Menuism Dining Blog
Dining education for foodies

Photo by Rachael White

Photo by Rachael White

Do you ever find yourself completely stressing out the night before house guests arrive for the weekend? There’s a laundry list of things to do, aside from the actual laundry, and not enough time to finish it all. We’ve all been there. I love it when friends and family come to visit us for a few days, but between planning meals and daily activities to cleaning the house from top to bottom, it can also be the most stressful experience imaginable.

A few of the things I’ve learned, as with many things in life, involve planning ahead. From homemade meals to little flourishes to add to your guest room, I’ve got the checklist you need to be the best host for weekend house guests!

Clean Up!

Ideally, we would all be able to maintain a clean house the majority of the time. But realistically, if you’re like me, it’s a small victory to have all the dishes done at the end of the day. If you have the time and energy to keep a clean house, good for you. If not, here are a few tips for the week before your guests arrive to help minimize your last-minute work load.

  • Make sure your own laundry is done and out of the way. You’ll feel more organized and put together.
  • If you have five rooms in your house, start five days in advance and clean one room a day. Vacuum, dust, organize, and disinfect any surfaces. Do the bathroom your guest will be using and the room they will be sleeping in last so they are the freshest.
  • This is worst-case scenario advice: If you have a room or two that simply cannot be tackled in the amount of time you have, put the clutter in boxes and stick them in the garage or basement while your guests are around. Here’s the caveat to this “easy out”: you must go through the boxes later and get everything organized so you don’t find yourself in this predicament again. I’ve done it. It’s worth the time.
  • Either the day they arrive or the day before, do one last vacuuming and dusting session.

5-7 Days Before Arrival

  • Grocery Store: Check out the recipe suggestions below and make your shopping list. Only buy the things you need for make-ahead meals. You’ll go to the store again a little later in the week to stock up on fresh items.
  • Liquor Store: Need some wine, beer or cocktail ingredients for your guests? This is the perfect time to check that off your list. Not sure what your visitors like? For wine, go for easy drinking reds and whites like pinot noir and unoaked chardonnay. Simple cocktail combinations like vodka sodas and gin & tonics are sure to please. And for beer, have a light and dark option like a belgian white ale and a creamy stout.
  • Assemble your make-ahead meals and put them in the freezer (if you need ideas for make-ahead meals, I’ve compiled a list at the end of this article).

3-5 Days Before Arrival

  • I like to have niceties like a scented candle that’s already lit and making the room smell lovely (choose a universally-loved scent like vanilla or something very light like bamboo) and maybe a little package of really good chocolate waiting for my guests when they arrive. It doesn’t have to be anything hugely expensive or lavish, especially because your guest may bring you a thank-you gift and you don’t want to overshadow them. Having been a guest myself a number of times, I’ve experienced good and bad hosting. One of the nicest things is feeling even a tiny bit pampered upon arrival.
  • Make sure all your serving dishes, glassware, and silverware are ready to go. This means dusting off anything that hasn’t been used for a while or making sure there are no water marks on wine glasses.
  • Make sure you have clean guest towels, sheets, extra blankets, and spare travel-sized toiletries available for your guests.

1-3 Days Before Arrival

  • Take care of last-minute items on your weekly to-do list that may have fallen through the cracks. Having your own stuff in order will help you relax and enjoy time with your visitors.
  • Pick up any fresh foods you want to have around, like fresh fruit for breakfast, lettuce for salads, etc.
  • Sit back, relax, and get some rest before your guests arrive! A rested host is a better host.

While your guests are in your home

  • Don’t be a helicopter host! As with helicopter parenting, hovering can create stress and tension. Give your guests room to breath and do their own thing for a good amount of time each day. I know I appreciate a quiet hour or so to myself when I’m visiting people, just to gather my thoughts and have a break from socializing.
  • Guests are most comfortable when they feel at home. That means not freaking out if they aren’t using a coaster, but perhaps gently asking that they use one on your grandmother’s antique coffee table (if you make coasters readily available, you won’t have to address that situation). A house shouldn’t feel like a museum, it should feel liveable by both you and your guests.
  • If your guests don’t already have a list of things they want to do, plan a few outings to give everyone a change of scenery. Even a walk to the park can be a welcome distraction.
  • Don’t overfeed your guests. I’ve done this before. They feel guilty for not eating lunch when they are still full from breakfast and you feel like your food and time spent making it is going to waste. Be sensible and have snacks in case people are hungry in between meals. I find having a hearty breakfast, a light lunch, and a nice dinner works very well.

Ultimately, all of the tips and tricks will be helpful, but the main thing to remember is that if you are relaxed, your guests will be too. Be welcoming and don’t apologize if your kids have made a huge mess just before everyone arrived. Simply show that you are confident in your home and your life and do what you can to make your guests feel they have will be well taken care of.

Make-Ahead Meal Suggestions

15 Make-Ahead Breakfasts
Make-Ahead Casseroles
Rice Casserole (I make the version from her book Supernatural Everyday, which has brown and wild rice. It freezes wonderfully and can be baked in the oven when you are ready.)
Make-Ahead Main Courses (I particularly love the pumpkin lasagna and make two batches to put in the freezer for last-minute dinner guests.)

Posted by on April 4th, 2013

Filed In: Hosting & Entertaining


Rachael White is the author of the blogs Set the Table and Tokyo Terrace. After four years of living, eating, and entertaining in Tokyo, Japan, she and her family have relocated to Denver, Colorado. Rachael is constantly searching for new ways to make entertaining easier and more interesting for guests in a variety of environments and situations. In addition to food blogging, her recipes have been published in cookbooks including Foodista Best of Food Blogs and Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan and in Japan’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper. Originally from Minnesota, Rachael strives to recreate recipes and settings that reflect Midwestern comfort with a modern twist.

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