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Holiday Parties: Top Ten Things to Do Before You Welcome Guests!

by | Nov 7, 2011 | Entertaining, Seasonal Decorating & Entertaining, Simple Gatherings, Welcome + Gather

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Holiday Parties: Top Ten Things to Do Before You Welcome Guests!
It is almost time for holiday parties!

I’ve always enjoyed throwing parties. In fact, it is one of my top secrets to getting and keeping my house clean! Giving out party invitations is a sure fire wire way to guarantee I will get a lot done around my house.

Sometime I throw big parties, some small ones. But no matter the number of guests, I basically follow the same 10 simple steps to prepare for every party! Ambience is so important to me that by simply preparing a warm and welcoming home, I feel relaxed and ready to focus on the guests — and forget about myself.

Top Ten Things to Do Before a Party:

  1. Sweep the front walk and porch! Make sure you have a clean doormat outside the door for guests to wipe their feet.
  2. Turn on your outdoor lights. If you want extra lights for your walkway, think about using my decorating staple, Mason jars!! Fill them about ¼ full with Epsom salts and add votive candles. Line your walkway and/or front porch with these little candles and your guests will feel they are walking into a warm and inviting place.
  3. Pay special attention to your entryway. First impressions of your home will go a long way to making your guests feel comfortable. Have a candle to scent the air (I usually light mine for two hours in the afternoon, then I blow it out to let the wax cool for about an hour, and then re-light it about 20 minutes before the party. This trick ensures your house will smell wonderful and will allow you to keep the candle burning for the duration of your party without your wick drowning in wax.). Be sure to put away clutter and shoes, have a clean mat inside to wipe feet, and prepare a place in a closet or bedroom for guests’ coats.
  4. Have an inviting and sparkling clean powder room. Stock it with clean hand towels, extra toilet paper, empty wastebasket and a good smelling candle ready to light before guests arrive. Make sure the candle is in a safe place away from little hands and fire hazards.
  5. Have soft music to play during your party. Have the volume not so loud that people can’t talk without shouting but loud enough to add a festive feeling to the atmosphere. Instrumental usually works best for background music. Pick something soothing, yet not so mellow that it will put your guests to sleep. Lightly upbeat will keep the mood right.
  6. Have plenty of places for your guests to sit.  Bring out extra chairs or footstools to pull up to conversation areas, and places for them to set their drinks near the seating areas. Setting out bowls of nuts or snacks can give guests something to nibble on before the main meal is served.
  7. Turn off the TV!
  8.  A poorly lit home feels unwelcoming and depressing. You can turn on all the lights in your home for a bright, fun and happy feel, or go for a more cozy environment by using just candles, lamps or lights on dimmers, but make sure that the house feels cozy and welcoming with no dark and dreary corners.
  9. Have beverages ready to serve as guests arrive.  A pitcher of ice water is always welcomed! Hot-spiced cider steaming on the stove makes a house smell wonderful and is a festive beverage to offer guests when they first arrive. Here is the Hot Spiced Cranberry Cider recipe I use for most parties!
  10. Take a deep breath, relax and smile. Welcome your guests inside!

What are your “must-do” party preparations?

Get more tips and ideas in my book Simple Gatherings! Click HERE to learn more!

Holiday Parties: Top Ten Things to Do Before You Welcome Guests!

Related posts:

Preparing for Guests

My Christmas House Tour 2014


  1. Lynn from For Love or Funny

    I loved these tips – you are right about sweeping the front porch; sometimes, I forget to do that!

  2. Heather

    Terrific advice – I love the tip about lighting the candles for a couple of hours to get the scent going. I’ll use that this weekend when my husband’s niece comes.

  3. Jenny

    Good tips! I love hosting parties, and like you, it’s a GREAT way to get me motivated to get my house looking tip top! I go crazy getting ready, but it’s all worth it in the end. :-)

  4. Laurie

    I love hosting parties and your tips will help so much!

  5. diane

    Great tips. I will a dd that taking a look at the door and the outside lights and notice how many cobwebs etc are sticking to them and sweep those away as well. I also tell friends that cleaning until you are exhausted is a waste of time as the only people who will see how clean the place is is the first person who arrives. Everyones else be introducing etc. so keep the downstairs clean and picked up and dont worry about it…the cleaning comes after! I also put out coasters so people know they can set drinks on tables etc…sometimes they wonder if its ok. And I occasionally check the guest bath to tidy it up, change the paper etc during the party. And last but not least, dont forget fresh flowers!

  6. Dana at Cooking at Cafe D

    I like to have some cream cheese dips chilling in the fridge so they are ready when guests arrive.

  7. Rachel

    Great list! I will definitely come back to this as we have people over for the holidays.

  8. Karen

    LOL! I just told my husband the same thing…we have to entertain more often so the house stays clean and maintained. It is sure a motivator!
    I pretty much do the things on your list with lights and candles lit prior to anyone arriving, even in rooms we’re not using. It makes the house feel so welcoming.
    This is such a fun time of year to entertain.

  9. Mimi

    This is a great list of tips. These small things can make a big difference in how your guest feel. My best friend does all of the above and more. Her home is the most comfortable and welcoming place.

  10. kelly

    I love this list!

    Sweeping the front porch is one of my favorite things to do when I’m expecting guests. That is pretty much the only time i do it, so it’s become a special task connected in my mind to opening our home to friends!

  11. {darlene}

    love these easy reminders, melissa!
    ah, yes. I really need to sweep my front porch!

  12. Lauren

    Thank you for these tips! I have tons of company coming this year, and I’m wanting to make it special for everyone who comes into our home.

  13. Stephanie

    I try to do most of these things before having people over. It helps to have a generally clean house in the first place too so that you don’t have to stress about whether to have people over or not!

  14. Maureen

    Love these tips! I’m usually last minute and running around like a maniac trying to get it all done only to realize everyone’s here and I still don’t have my makeup on!
    Here’s hoping your list will help me plan better. ;)

  15. Grace

    I wish I didn’t get so stressed when we entertain, but I want everything to be neat and clean and organized and everyone to enjoy themselves. I guess that’s what holds me back from entertaining as often as I would like to. It’s a lot to do when you work full-time and don’t have a cleaning lady.

  16. Cliff

    #11 Keep your drunk loud drunk uncle isolated to the patio.

  17. Sharon

    Wonderful tips! I would love to be a better entertainer but the truth is I seldom have anyone over. Our house is certainly worthy but I worry to much about how everything will go. Lately I’ve been contemplating inviting a few friends over for the holidays though. Better check out that cider recipe!

  18. Rosemary

    Make sure there are enough hangers to hang coats. I bought some really nice hangers and reserve those for guests. No wire hangers. Be prepared to accept a hostess gift. When someone brings me flowers that always throws me…dig out a vase, figure out where to put them. Ask about a beverage or ask another member of the family to get drinks going. Introduce them to any guests that are already there.

  19. Mary

    Would you mind listing some of the music CD’s you like to play when you entertain?

    • Melissa

      Oh, good idea!!! I’ll have to think about what ones we use!!

  20. Polly

    We host 2 large parties a year, usually for 150+. I used to get so stressed the day of the party with last minute details until my dear husband simply asked me if my goal was to entertain or practice hospitality? I try and read this before hostessing:

    “When you entertain, you bring honor and glory to yourself. Showing hospitality brings honor and glory to God.”

    “Think about it. Pride can easily sneak in when you entertain. The dinner you serve shows off *your* cooking abilities. Everything is clean and neat so guests are impressed with *your* home and homemaking skills. And, if the evening is enjoyable, everyone assumes it’s because of *your* talents as a host or hostess. Why, all this focus on yourself can lead to an inflated ego if you’re not careful!

    Hospitality, on the other hand, is not about impressing anyone. It’s about being yourself and making your guests feel comfortable to be themselves. It doesn’t matter if you serve frozen pizza or if dust bunnies are scurrying across your floors. Through your warmth and humility, guests feel better about themselves and closer to God for having been there.”- source:


    • Melissa

      That is lovely, thanks Polly!!! Great way to refocus!

  21. Marla

    Melissa, I love how you incorporate all the five senses into your, “Welcome” list. These are easily doable tips, and for THAT we all sigh with relief and say, “Thank you!”;)

  22. Debbie

    love, love this site…first I discovered Ree Drummond, then the Reluctant Entertainer & now thankfully your site! Great inspiring ideas all around and very authentic. My go to dessert is typically pie and cookies – made as creatively as possible depending on the event & the theme. :)


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