From 17 May, we'll be able to mix inside again. Overnight stays will be an option once more, giving us more freedom to see friends and family who live too far for a day visit. As hugely pleasing as this development is, chances are you might be feeling a little out of practice in how to host for an evening, let alone for an overnight stay. Many of us are still getting used to socialising again following months of lockdown, and the idea of entertaining guests for 24 hours feels ever so slightly daunting.
To help ensure you master any hosting duties this summer, we've compiled a refresher guide on the art of making any overnight guests feel entertained and at home.
Whether you feel it or not, make sure you at least give the impression of calm and warmth. If you need a glass of wine to help you get there, so be it, but nothing will make your guests feel more tense than a host who looks frazzled and neurotic. Once your guests have arrived, abandon your phone. Try to avoid taking calls or sending messages. Making time for your visitors and focusing solely on them is the easiest way of ensuring that they feel welcome.
2. Consider their favourite food and drink
Of course, check to see if they have any dietary requirements, but these people that you've chosen to invite to your home are (hopefully) your friends - what do they love eating above all else? Are they a pasta fiend or do they have a real thing for Indian food? Is there a favourite wine or spirit that they gravitate towards? If they like red, but you prefer white, either buy both or roll with red for the evening. Whether you're cooking for them ordering in, give thought to what your guests would really enjoy eating. Don't use their visit as an excuse to show off any lockdown dishes you might have mastered unless you think they'll really like it.
3. Think about music in advance
The right music will immediately help everyone feel relaxed and at ease. Think about the type of sound that would suit the occasion best, whether it's a BBQ-ready reggae playlist or a blues symphony perfect for a dinner inside, but do so before your guests arrive. You don't want to be anxiously trying to find the right music rather than talking to your friends. If in doubt, Motown is always a hit.
4. Make sure you have a comfortable guest bed
Don't skimp on this - a good night's sleep is key to ensuring your guests have a great stay. For those with limited space, sofa beds have a bad rep, known for being famously uncomfortable and aesthetically unappealing. Consider one of Swyft's new styles, which are easy to assemble and promise to be as comfortable as any double bed. Good quality bed linen is important; you want your friends to feel as if they're sinking into crisp, but soft sheets. A throw left at the end of the bed also adds texture and cosiness.
5. Scent is important
If you do have a spare room, the likelihood is it won't have been used in a while. Open any windows the night before to air out the space, and light a beautiful smelling candle or diffuser. Remember that scent is our most evocative sense, so it's worth paying attention to. Think about the time of year and what type of ambience you want to create - do you want it to smell summery and fresh or autumnal and cosy?
6. Pay attention to small details
Whether you have a guest room or not, prepare a clean bedside table - makeshift or otherwise. Place flowers in a small vase; these don't have to be expensive, a few single flowers from the garden will suffice. Abigail Ahern does great faux botanicals which you can obviously reuse. Provide a candle, even if just a tea light, and matches, as well as a bottle of water and a glass. There are plenty of chic carafe and glass sets available, both budget-friendly (see Trouva) and high-end (&You has beautiful options), which look particularly easy on the eye. Make sure there's a bedside lamp on standby too; no one likes having to get up to turn off a light before finding their way through a dark room that they're unfamiliar with.
7. Offer reading material
Sure, your guests might want to just switch off the light and go to sleep, but filling a basket with a few books and a magazine is a nice token. Make sure they're within easy reach of the bed. In the same basket, leave a spare iPhone charger.
8. Ensure your guests have all the toiletries they need
Leave two towels on the bed, one for the body, one for the hair and check that any bathroom is fully prepped with shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
9. Let them know the breakfast situation the night before
Unless your guests are leaving early, you don't have to be up at the crack of dawn if you aren't an early riser. Agree on a time for breakfast the night before, but leave a selection of cereal, tea and coffee for anyone who might be up earlier.
10. Don't forget about the temperature
Your guests should feel warm and comfortable in whatever outfit they've chosen to wear to your home. They shouldn't need to put on a jumper or cosy socks to feel warm, nor should they have to start peeling off layers because the heating is too high. This is not the time to skimp on heating.
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