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 It’s that time of year again. We are entering the season of family gatherings, holiday soirees and dinner parties (and in our, case open houses). Entertaining family and friends is a rewarding and fun experience…but it can come with its own dose of stress. Not everyone is a ready-made expert hostess (and even if they are, there is still plenty to learn!). That’s why I wanted to gather my five go-to hostess tips for making every function, whether a weekend-long stay for guests or a one-night cocktail party, the best it can be.

Hosting a dinner is a great time to showcase your beautiful dishes and other tabletop pieces. Making sure a dinner runs smoothly is no small task. Try setting your table a couple days before your event and prepping as much as you can in advance to avoid being frazzled the day of the gathering. This also allows you to have a gorgeously thought-out table and still be fully engaged with greeting your guests instead of being distracted by what you might have forgot.

Timing is everything at a dinner function. One problem I’ve experienced is how to get everyone from the door to the table in a timely manner. This is where a simple solution comes in: place cards. Not only do place cards help avoid the “where should we all sit” dance around the chairs but it encourages your attendees to find their seats promptly and start getting to know their neighbors at the table. It is also a great personal touch that won’t go unnoticed. There are so many place card (and place card holder) options, it’s easy to find a style that fits perfectly with your table theme.

One of the busiest areas at a soirée (at least at mine) is the bar. Catering to different tastes can be overwhelming if you aren’t ready. Make sure to display the bottles you are serving to avoid far-out requests and to subtly educate your guests on what is available. Then the most important part (and, perhaps my favorite) is have a variety of glassware for your cocktail options. No whiskey in a wine glass here. I also love our marketing gal Karlyn’s tip for taking it an extra step — try handing out a few coordinating colors of cocktail napkins to identify the different liqueurs, that way when you offer your in-law another drink you know it’s vodka soda and not gin without having to ask again.

Having guests stay with you overnight? Utilize small, homey touches throughout your guest spaces. Holiday bathroom towels are a great way to show that extra thought and care when into preparing for your visitors. Candles are another item that can make a cozy impact while making your room smell amazing too. Lighting one in the guest bedroom and bath adds warmth to a space that can sometimes feel stale. You don’t want the rooms to feel like they haven’t been used since last year.

Long-term visitors are a whole other ballgame. One of my basic rules of thumb when hosting overnight guests is to make sure to have plenty of throw blankets within reach. This includes the public living spaces and the bedrooms. Not only are throws a great visual addition to your rooms but it’s no fun walking through a dark house to ask for extra covers. It might seem like an insignificant item, but it goes a long way in making your guests feel comfortable. Other creature comforts like robes, drinking glasses and a bottle of water, and (my 3-year-old’s favorite) SNACKS help make your guests feel at home.

These are just a few of the many ways you can make a get-together a delightful experience, for both you and your guests. I might even have to do a part two of this with all the extra ideas swirling around in my head. What are some of your favorite hostess tips? I would love to know. Share them with us in the comments or on our social media channels using #nellhills. Until next time — happy decorating (and happy holiday hosting.).

This column was adapted from www.nellhills.com

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