10 simple ways to make your holiday guests feel welcome and special
Turn off the TV
When the television is blaring, everyone's focus is pulled in competing directions. Do I talk and interact with other guests? Or do I watch whatever is vying for attention on the screen? Unless the focus of the party is a bowl game or a televised production of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," turn off the TV and make your guests the centerpiece for the evening. Nothing will make them feel more special.
Put down your devices
In our 24/7 connected culture, it's easy to get lured in by the immediacy of an arriving text or email. But every time you do this, you stop interacting with your cherished guests -- and send the message that your gizmo is more important than they are. If at all possible, turn off personal electronics for the evening. If you need to be available for emergencies -- or for guests who've yet to arrive -- set your phone to vibrate, decide in advance which calls and texts require an immediate response, and ignore all others until your guests go home.
Ask about food allergies and preferences
For people who must follow special diets -- like those with food allergies or celiac disease -- holiday parties pose a special challenge. Ask all of your guests in advance about dietary restrictions -- and be sure to include at least a couple of things each person can eat. Also, serve a few high-quality non-alcoholic beverages so those who don't drink can have a special treat, too.
Declutter your guest room
If you're having overnight guests, be sure to declutter their room before they arrive. Put knick-knacks and junk piles into boxes and tuck them away in another room. Clean out a bureau drawer or two so visitors can unpack and make themselves at home. The extra space will make your guests feel welcome and comfortable.
Provide virtual comfort
Many overnight guests like to access the internet while they're visiting, and it's convenient if they can do so from the comfort of their room. If at all possible, provide a cleared area where they can set up a laptop and charge their electronics. Consider getting Wi-Fi, if you don't already have it, so guests won't be tethered to a desk.
Real plates, silverware and glasses
Consuming holiday treats off of flimsy disposable plates with cheap plastic cutlery makes your holiday party feel like take-out night rather than a special treat to savor. Bust out the ceramic and silver and glass -- and run the dishwasher after the party.
Light a fire
If you have a fire, by all means, light it for your holiday party. If you need your chimney cleaned, use this as motivation to get it done. Nothing says holiday spirit quite like lounging by a warm flickering fire, sipping drinks with dear friends and family.
Pick a suitable soundtrack
Music can create a festive environment for your holiday guests, but lyrics can be distracting. If played too loud, music can make it hard for guests to converse. So keep the volume low and limit your playlist to instrumental tunes. Think about setting a mood, and keep the focus on getting people to connect with one other.
Create your own coat check
Coats tossed haphazardly on chairs and sofas create clutter that makes your party space feel less relaxing. Take your guests' coats and bags and offer to hang them up. Make little coat tags ahead of time with each guest's name so you can easily retrieve their belongings when the party's over. Your guests will be impressed when you quickly bring them the correct items at the end of the night.
Remove your pets
Sure, Fido and Fluffy are adorable and entertaining, but not all guests like dogs sniffing around their hors d'oeuvres, or cats leaving fur on their fancy party dress. Some may fear or dislike animals. Others suffer from allergies. So send your pets outside or lock them in a separate room behind a closed door. Vacuum thoroughly before guests arrive and wash upholstery if possible. This will reduce sneezes and sniffles from allergic guests -- and will leave your space feeling fresh and festive.
Lisa Farino is a Seattle-based freelance journalist who writes about health, wellness, parenting and travel.