An overarching theme for us is to be a home that hosts. We want to be the landing pad, not only for our own family, but for gatherings and fun and friends as well.
I grew up in a home that hosted well. I sat around a Sunday dinner with family and extra’s for as long as I can remember, and as I’ve gotten older and asked more questions, I’ve learned that my mom’s goal on most Sunday’s was looking for someone to invite over. Inviting people into my house has never felt like a big, scary idea to me – but I get that for some of you, maybe many of you, this is a foreign idea.
But, don’t you worry, we can all learn new skills.
I’ll cover a range of topics, ideas and themes so I’ll lay them out like this for easy reading: Space, Details, Themes, Age groups, Ideas and Asking for help. Here we go!
You might have 100 sq feet or 2000 sq feet to offer your guests, and I promise you, that’s enough. Whether you can seat 15 at a table (or tables) or you spill out into the garage or yard, it does not matter. The most important part of hosting is being willing to. Extend the invitation.
We had an extra kitchen in one of our basements, with a separate entrance and huge yard and we hosted all the time and for no reason. It was fabulous. Right after that house was a 900 sq ft walkup apartment and we still hosted our friends for dinner and parties and it was amazing. We moved late 2020 and now we have a garage and yard, a huge back deck and big basement to host all kinds of teenagers for game nights or end-of-year get togethers and random weeknight dinners.
The point isn’t how much space you have, but how willing you are to share what you do. True, we have a bigger home now and yep, it makes parts of hosting much easier for obvious reasons, but cramming 16 people around a 6 person table has its own kind of magic. If you’re more precious about your stuff than the people in your space: do some work on your expectations before anyone enters your home.
But let people enter. Don’t wait.
A note on animals: If you’re inviting people into your space and a pet is a part of that space, don’t surprise people with it. Or if you’ve been invited to a no-kid evening and show up with your baby, I mean … just be clear with people. As a guest, you can ask questions but as a host: you need to be clear and set the expectation. Which leads me to …
If you’re new to hosting practice the details. Not the place settings or even the recipes, but the actual details. When, where, what and who. Be clear.
I just want everyone to know that if you’re hosting something but you have to workshop the invite you’re making it more difficult than it needs to be … this may sound like:
Host: Here’s my plan! Are you in?
Guests: People may say yes, put it in their calendar and then someone asks a group question like; but have you thought of this outlier possibility and taken my kids nap schedule into account for this thing that you’re offering to do but is not 100% convenient for me?
To which you, as the host, responds: Oh! Sure, let’s change the whole thing for this suggestion that caters to one person and messes up my entire ability to do what I was offering to do.
And then you have a workshop about what the REAL plan is going to be, because somehow the plan you presented wasn’t good enough? I’ll never understand this. Don’t be this person. I’m a real dick about this.
You might want to workshop the invite with a few friends who you know have outlier circumstances BEFORE you send the invite out, so you can respond with confidence if issues come up.
If you’re hosting, people should refer to you for details and if you’re having 100 texts asking for clarity: you were not clear enough.
Also, when you’re clear … if it does not work for someone, this should be easy for them to deduce. “This get together starts in the middle of nap-time/my cosplay convention/my kids’ swim meet/Grandma’s doctors appointment/my travel plans/whatever, doesn’t seem like we’ll be able to make it, so we’ll pass this time around.”
I do feel a tad like Emily Post about this part of Hosting. You are setting the expectations for your guests with how you communicate about your event. If it’s a casual pizza night with friends, by all means: open door policy. If you’re throwing a baby shower or hosting a party: be precise, there is a beginning and an end.
Still having a hard time with details? Ask yourself what information you might need in order to accept or decline the invite and include those details in a succinct way.
OK, friends. We’ve learned that clear communication is the key to setting expectations as a host. I love you all so much, you’re going to do great. Present over perfect. You can do this.
I need a palette cleanser after that heart to heart. I feel a little vulnerability hangover coming on. There are obvious pain-points to hosting and, for me, it’s often other people. HA! But this doesn’t stop me from hosting, because it’s one of the places I feel most alive as me. I was created to share and show and tell. Hosting is one of my very favorite vehicles to exercise this purpose.
My favorite theme in hosting is YES. Anything is a theme. My son wanted a puberty party with a cake and celebration? We fuggen through a puberty party with cake and celebration. End of school party? Yes. First boy/girl party? Yes. Weeknight dinner? Done. Fish boil? That’s a hell yeah. Just caught some catfish and want to share it? Please wear boots because we’re cleaning these puppies all together. Shall we participate in a DIY home coming? We shall.
Christmas, Baby or Bridal showers, Backyard BBQ’s, Kids’ Birthdays’, New House!, Old House!, Sold House!, Your House!, I could go on. Hosting, for me, isn’t about a theme really, it’s more about gathering intentionally to celebrate life together. I’m a huge Lifer. I would very much like to dance my way out of this life cheersing my friends and close loved ones, laughing and maybe crying, but sweating from the absolute mess of it while working it out with my hands and feet pounding whatever surface is nearest to me. I came into this world like an announcement, a proclamation that I had ARRIVED. I want to leave this world doing the very same thing: Saying goodbye in an everlasting celebration.
You might be wondering, But Jodi? How do you choose a theme? and I would answer you this (take notes, this has taken me years to define) and it has almost nothing to do with “themes”:
“I can manufacture outrage for certain people or situations but I don’t think I need to. I’m not in charge of them. Only me. I will create a space I want to share, food I want to eat and conversation I want to have – whoever else shows up? I hope they come intact.”
Followed up with:
“Don’t take more than you need. Help others and take care of your things. Practice boundaries. Be ok with saying no and speaking up when needed.”
Both direct quotes from my journal on the subject of hosting other people in my own space. It’s something I love, but not always something I love doing. Or the people invited are hard for me. I’m a grown up, I have hard relationships and they’re still invited. People are worth loving.
The point is: would you want to be invited to whatever thing you’re doing? Mystery dinner party, basement dance party, anything your kid asks you to be a part of? Then that’s your theme.
My favorite theme is YES. I want to taste everything, touch every corner of this life, feel buzzed and alive and on fire and safe in a place with people who are enamored by the beauty of this experience. I want to do it all.
Now that we have teenagers I do feel that some of this hosting stuff is easier for their age group. Kids can be a lot of work, and if you’re hosting dozens of 8 year olds ?? That party will wreck you in about 30 minutes. Not impossible, but it was a harder yes during elementary school. Birthday parties that we could have outside were always yeses and end of the year parties we could blast music and be silly with? No brainer. But the organized “get together” of under 10 year olds was kind of a chore.
Don’t let that stop you: but you need reinforcements. Grandma’s who are willing to be your wing person, a spouse who is hands on and wants to participate, another child’s parent who is willing to laugh at all the knock-knock jokes and drink lemonade with you. Or you rent a church gym and lock everyone in for an afternoon, order pizza and let them go wild.
We’ve always hosted with our kids in mind, we want them to value inviting other people into their spaces, we want them to practice sharing and conversation-having and being a good host. Hosting is more than preparing a meal or being willing to have people in your space. Hosting can be leadership training, hosting can be knowing how it feels to be new or alone in a space and seeing the need for someone to reach out and extend a helping hand, offer direction or lay of the land, or simply extend inclusion.
We love hosting families, so we have big family meals and then the kids break away for some exciting game outside and the adults can walk the neighborhood, have a fire or just linger at the table over drinks. We also love hosting WITHOUT kids. They’re busy, working or have other plans and we can have adult conversation and bounce ideas off of each other and we value both situations so much.
My best tip for you, ever, is: How do I make this easier?
My ideas usually start off with an image. I envision a night well spent and I work backwards. It could be as simple as seeing an image on instagram of a sunset, or beachside sparklers or fire. It could be elaborate like a wedding reception or someone else’s gathering that gets my creative juices going and wanting to have my own, similar experience. But then I ask myself: how can I make this easier?
If what I want is the meal, then go all out. If what I want is the feeling? Then be open to spontaneity. If what I’m after is being available for me kids? Then order pizza, buy plastic table cloths and be willing to let messes happen. Often.
Our family is a foodie family. My kids are adventurous and love to try new things. I learned early on in my marriage that variety was the literal spice of his life, so I don’t repeat a ton of recipes, unless they’re 100% winners for everyone. But not many kids are as adventurous as mine are, and that’s fine. If it’s about food – then we make it fun and customizable. We do a ton of “bars” for kids’ gatherings. Soup Bar, Taco Bar, Make your own pizza, build your own grilled cheese, nacho bar, salad bar, potato bar … you can usually find something for everyone this way.
OR! We order pizza, buy a couple of 2 liters of ONE KIND OF POP and offer rice krispie treats or ice cream. How can I make this easier?
We have a locker full of disposable cutlery and plates/cups etc. I recently bought 5 additional 6-foot tables because we were constantly borrowing them or needing them. I also bought the linens. We rent chairs (or borrow if needed) when we’re throwing a large party and I don’t think twice where people are going to go.
As you host more and more, the things that will make it easier for you will be clear. Just a reminder: I’ve been hosting for over 20 years and I’m still hacking my way through it. It will take time, and that is ok.
Asking for Help
Yes. You don’t actually have to do it all. You can ask your guests to bring a dish (you can assign dishes or leave it to a free for all, but, you know: be clear.) or bottle of wine or spirit needed for the evening. You might want to desperately be with your people but can’t pull off a whole meal on your own … say that out loud.
“I would LOVE to host for game night and can offer everyone chips and salsa, bring whatever else you might want and head over anytime after 4pm! We’ll start playing Code Names at 4:30 with whoever shows up.”
You didn’t offer to buy everyone’s alcohol for the evening, or pop, or to serve them dinner or put their kids to bed or clean their house or do their taxes. You offered your space at a certain time, for a certain use and you generously offered chips and salsa. Go you! You extended an invite.
You can borrow crock pots, plates and silverware, wine glasses, salad bowls, serving platters, punch bowls, extra grills, chairs and tables, and really anything you might not own, but need for this very specific thing. ASK.
Not scary, but very overlooked: Just ask.
“Anyone have an extra crock pot I could borrow this weekend? Will have it clean and returned to you the following Monday by 5:30” (Pro tip: do what you say you’re going to do. If you’re going to clean it (you absolutely should) then clean it and if you’re going to return it by XX time, bishhhh return that damn thing by XX time).
If you’re going to be a borrower – be a reliable one. If not: buy your shit and leave the rest of us alone.
Well friends, we’ve really turned a corner here, haven’t we? I took you all the way around that block and showed you my vulnerable places and also whats important to me, and why. I came out in force as an enneagram 5 here in our Hosting conversation and I’m not terribly sorry. Don’t apologize for what you have to offer: but offer it anyway.
I’m cheering for you. Text your friends about an upcoming, no frills get together. It’s a busy season we’re all entering with holiday obligations: just tell them you’re available for a relaxing night with your people. Don’t over think this.
And Little Caesars is still under $7 for hot n ready. You can feed a family for that. You have options. Get the fancy napkins out, the special glasses for your bud light or dr. pepper and get to it.
Literally no one is waiting for you to get it together more than this.