothersome for some; I am one of those who is easily affected by scent.
A light naturally scented beeswax candle, like these simple DIY ones, can be a great way to fill a room with a soft scent.
Essential oils, stovetop boils, and diffusers can be another great option.
But baking is the best way to produce a natural, inviting scent in your home.
Dutch apple pie, caramel pumpkin pecan bars, or even baking frozen cookie dough can create a cozy, welcoming scent in your home.
3. Plan ahead as much as possible
You know the saying, why put off for tomorrow what can be accomplished today?
Hosting is the same way.
Nothing causes stress in a hostess quite like putting everything off until the day of- ask me how I know.
One of the simplest and best hosting hacks is to plan ahead.
Think up meals or desserts that can be made ahead of time. A cheesecake, for example, is best if it has a full day to chill in the fridge making it a perfect make-ahead dessert!
A turkey needs about one day to thaw for each five pounds of turkey. So a twenty-pound turkey needs about 4 days to thaw. If you plan to brine your turkey before baking, that also takes extra time.
*Bonus hosting hack: Crock pots are the single greatest way to serve a beautiful meal with little hands-on time! My mom makes the best turkey breast in the crock pot for Thanksgiving at her house each year, and it is always simple and delicious!
If you are planning a big dinner party, like Thanksgiving, for example, take some time a couple of weeks in advance to lay out the daily tasks.
Make sure not to overwhelm yourself the day of.
Plan your grocery shopping, cooking schedule, and cleaning schedule.
Don’t be afraid to take shortcuts when needed. For example, using plastic utensils or paper plates for easy cleanup can be a great way to be more present with your guests.
I know in generations gone by, that was considered tacky, but honestly, I think it is better to create an atmosphere rather than an aesthetic. (Better to be cheerful and present than to create a beautiful get-together and not even get to enjoy it.)
4. Stock the Bathroom
This is almost always overlooked, but a well-stocked bathroom is such a gift to your guests.
Granted, it is a gift that is almost always unnoticed when given, but it is always noticed when it is not.
No one wants to be stranded in your bathroom looking around for toilet paper or the trash can. No one wants to have to yell to another room for something they need while nested upon the porcelain throne.
Sit out a couple of extra rolls of toilet paper, wipe down the bathroom mirror and countertop, and change out the trash bag,
Your guests will never know you did it, but you’ll be glad you did!
*Side note- if you are a guest at a party and you use the last of the toilet paper, inform the hostess. If you stop the toilet or splash water everywhere, ask the hostess for a plunger or paper towel! It is the kind thing to do!
5. Keep the Food Simple and Crowd Pleasing
There’s something about having people over that always makes you want to try something new.
A new recipe or a new food entirely.
Before we go whipping out the blow torch and ordering oysters, let’s think for a second.
If ever there was a time when you wanted the meal to go well, it is when you have people over to enjoy it with you.
Now is not the moment to find out if you are more Chopped or Worst Cooks in America material.
One of the best holiday hosting hacks to keep up your sleeve is to go with a recipe that is tried and true. Something that is a real crowd-pleaser and practically foolproof.
Choose common foods that most everyone enjoys or ask your guests ahead of time what their favorite meal is.
And remember when in doubt, order take out!
6. Let the Food Serve You
Listen a 16-pound ham is not for every occasion.
I used to always have this idea that I needed to pull out the roasting pan and make at least 3 sides from scratch in order to have people over for dinner.
Even for Christmas and Thanksgiving, we tend to keep it simple now.
Don’t be embarrassed to serve pasta or even to pick up a meal from a local shop.
One of my favorite dinner party hacks is just to have a giant potluck of family-style meals. Everyone brings a favorite dish and you all share in the meal together.
You could easily give it a theme like Taco Tuesday or even recreate a classic holiday meal like turkey and dressing with everyone pitching in!
Crock-pot soups, pre-made foods, or grocery store items can all be used to make the meal part of the evening more convenient for you.
It doesn’t have to be the best meal that anyone has ever had.
It doesn’t have to be made from scratch or all organic ingredients.
Serve the meal that serves you best.
Sometimes that is having pizza delivered.
No one is coming over to photograph your spread for the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.
So keep it simple. Enjoy your company, their stories, and their laughs. Meet with them in their struggles and be present.
The people around the table are what matters- not what is on it.
7. Get to Know Your Guests Ahead of Time
That probably sounds odd because you probably aren’t inviting over absolute strangers, especially for the holidays. But knowing your guests is a great hosting hack for you as the hostess.
Having over a family of ten versus having over a newly married couple are two completely different scenarios. Food is usually pretty obvious in terms of who will eat more or less depending on the number attending. But children, ages, preferences, and allergens or dietary restrictions are definitely something to take into account.
If a family has a child who crawls, you may want to vacuum or remove decorative items from your floors.
If you have a bunch of glass knick-knacks and a handful of toddlers visiting- help the Mama out and just move those somewhere safe.
It is so hard for a Mom to relax when they are worried about their children breaking something. Putting out a basket of toys or setting up a game or coloring station is a simple solution that your guests with children will really appreciate.
Also know your guests’ tastes, if they don’t eat meat- make sure they aren’t staring down a rack of ribs and crumbled bacon on every side. (I however would love that.)
Ask about allergens or aversions.
That again doesn’t mean you have to go all out in cooking a four-course meal, but I think everyone is happier when a meal doesn’t end with an EpiPen and a 911 call.
8. Have Some Entertainment Options
One of the easiest things to overlook in all our rushing about to host a perfect holiday party is the entertainment.
Everyone is there. The food is laid out. The house is even presentable and lovely.
But now what to do?
You don’t need to plan an extravagant laser light show or keep the television on in the background the entire time; a stack of games, a fitting movie, a planned gift exchange, or s’mores on the back porch are all easy entertainment hacks.
Entertaining your guests can be simple and inexpensive, and truthfully it may not even be needed. However, having some entertainment options in case you need them is as much a gift to you as the hostess as it is to the guests!
9. Keep or Create New Traditions
Between those last-minute snags in the plan and the general hustle and bustle of this time of year, holiday parties can feel a little overwhelming.
Adding something else to your to-do list may not seem like a great idea at the moment. But keeping holiday traditions that have been passed down or creating new ones that you can share together time and time again is so worth the effort.
It doesn’t have to be big, in fact, usually the little things are the best things.
Decorating Christmas cookies (even store-bought), wearing ugly sweaters and taking a picture around the tree, or even watching A Christmas Story while you open gifts (that was a tradition in my house growing up).
But the best traditions are those that remind us why we are celebrating together in the first place.
If it is a simple Autumn get-together on a Friday night, then start a new tradition of ending the night by the fire pit swapping uplifting stories over toasted marshmallows.
If it is Thanksgiving, go around the table and share something you are thankful for.
And if it is Christmas, take a moment to read Luke 2 or let the kids re-enact the first Christmas.
Keep up the old traditions or create something new!
10. Don’t Over Plan
Have you ever been to a party where every moment of the night was planned?
That’s great for a child’s birthday party where dinner, cake, gifts, games, and a pinata all need to take place in under 2 hours. But for a dinner party, get-together, or holiday party- tons of planned events or an itinerary can feel like a damper on the whole night.
If you are planning game nights or a Christmas party that involves gifts, or even a Thanksgiving meal around a football game, then your schedule for the event is pretty well full as is.
You don’t need to do a ton of extra planning unless it is something like crafts for the kids while the adults play Apples to Apples.
Sometimes when it comes to planning, less is more!‘
11. Beverages, Beverages, Beverages
My friends will be the first to tell you I am awful about beverages.
I always have water, raw milk, and apple juice ready to offer, and very few people take me up on that offer.
Someone almost always ends up zipping over to the Dollar General for sodas.
Having a variety of beverages for your guests is an easy way to keep everyone happy.
If you plan to have alcoholic options available, make sure to also include nonalcoholic beverages for those who choose not to drink but don’t want to be stuck with the children’s juice boxes as their only option.
Around the holidays is a great time to enjoy warm drinks.
You can easily set up a hot chocolate bar using a slow cooker hot chocolate recipe like this one. Lay out candy canes, marshmallows, whipped cream, and more for toppings! You can also add coffee and a variety of creamers to your warm drink station and apple cider is always a good idea around Thanksgiving!
12. Set Boundaries
This one seems silly until you need it.
Mama, remember: this is your home.
This is your safe place.
No one is allowed to disrespect you or your home just because they are your guests.
There are certain things we don’t allow in our home.
There are certain conversations we don’t want our children to hear.
Setting boundaries with your guests does not make you a bad hostess, not in the least, but it does keep you from having issues at your own party!
Now obviously that doesn’t mean you need to put a rule sheet up on the wall or make a speech to everyone who enters, but it does give you permission to say no to certain things.
For example, if you are an alcohol-free home, you don’t have to allow your guests to bring it inside just because they brought it with them.
If someone’s child brings a phone and wants to play on the Internet with your kids, you do not have to give out your Wi-Fi password, and you absolutely do not have to let your child go be a part of that!
Know your boundaries ahead of time, and adhere to them!
13. Make Conversation
This really goes without being said and if your family or friend group is super close it most likely isn’t an issue.
But we have all heard the dinner party horror story where everyone was silent and awkward for hours.
Conversation is the key to a great get-together. The main dish can be awful, the dining room table can be overcrowded, and the ice cream melted and people will still leave rave reviews if the conversation is good.
Conversation is the most important thing.
Plan a fun way to revitalize the conversation if it lags by holding some fun talking points in the back of your mind.
Set out some games or plan a fun activity in case you need to utilize them as conversation starters.
They may gather dust all evening, or they may save the day!
14. Be Mindful of Your Guests
Most likely if you’re opening your home to family, friends, or even newcomers- you are being mindful of your guests. But it is always wise to think ahead or go the extra step.
For example, if you are hosting a Christmas party in which gifts will be distributed- keep a couple of extra gifts on hand just in case.
It is easy to run off and forget something you meant to bring and sometimes life happens and little details just get overlooked. My Aunts are the queens of this kind of mindfulness. They always have extra and they are always prepared for when someone else may not be!
A few extra towels or toothbrushes on hand for overnight guests or even a pack of wipes handy for those with babies goes a long way!
Also, be mindful of the price of gifts for gift exchanges.
If you know one of your guests is going through a rough time financially, setting the expected gift amount high may feel overwhelming and embarrassing for them.
Encourage Dollar Tree hauls for gifts or set a no spending more than $20 rule across the board.
It may even be best to just skip gifts and enjoy a Christmas movie and hot chocolate drink bar instead!
Being mindful of your guests is an overlooked part of hosting, but when it is needed, there is no kinder holiday hosting hack.
15. Keep It Simple
This is one of the best hosting hacks there is!
Here is a simple truth that we all need to swallow- it is okay if your house looks like you live in it.
Please read that again and again until you finally accept it.
Not every moment needs to be perfectly crafted. In fact, the best get-togethers are marked by openness of conversation, fellowship, and the absolute best: someone growing closer to Jesus right under your own roof.
Last night we had some of our sweet friends over, and while I enjoyed every minute of it, my favorite part was hearing her son pray. A completely unplanned moment that melted my heart. Because it is the simple things that really are the big things.
Holding hands with friends around the table.
Laughing hysterically together while hoards of kids run wild in the background.
Hearing every story, every struggle, and every little nugget of wisdom.
Celebrating the holidays with those who mean the most to you or getting to know someone new right in your own living room.
That’s what hosting the holidays- or any day- is all about.
Keep it simple.
Open your door and welcome people in, it is so worth it.
Enjoy these hosting hacks! I hope they serve you well!