According to AAA, more people are traveling for the holiday this year than last. And odds are, you’re either going somewhere or someone is coming to you. So whether you’re hosting or will be a guest this holiday season, I wanted to share some simple tips about proper holiday etiquette and tips to survive the holidays.
I recently sat down with Kelli Ellis, a design and entertaining expert who has been seen on television shows including TLC’S Clean Sweep and The Real Housewives of Orange County, and asked her to share some tips for surviving the holidays. She said that the two most important things are to make guests comfortable and for guests to be personal. When people are comfortable in your home, they will relax and you’ll make memories.
SR: Chances are we’re either going to be a guest or we’ll be hosting guests this holiday; what are some tips for preparing our homes for the holidays?
KE: There are too many to count! Here is a list for you:
o Ask guests if they have any food allergies before you plan your menu
o Draw diagrams of where food platters will go and where people will sit (if necessary)
o Make shopping and menu lists (so you don’t forget to heat up the candied yams)
o Cook items in advance and freeze for later (soups)
o Ensure the crystal, china, silverware, table linens are clean and pressed
SR: Given we’re so busy this time of year, how do I manage cleaning and decorating the house? Help me prioritize what’s important!
KE: Remember that it’s all about making your guests comfortable. So beyond asking them about foods they like or don’t like, I recommend you identify the most-used rooms in your home and prioritize your time and decorations accordingly.
o For example, the guest bedrooms or their sleeping area are the most important room and the easiest one to customize for your guest! Make it personal by adding a framed picture of your guest to the night stand to make them feel at home. Make it comfortable with a good mattress, enough blankets and good bed pillows (If you wouldn’t sleep on the guest bed/pull out, chances are they won’t want to either). I have a Sleep Number bed and really miss it when I travel! If your guests are sleeping well, they will have enough energy to take on the day with gusto – and help you around the house, too!
o The living room is the second-most used room, so ensure there are enough pillows or soft places to sit. Also, create a nice CD or iTunes playlist for game nights, gift opening, dinner, etc. If you have valuable or large decorations, leave them out of reach of small kids or teens.
o The kitchen is the heart of the home for many people! I recommend to decorate it with holiday hand towels and a few fresh, seasonal flowers. Just make it easy for guests to help you and always do the dishes after a meal; it ensures there is enough silverware and plates for the next meal. And it allows you to enjoy yourself.
SR: If we’re going to be the guest at someone else’s house, what should we bring, and how can we make sure we don’t overstay our welcome?
KE: Whatever you do, don’t come empty-handed! Personal and timely gifts show you really care! So, when making your lists, jot down a few words to describe each person or a recent accomplishment they made, then shop based on those words. My favorite gifts do double duty ─ a stunning vase full of Linda’s favorite flowers, a crystal infusion jar with Jake’s favorite coffee drink, candy jars stuffed with Alexa’s favorite candy. Your gifts don’t have to be expensive… a thoughtful, appreciated gift is money well spent!
Also, don’t over-rely on your host and try to be independent. Bring a book/magazine to read or do some outdoor activities. Be helpful and make the bed, set the table, help prep food or ask if they can bring the host a beverage. Be gracious and send a personalized thank you note. Also, make sure you know your departure time and communicate it in advance so as not to overstay your welcome.
SR: What are your decorating tips?
KE: Make the home warm and festive for the holidays! The best parties look well planned and cohesive – so pick a theme! For example decorate in silver, gold, and serve French food or decorate in blue and white and serve seafood. Infuse this theme into your plates, chargers, centerpieces, arrangements, and all decor should always stick to the theme. You might be exhausted by party time, but you’ll look like a pro!
SR: Do you have any final thoughts?
KE: In the end, the holidays are truly about spending time with family and friends. It’s not about impressing others, but enjoying their company! Food and decorations make for great memories, but remember to make guests feel comfortable – and for guests to be gracious – and you’ll have a wonderful holiday!
Will you use any of Kelli’s tips? Let me know!