10 easy ways to be the best holiday host ever

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Clean linens and fresh towels are two must-haves for holiday guests. Photo courtesy Angela Pedersen and Christie Soelberg.

Clean linens and fresh towels are two must-haves for holiday guests. (Photo courtesy Angela Pedersen and Christie Soelberg)

During the holidays, you might feel as though you’re playing host more often than David Letterman. Whether you are organizing a party or having weekend visitors, the key to being a great emcee/entertainer/inn keeper is putting others at ease. Here are a few suggestions from local experts to make you the host (or hostess) with the most (or most-est).

Hosting a party:

1. Start things off right

Set up a coat and purse check for guests on arrival, suggests Angela Pedersen of the Utah-based interior design and party-planning business AFP Design. It might seem like a small thing, but it will help guests keep their belongings safe and organized.

2. Think about seating and crowd control

Make sure to provide ample tables and chairs where guests can comfortably sit and eat, said Pedersen. And you might consider dividing the food and drink offerings into small stations at different spots in the room to organically encourage people to walk around and visit.

3. Multitask your mingling

As host, you can serve appetizers to guests yourself as a way to make sure you are visiting with everyone at the party. Or you could set up a hot chocolate or Italian soda station, acting as bartender and chatting while you pour.

4. Feel free to involve your guests in the preparation

If your guest list is small enough, you can save some basic food preparation for your guests, says local author Connie Sokol. It’s fine to ask party attendees to do simple tasks like cutting, rolling and juicing, said the Woodland Hills resident and author of “Simplify & Savor the Season” (2013). “This beautifully creates the opportunity to chat and enjoy each other’s company, while lessening the stress on the host,” she said.

5. Or don’t

Potluck parties are a fun, easy way to spread the work around among close friends. But sometimes the ultimate indulgence for the guests is to tell them to simply show up, said Pedersen. “Many guests will ask to bring something, but I prefer to make all of the food and take care of all of the decorating myself, so they can just come, enjoy themselves, and feel pampered,” she said.

Hosting holiday company:

1. Make sure your home is clean, organized and smelling great

You can create a fragrant first impression by making your own potpourri that’s simmering on the stovetop when your guests arrive. To do so, combine a sliced orange, a cup of cranberries, 2 cups of water and 6 cinnamon sticks. Simmer in a pot over low heat, adding more water as needed.

2. Stock the guest bathrooms with the essential toiletries

Beyond soap and clean towels, consider providing shampoo, conditioner, lotion, a razor and a toothbrush.

3. Personalize the guest room

You can make your own “mini bar” by purchasing an inexpensive mini-fridge and keeping it stocked with drinks your guests will like. And leave snacks or a gift basket tailored to whomever you are hosting. “Leave a special treat on their pillow, preferably ones they personally love,” said Sokol. When Sokol’s mom comes to visit, Sokol makes sure to leave her mom’s favorite — Cadbury chocolates — in the guest room. “It makes her feel at once special and right at home!” Sokol said.

4. Set a schedule, but keep it loose

“I try to have activities and meals planned so guests know what the agenda is, but not so tightly planned that they can’t relax,” said Pedersen.

5. Pick one activity a day

During the holidays, it can be tempting to try to jam in every available outing into a few days. But don’t let things get so busy that you don’t have time to unwind and enjoy each other, said Sokol. She said one activity a day is about right for the busy holiday season.

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Elyssa Andrus has worked as a journalist for 14 years, most recently as the lifestyle editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo. She is a contributor to the KSL-TV show "Studio 5" and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking" (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Natalie Hollingshead. She lives with her husband and four young children in Utah Valley.

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