There are very few things that I think are non-negotiable about inviting people over for a meal – in fact, I think hospitality should be as barrier-free a practice as possible.
We tend to worry that our house needs to be immaculate, we need to prep conversation questions, or that we can’t possibly cook a meal special enough for guests, but when we do, I think we’re missing the point.
If we are reluctant to have people into our homes, I think we’re losing a chance to invite people into our hearts – and while that may be uncomfortable, it certainly shouldn’t be something that requires much prep.
Here are the sole things that I would recommend a host try to check off their list when having guests in for a meal (and, disclaimer, by all means this advice goes out the window when guests drop in unexpectedly, or you call someone to come over if you’re in distress):
- Check out the bathroom. This one’s pretty self-explanatory but ick. You don’t have to clean basically the rest of your home – it’s totally fine if there’s dust on the sills or laundry in baskets but a hygienic bathroom is a must. At least wipe down the sink with a wet rag or take out the cleaning supplies and give it a quick scrub!
- Don’t completely set the table. This is a new habit I’ve taught myself because I used to have the table completely set when guests arrived. I realized over time that this promotes a kind of formality that I don’t want to endorse. Stack the plates, crowd the glasses, lay the cutlery in a pile, but let it be something you (or a guest) do as guests arrive.
- Offer to get your guest something to drink. It’s so easy to ask, “Can I get you some water [or whatever you’re offering]?” as soon as guests walk through the door. I’ve found that guests with a cup of something – even tap water – in hand are more at ease in my home.
- Be with your guests. Do everything possible to be at the table. Plan a meal that doesn’t involve you being fancy in the kitchen – especially if you think you can’t cook. Think roasting veggies and chicken in the oven, mixing a salad – as few steps as possible. And then actually be there, fully. Be engaged, asking questions, curious. Your guests are there because you invited them into your home, not because they were hungry for a home-cooked meal or needed a night out – they want to know you better, so indulge them, and be sure to be asking questions too!
Let these be an encouragement to you! Hospitality doesn’t require a spotless house, but the availability of a warm and comfortable place for relationship to happen.
What about you? Do you have any practices for hospitality?