Memorial Day weekend is the classic sign that summer is officially on its way. And with long weekends, short getaways, and leisurely trips comes the guests that define them. We all have our preferences when it comes to having people in our homes and we’re all on our best behavior when we’re gracefully hosted by others in their space, but playing these different roles sometimes means navigating murky waters. Should you assume your guests are going to bring their own toiletries or should you put on your best Day Spa act in the guest bathroom? Are your bed making skills proficient enough to withstand the requirements of your friend’s impressively manicured home? These are the questions we’ve set out to answer in true Hawkins style: because there’s no completely right answer, but there are some ways you can ensure your guests have the best experience (without driving yourself to swear off future hosting duties) and ways you can ensure you’ll always be invited back with open arms.
5 Tips for Hosting Made Simple
1. Engage in social curation
All guests are created equal (as in, they’re all lovely humans you can’t wait to spend more time with), but all guests don’t have the same relationship to the hosts and their contemporaries. We’ve all been unwilling subjects to the uncomfortable dinner party dynamic where you’re only familiar with one person at the party, but everyone else has been best friends for years, and then swear never to put someone else in that position. Live up to your promise! As a host, you have the unique opportunity to make new friendships happen. If you’re hosting a weekend with multiple guests coming who haven’t yet met, connect them digitally before they meet in person (a little group text or swapping social handles will do the trick) so they can start to become acquainted with each other. And if those guests are overlapping at different times, it’s always nice to consider scheduling those who have similar interests at intersecting afternoons.
If the weekend comes to a head with a proper party, we like to take a tip from our friend and author of Salad for President and Arty Parties Julia Sherman, who recommends inviting an equal number of strangers to each other and people who know each other really well. “Always have it as a balance, where there’s always the opportunity to make a new friend, but nobody’s the odd man out or everybody’s known each other forever.”
2. It’s all about the little things
When you go to a boutique hotel and there’s a welcome basket or a handwritten note upon entering, you always feel a little bit more at home. This same sentiment translates to your own home from the perspective of your guests.
Simple little touches in any room are sure to make your guests feel special. Some options we love are: adding fresh mint leaves in their bedside water carafe, keeping extra quilts and pillows in the bedroom (especially if you know your house runs cold or the weather will be), and storing guest slippers or bathrobes in the bathroom if possible. The general sentiment here is equal parts “What would I enjoy if I were staying here?” and “What are the things that make my house a home?” It’s always nice to consider the holistic guest experience, but don’t get too worked up trying to make your home into a hotel or a perfectly curated Airbnb experience. If you always have candles lit, ensure your favorite variety can be appreciated in the shared spaces and guest quarters. If you prefer cooking to a designated playlist, let your music play throughout your home as a nice, warm welcome.
3. Find your focus and build around it
Whether it’s a specific day of the long weekend or the main event of the night, there’s always somewhere your effort is best directed. With a long weekend, first determine the energy of the stay: Do your guests want to have a full itinerary of activities or are they escaping their hectic schedule in search of more relaxed pastures? If you’re playing summer camp host, crowdsource your game plan, pick the event that interests you the most, and pool your efforts into that experience. Maybe that means heavy dinner party prep with more casual table settings, or artistically creating an impressive tablescape with a build-your-own-cocktail bar. If your guests prefer to take things easy, perhaps you plan a nice welcome dinner with the decor of your dreams, then spend the following day enjoying a casual brunch, the nice weather, and the not-having-to-work aspect of the getaway.
4. Decorate playfully and practically
We always love to remind you that you don’t have to buy a bunch of new things to make a new impact, especially when it comes to decorating. Instead, take an inventory of your existing pantry items, table decor, and spare blankets before you start filling up your shopping cart.
You can create a stunning tablescape by foraging for branches, grasses, and blooms from your own garden and placing them in your empty vases or jars. You can use your dinner napkins in your bread basket. You can use the food itself as your dinner party centerpiece (or some cheeky food shaped candles) without doing any extra work at all. You can even move around your furniture to give your space a little sprucing up before your hosting duties commence. And if you do decide you absolutely need some new bedsheets, towels, or tablecloths, having guests over is a great catalyst for truly investing in these items and buying high quality products that will truly last you a lifetime.
5. Take it easy
Whenever you’re hosting guests, even though it might not feel like it, you’re establishing a little community inside your space. And when it comes to community, everyone should have a say and dialogue should be open, warm, and simple. Yes, there are some things you prefer to happen in a specific order or look a specific way, but try your best not to take the reins in a forceful manner. Surveying the room and coming to a mutual consensus on the weekend plans or the best time to leave for lunch is our best recommendation.
Just like a nervous dog, your guests will feel and absorb your energy, so remember that the stakes are very low and the only goal is enjoyment through gathering. Of course you want your guests to enjoy themselves, but don’t forget to take care of yourself too so you can all look back on the trip fondly and ready to do it all over again (maybe at their place instead).
5 Tips for Being the Best Guest
1. Never show up empty handed (or thoughtlessly prepared)
We know you would never dare stay at someone’s home without bringing a thank you gift, but if you want to go the extra mile, putting a little more time and care into your gift selection goes miles. Everyone brings a bottle of wine, so the person who gifts according to the weekend’s events or their host’s favorite activity makes a much more memorable impression. Things like a set of cheese knives, a nice corkscrew or bottle opener, and a set of taper candles with holders are sure to set you apart from the pack. Homemade gifts are also lovely and don’t require any extra shopping. Stick to your strengths here, but some items we love are infused oils, a premade pancake mix, or cocktail kits. Bonus points if your host can use them during the weekend or they can get multiple uses out of your thoughtful gift. After all, no feeling is better than being a returning guest and seeing the cheese knives you gave them last time alongside the charcuterie spread.
2. When in doubt, shoes off
Listen, we don’t mean to preach, but we believe most homes are shoes off households – whether you’re explicitly told so or not. If there’s even an inch of doubt, it’s better to play it safe and simply unlace at the door, then ask your host where your shoes should be kept. Imagine how many comings and goings will happen over the course of your stay, and how you would feel having to do a full house clean up after spending the weekend hosting. It doesn’t sound great, right? Just like any rule, there are exceptions: if you’re immediately relocating to an outdoor space upon entering (“Come around back!”), if you’re told to keep your shoes on right when you enter, or if you’ve visited this home before and know that the hosts keep their shoes on inside as well. Whenever you’re staying in anyone’s home, communication is the centerpiece of everyone’s experience, so maintain an open dialogue with your fellow guests and your host(s) and things will go swimmingly.
3. Make your bed
Even if you’re usually not a “make your bed” person, your host will be grateful for your conscious decision to fix things up a little bit after waking. There’s a delicate balance here between feeling like you’re on edge, having to be your own housekeeper, and simply being mindful of your own mess. This is all to say: don’t stress about this tip. After all, your host is your friend and they certainly won’t forbid you from coming back over if you don’t leave the guest room looking like a 5 star hotel. But if the stay includes other guests coming over and/or a house tour is a possibility, keeping things a little tidy goes a long way.
Layering any quilts and extra pillows or adding some texture to the bedding if it’s available are sure to be a hit. And if you’re a bed-making aficionado, you have our complete permission to redesign their bedding landscape (with discretion!). No matter where you land on this spectrum, expressing a little bedding creativity might just inspire your host to follow suit — and will certainly get you an invite back to their home.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask
As previously mentioned, communication will make the staying experience (and hosting experience) much more enjoyable for all those included. Before you arrive, it’s nice to double check your arrival time with your hosts as well as the duration of your stay and what you all might be getting into so you can show up properly prepared. And if you’re considering bringing an extra guest (regardless of if they walk on two legs or four), always double or triple check that there’s ample space for everyone you’re bringing in tow. The same sentiment applies if you’re a true overpacker who’s inclined to bring nearly your entire home into someone else’s.
Asking to help around the house, assist with dinner prep, or inquiring about how their pesky shower works are all things we happily encourage as well.
5. Show off your talents
It’s time for a talent show! Yes, your host is putting on the vast majority of the weekend’s experiences, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take up that role for a few hours. Maybe you’re a master chef and want to cook dinner as a token of your appreciation or an impressive baker who wants to wake everyone up to the smell of blueberry muffins. Perhaps your strong suit is creating masterful tablescapes, planning elaborate beach bonfires, or creating found-and-foraged flower arrangements.
This is an easy but very effective way to express your appreciation to your host while you’re in their home. Plus, if you’re staying with any other guests, they’ll get to enjoy the fruits of your labor as well, furthering the community experience of a weekend away. Keeping in mind the theme of communication, it’s best to clear these activities with your host and other guests before immediately launching into cooking mode, as well as acquiring the appropriate supplies if needed. P.S. If you do chef up the kitchen, make sure to clean up after yourself or get the help of another guest for that part.
With these tips at your disposal (plus your already sound judgment and generous spirit), we’re sure you’ll have the best long weekends and quick getaways this upcoming summer and beyond. And because we’re your favorite destination for host gifts, below are some suggestions for things you can bring when you’re staying in someone’s home. They can also be items you very casually mention to your friends before they arrive for the Memorial Day weekend at your place…