How to be the Perfect Hostess - Ribbon in My Journal

How to be the Perfect Hostess

Phyllis Lifestyle 11 Comments

Did you know we have some expert hostesses in our midst? After reading your responses to my last etiquette post, I can only imagine how wonderful being a guest at one of your homes would be. Your thoughts on how to be a perfect hostess are too good not to share.

Graciously opening your home to others is as much about your state of mind as it is about the food you serve and the décor you prepare. You have provided such good reminders that thoughtfulness and consideration are at the heart of hospitality. If you are comfortable and at ease your guests will feel free to relax and enjoy themselves.

We all know that having guests into our homes means that the unexpected will happen. There’s no amount of perfect planning that can eliminate the accidental spill on the table or the guest who couldn’t avoid being late. But a sound mind going into the party allows you to approach the unexpected with grace and good humor. Don’t be afraid to laugh, friends!

Here are some other handy tips as you prepare for guests this Christmas and New Year’s:

Ruth summed up the heart of good etiquette for the hostess and guest alike:

I believe for hostesses or guests it is all about the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” If everyone would follow that rule, every party would be a smashing love fest and everyone would have a wonderful time and be filled with gratitude. It’s a little like living Christmas all year. 

Our friends at FrenchGardenHouse wrote about needing to be considerate and relaxed:

I think more than anything, what it takes to be a good hostess is thoughtfulness. A good hostess introduces guests to each other, pointing out something interesting about the guests or what they have in common, so that when she leaves them to join other guests, they have a starting point of conversation.

Thoughtfulness also includes being organized, cheery, and relaxed. Your guests come to see you and have a good time; a nervous wreck of a hostess does not make guests feel good!

Several of you noted the importance of greeting your guests at the door.

Dianne listed several good tips for hosting. At the top of her list: “A warm and sincere greeting.”

Sharon explained why attention to detail matters so much:

Make sure their comfort and convenience is assured. They will find coasters on all unprotected surfaces. There will not be so many throw pillows on the seating that they have to perch on the very edge. There will be extra toilet tissue visible in bathrooms as well as facial tissue available. Don’t display very fragile cherished items in places where they could easily be knocked over by children, adults in over-crowded rooms, etc. 

With that, Nanci takes special care to accommodate guests’ special diets:

I try my best to find out what people enjoy eating and if there are any food allergies or problems for them with my menu selections. Many these days are gluten free, lactose intolerant, etc. Now mind you I don’t go crazy with all choices, but I label all dishes so they know.

Thanks to Lady Beatryce for reminding us that it’s okay to bring in some extra help to aid with the preparations and cleanup.

A couple years ago I started hiring a young woman to be responsible for the kitchen details during the party. I ask her to come early so that I can brief her, and then I relax and enjoy my guests. My young helper also stays to clean up, and that way I can personally say goodbye to my guests when the party is over.  

And CJ added that a simple favor ensures that guests leave on a happy note.

I’ll add that I always have a gift basket placed somewhere near the door to offer guests as they leave. In it may be specially wrapped soaps, festive air deodorizers, Ornaments (at holidays), candies, or homemade gifts. No one leaves without a little something.


I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday. Considering the thoughtful comments you’ve shared here, I’m sure your homes will be full of joy and warm memories this season.

What are your favorite ways to show guests you care?

Victoria Nov/Dec 2015

Comments 11

  1. I don’t always have time for individual favors, but the same result can be achieved by offering after-dinner mints, a plate of grapes and cheese, or an after-dinner drink. All these touches can be a grace note to signal the evening is gliding gracefully to an end and not ending with an abrupt stop.

  2. I have just recently received Southern Lady. I always go first to your note to see Proverbs 31. I then go to the beautiful back page (Afterthoughts) which is always worthy of framing. “A million paintings wouldn’t be enough to capture the joy of living this life.” – Karen Kingsbury. Together Mother and I have most of her books.
    I have discovered a way to enjoy Afterthoughts like I have been imagining. I have bought a suitable frame and am changing these out from time to time and displaying in my home. Pure inspiration and beauty! I am trying to save the new Southern Lady and Victoria until after the holidays as I will want to grab one or more of these ideas for the new year after taking down all the Christmas decorations. I just flipped through and said WOW. Needless to say I could not wait.

    God bless all associated with Hoffman Media. You are making a difference in our lives! Best wishes to others who read Ribbon. I feel a warm companionship with them.

  3. I love to entertain and your magazine gives me such wonderful ideas. I once ran into one of my guest the day before my party and she said, ” I have a beautiful dress I’m going to wear!! You make me feel so special when I visit, that I want to look special too!!” Best compliment ever!!! I just want my guest to feel special and loved!!! Merry Christmas!!

  4. Everyone has such lovely traditions. I’ve gleaned a few wonderful new ones from you, Teresa! Thank you Phyllis, for always posting about how to live a gracious life, in all its forms, including hostessing, giving, gratefulness, family and friends, and traditions, to name a few. Lidy@FrenchGardenHouse

  5. I like to give meaning to entertaining because it’s a wonderful way to deepen personal relationships as all of these great hostess ideas confirm. Last night, as in many years, I was asked to host a group of young, homeschool mothers in my home so I could share with them all the Christmas traditions my family has carried on as well as developed over our 36 year marriage. It is such a privilege to do this and to see these moms get excited about incorporating even one of these into this year’s Christmas and planning for next year.

    As with all Christians, my husband and I desired that our children, now 30 and 19, keep perspective about what Christmas is really about and not concentrate on all the “getting.” So over the years we made sure we did lots of Advent Season activities every night as part of our family devotions.

    We lit the appropriate candles on the Advent wreath prominately placed on the great room table. The first night when we lit the first candle, we talked about all the symbolism of the wreath shape, the color of each candle, etc. This is easily googled, but I had it in many of the different Advent books I used.

    One child would next hang the miniature ornament corresponding to the December date while either my husband or I, or one of the children, when they were older, read the couple sentences that described that person or object of the nativity.

    One child would hang the beautiful ornament symbolizing one of the names of Jesus on the small Jesse tree on the sofa table after reading what it said when unfolded or one of us did it if the child was too young.

    Their favorite part of every evening was reading another chapter of one of Arnold Ytreeide’s Advent stories of young children somehow involved in and ending up at the manger scene where baby Jesus is born at the end. But in the interim, the reader is taken all over Israel and interacting with everyone from the Wise Men to Zachariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph. And every night ends with a cliff hanger so the children (and even teenagers!) are asking to please read on! At the end of each chapter it is related to something we all should think about or do, etc., as Christians which means great discussion will follow depending on how old your children are.

    My center piece in the dining room, which I’ve lazily named “Table Presents,” consists of presents in beautiful, different sized boxes that need no wrapping and match my dining room decor. They are tied with ribbon that also matches. Inside each box is a gift for a person who will be sitting and eating at that table on Christmas Eve after we return from a candles and carols Christmas Eve service. I have another group of gifts on the breakfast table if we have a larger group. To the bottom of each gift box is taped one end of another length of the same matching ribbon with which I tied the box. That ribbon is then twirled and twirled around the other gift boxes in the centerpiece as well as the base of both candelabra so that nobody can know which gift box is theirs, and then finally, the other end of that box’s ribbon is taped to the underside of the charger plate at their place setting. Of course, I have already put place cards at each place so I will know to which charger I will be taping that person’s table present. There is always much excitement amongst the children about which present is theirs since they don’t know if it’s the larger box, the tiny box, or the middle sized box. The rule on Christmas Eve is that everyone eats their meal before “Table Presents” are opened. That was my secret for getting my bird-like eater children to finish their dinner! When dessert is being served, the unraveling, laughter and fun begin. We always began with the youngest and moved to the oldest, but there is really no order that is best.

    I wanted a tree in my dining room, too, but didn’t want it to be just another tree with typical decorations so we have a tree titled, The Year in Review. I have tons of tiny, 2 1/2″ X 3″ frames that are decorated in Christmas themes purchased years ago in packages of 12 in the photo department at Walgreens. They are thick, cardboard frames and they work perfectly for this. In the past, my family had a blast going through pictures from the year to find the best pictures, but now I ask everyone to send me their pictures from their phones, email them, or give me a flash drive. My husband and son are both incredible photographers so we have lots from which to choose. Once I have these, I set up my printer to print different wallet sized pictures on the standard sheet. It allows me to choose which pictures I want and a whole sheet gets printed and ready to cut out. Once cut out, I slide the picture into the small frame. I have hole punched one side of each frame to make the frame either a horizontal or vertical frame and the ribbon is placed through the loop I’ve hole punched. We hang the pictures on the tree and the fun begins as we and guests relive the great year we’ve just had. The big question for our friends and family is always, “Did I make the photo tree?”

    At Christmas dinner or New Year’s dinner, because either will work, I print out, on lovely paper, the Bible verse I’ve committed to pray over the next year for that person. I place it, rolled up like a scroll and tied with ribbon, at their place setting. It is usually placed in one of those cute miniature stockings or even the little decorative holders for a knife, fork, and spoon. Mine run from an adorable Santa face to a lovely Cardinal on a branch. I like for all mine to match for that year so I have lots from over the years. Cracker Barrel is the best place to find the lovely ones. I’ve never paid over $1.99 for each of them.

    This year I found lovely ribbon with which to decorate my tree at It says, “O Come Let Us Adore Him” in beautiful calligraphy. I also found lovely wooden ornaments with the names of Christmas carols printed in calligraphy on the front. On the back is the story of how that carol came to be. They hang from a golden ribbon that matches the scrolled outer frame of the ornament. Our family has enjoyed learning about these carols while we look at the wonderful theology in their lyrics.

    I’m always looking for ways to put my family’s focus on Jesus Christ and this glorious Advent Season is the perfect time when we praise God for coming on that night so long ago to save us from our sin and focus on preparing our hearts, minds, and lives on His Second Coming.

    May you have a blessed and joyful Advent Season,

  6. Thanks for all your wonderful magazines, your delightful and informative blog and especially sharing your life….and darling family pictures!!

    Merry Merry Christmas to you and yours and may your 2016 be filled with good health and happiness!


  7. Thank you so much for holding to the tradition of welcoming guests , opening our homes and making entertaining others a gift to them as well as ourselves. It is a age old custom that needs to remain part of families!
    Happy Holidays and a blessed new year

  8. Christmas Eve is our family gathering. I want my guests to feel pampered from the moment they arrive. The table is set with a festive centerpiece, linen napkins, butter pats, fresh flowers, and a small gift with the guests’ name used in place of a placecard. I like to serve the meal instead of buffet-style. It is a fun evening for all and we top off the evening by attending a candlelit service to celebrate this blessed holiday of the birth of our Savior King Jesus!

  9. Love Southern Lady and especially Victoria!! Wish Victoria magazine was published monthly !! Merry Christmas and God’s blessings in 2016!!

  10. Thank you Phyllis for your splendid blog topics and the magazines/books that make us dream of beautiful things ! I hope you, your editors and staff all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

    Many thanks again for enriching our hearts, minds and souls with your publications! So many of your readers really enjoy re-charging their batteries in life by sitting down with your publications and a cup of hot tea!

    I look forward to the many new issues ahead in 2016! – especially VICTORIA, my all-time favourite!

    God bless!

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