Wow Your Guests for the holidays
Ideas to Create a Wonderful and Welcoming Experience

The holidays are a special time for celebration and togetherness with family and friends. From decorating with a designer look and crafting thoughtful hospitality baskets to planning a festive table setting—the extra special touches will help make your guests feel at home and welcome. Following are some ways to extend the spirit of hospitality and create an inviting and memorable experience that will be enjoyable for all.

Cozy up the environment

An important step is to ensure you have comfortable furniture for your guests, along with extra seating, such as ottomans or foldable chairs. Then begin decorating to establish a beautiful entertainment space that’s both comfortable and cohesive. “Make sure you have lots of different textures throughout the room with accent pillows, blankets, wall hangings and florals,” recommends Ashley Moberg, owner of Real Deals in Rochester. Burlap fabrics and festive patterns, vintage ornaments, garland and glass orbs, as well as plush throws and brass embellishments—the decor options are endless! 

According to Pauly Bennett, owner of Dwell local in Zumbrota, a glowing fireplace and battery-operated or fire-lit candles will add ambiance and warmth to any room, in addition to table and floor lamps and dimmed overhead fixtures. He suggests setting up a hot cocoa station and heating mulled cider in the kitchen, which will result in a joyful scent permeating throughout your home. Options that appeal to different senses will further enhance the atmosphere.

Welcome guests with a hospitality basket

A special way to extend generosity is with a personalized hospitality package comprising local flare, snacks and drinks, seasonal goodies or travel necessities. For example, out-of-town guests will appreciate a basket tailored with items that represent you or the area—gifts that are homemade, handcrafted and purchased locally. Consider adding specialty baked goods and locally made items. “It’s better yet if you know the maker and their story,” says Bennett. “Include a gift card to your favorite shop or restaurant to share an experience that’s special to you.” 

For visitors you haven’t seen in a long time, they’re sure to enjoy a framed photo from the past—and a special handwritten note from you. Why not incorporate treats and an instant water pot with a selection of herbal teas and hot chocolate, allowing guests to recollect, snack and sip? “A basket also might contain a pet toy or small gift for the children,” says Bennett, noting it will be special to have something for all.

A holiday-themed basket will comprise the colors, foods and fragrances of the season. Fill it with pinecones, a special ornament and a cranberry-scented candle, plus warm, fuzzy socks and a throw blanket. Don’t forget a jolly mug, crunchy popcorn and peppermint candy that also can be combined with practical items, such as paper plates and napkins in merry designs. For the guest who has nearly everything, why not include information about a donation to a favorite charity in their honor?

A basket of personal care items, seasonal soaps and scented room spray will help your overnight guests feel at ease. “Think of things you need when you travel and provide those items to make guests feel welcome and comfortable,” says Moberg. For the bedroom, that could be cozy socks or slippers, in addition to a short book or magazine. “In a guest bathroom, consider offering anything that may be easy to forget, such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, nail clippers and moisturizer. Put them in a cute basket, which will be sure to put a smile on your guests’ faces.”

Set a fabulous, festive table

Bring elegance to the dinner table with candles, napkins rings, live arrangements or fresh pine branches—and beautiful dishes. “Break out the good china, but use select pieces interspersed with new, clean lines to create a less formal setting,” explains Bennett. “And if you’re planning to serve traditional family recipes, have the recipe cards ready to share.”

Additional enhancements could be place cards with small, take-away gifts, fabric napkins and layered decor, which can be achieved by adding height with cake stands. Bennett suggests serving assorted hot and cold beverages, including non-alcoholic drinks, in fancy glassware. “Colored stemware is a favorite this season,” he says. 

“Go above and beyond to find the perfect, unique pieces that will set your table apart from others,” adds Moberg. Matching plates, cups and napkins, as well as simple decor and tapered candles, will help set the mood.

Hopefully these ideas are useful as you open your home for the holidays and prepare to make a welcoming, unforgettable impression. ::

About Author

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Trish is a Rochester-area freelance writer who is inspired by and honored to share the stories of courageous, strong and amazing women in and around the Rochester community.

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