The Gift of Hospitality and Hosting Guests

Lessons in Etiquette

For our most recent Talk Show, we dove into this subject of hospitality and hosting guests.  We go over each point as we discuss and share our own tips and ideas…


Hospitality or Hosting Etiquette is something I have always had a hard time mastering.  Because I do not want people to fuss over me, I find it hard to know what is the proper way to host a guest.  All throughout history, hosting guests has been an important part of life.  It was a time that you could show respect to your neighbors or people of importance.  

Medieval hospitality

For instance, when the king would visit his Lords and Ladies, special attention was made to every detail.  Nothing went amiss.  The fattest hog was slaughtered and the banqueting table was set so that the king would have all the luxuries of home in a far away land.  The king would travel with his queen, along with his knights, squires, and the other members of his court.  Preparations for their visit began weeks before their arrival.  The manor home had to be cleaned from top to bottom, the rooms readied, and provisions had to be gathered for the great feast.  The Lords serfs’ would hunt for game and the Lady’s servants would help grind the wheat for the baking.  The hog and deer would be turned on spits, and great big pots of boiled stew were bubbling over fires on the kitchen hearth.  Entertainment was worked into the plan.  Jesters, dancers, and musicians were all practicing for the great event.  

When the King and all his people came, the trumpets sounded and a red carpet was rolled out.  He sat down to the great feast while listening to the music and visiting with all his extended royal family.  If this feast impressed him, he would be back again next year at the same time.  

The evolution of hospitality

The emphasis of making a home ready for company has changed over the years in United States of America since its’ foundation.  

Colonial times

At the start of the foundation of our nation, women enjoyed entertaining her guests.  She would take pride in showing off her home, and also providing tea to her guests.  All the way back to the colonial times, the woman of the home would be ready at all times for a call.  There were no phones, so you could not plan when someone would pop in for a house call.  She made sure her home was presentable each afternoon.  All her work would be done before lunch and the tea kettle on.  As she sat in great anticipation for a possible guest, she would do some needlework.  The children were to be quiet and reserved during calling hours.  

When a guest arrived, they would be greeted and offered the nicest chair in the parlor.  The lady of the home would place her finest china cup and saucer in front of the guest and begin pouring the tea.  Soon she would set a plate of tea cakes before her guest as she knew the guest may have come a long way and would need to replenish.  The guest felt a warm welcome and every need was met.  Things were quiet and visiting was commenced.  They may have talked for an hour until the calling hour was up.  The guest did not want to wear out her welcome as it was common knowledge that a women had dinner to prepare, and that was to be respected.  

Civil War era

During the times surrounding the Civil War, women practiced a great measure of hospitality.  It was a measure of who you were if you could provide good hospitality to your friends and neighbors.  The home was prettied and cleaned.  The tea was on.  The food was prepared.  This is where the South gets their long standing reputation for hospitality.  It is called Southern Hospitality.  They would open their homes to anyone, offering fresh beds for sleeping, and hot meals for the filling.  

Southern hospitality at its finest

Several years ago… we had the experience of Southern Hospitality in Mississippi.  We were traveling down for a wedding of a close family friend.  We were coming from afar, and thought we would have to spend a bunch of extra money on food, gas, and lodging.  The bride’s parents let us know there was a nice man who went to their church offering his home to anyone who needed it.  I accepted the offer and we headed down the road.  I had no idea who this man was, or if we would be sleeping on a floor or in a back room.  Visions of possibilities ran through my mind as we rolled through the beautiful countryside.  

When we arrived, Steve Travis greeted us with a warm smile and a handshake.  He brought us into his home and it was just beautiful.  He had spent days cleaning it with his family helper, Miss Ann.  Miss Ann had been their helper her entire life.  Her mother was a help to his late grandparents and parents who owned the family farm. Steve grew up with Ann and they became like family.  The beds were made with fresh bedding.  Fluffy white towels stacked in the bathrooms.  Soap and any bathroom provision were available to us.  And the snacks.  We do not usually buy snacks and sweets, but it was a fun treat for the children.  It was the highlight of the entire weekend for them.  And soda.  They never get soda.  They could hardly believe their eyes.  He opened his refrigerator to reveal all the food he bought for us.  Wow!   He did not even know us but he treated us with the highest regard.  Steve wanted us to be blessed and well fed.  And then he asked us if he could have Miss Ann come and fix us some breakfast.  I could tell it would thrill his heart to bless us like that so I said, “Yes, Thank you so much!”  My husband felt so guilty with all he did to make us feel welcome.  I told him that this man probably enjoys blessing us much more than we understand.  We should just relax, be blessed, and be thankful.

I learned so much more in that short stay at the home of Steve Travis than I have learned in a long time.  I have never been the best person for hospitality.  I often forget to ask someone if they need a glass of water.  I never serve tea and because I often forget to eat, I forget to offer snacks as well.  We enjoyed hearing Steve’s stories about the old dairy operation and all they did to keep it going in hard times.  The views were spectacular and Miss Ann’s biscuits were second to none.  Listening to her tell of how she helped the family all these years just melted my heart.  I wished I could have sat and learned from her for many more days.  She is a good example of kind serving and a thankful heart.  Watching her make breakfast was my highlight of the weekend besides the beautiful wedding.  She is a treasure.  

What an example of the Love of Christ.  We felt like royalty at this home and I want to take something from that experience.  A lesson on hospitality.

Hosting short visits

  • Before your guest arrives, make sure to carefully inspect the home.  Especially the bathrooms.  Pay close attention to the toilet paper supply, have a fresh towel available for drying hands, make sure there is soap, the sink and toilet are clean and operational, and the garbage is taken out.  
  • Tidy the home and make it as presentable as you can so their is no items on the floor that your guest will have to trip over.  
  • Make sure the home is a comfortable temperature.  If you have air conditioning, turn it on for guests as some of us try to be careful how much we use expensive heating and cooling features.  Make sure to have a fan on if you do not have air conditioning in the hotter months.  If it is in the cooler months, make sure you have the heater going so your guests do not get a chill.
  • Prepare a little snack in advance and arrange it on a fancy plate if you have one.
  • When your guest comes to the door, greet them and invite them into your home.  
  • Ask to take their belongings and put them in a safe place, or hang up their coats for them.
  • Present them a comfortable place to sit down. 
  • Offer them a glass of ice water.  If you have other things like tea, milk, soda, or juice, offer your best to them.
  • Bring the plate of snacks out to them for them to enjoy while you are visiting.  
  • Do not get uptight about a mess or the noise of their children.  Try to focus on them.  Treat them the way you would want to be treated.  A nervous look can make a person feel unwelcome.  Just take a deep breath.  You can clean up everything after they leave.  Try to relax and make your guests feel at home while they are with you.

Hosting longer, overnight visits

  • Before your guests arrive, make sure their bedroom is deeply cleaned, fresh sheets are on the bed, and the bathroom they are using will be extra clean.  Provide them with enough bath towels, soap, and wash clothes necessary for their stay.  Show them where extra pillows and blankets are in case they need them for some reason.  
  • Offer meals at regular times.  Find out when they are used to eating because some people are very worried about nap times for smaller children.  You do not want to throw off their eating and napping cycles.  
  • Make sure to ask what they can and can not eat.  Some people have allergies to certain foods, and you would not want to have them hungry or in the hospital. 
  • Find out if they enjoy movies and see if their is anything they would like to watch.  If they do not like to watch movies, then make sure you do not have the TV on at any time while they are there so as to not become a stumbling block for them and their standards.  
  • Try to adjust to them so they feel at ease in your home.  Make sure they have plenty to eat at all times, providing snack times throughout the days they are there.  
  • Have drinks available at all times.  Show them where the glasses are and where they can find drinks if they need them.  
  • Let them know they are welcome to do laundry if needed.  Show them where the laundry facility is and how to use the machine.  
  • Allow them use of the phone if they need to make a call.  Give them keys to the home if they are out and about, and need access to the home at some point.  The last thing you would want is your guest sitting outside waiting for you to let them in.  
  • If they need Internet, share your Wifi code with them.
  • If there are things going on in the community, make sure to invite them along.
  • Give them directions to shopping centers and restaurants or other places of interest so they can take an afternoon break if they would like to see things in your area.  
  • Above all, make them feel rested.  Do not get uptight if they do not do things your way.  Allow them the freedom to be whomever they are.  Enjoy your time with them.

Giving someone the royal treatment is a blessing.  Making your home a fun place to visit is a good feeling for any housekeeper.  What is even more special, is that our Lord is preparing a place for us.  He has his banqueting table set, and he will welcome us one day to dine with Him.  What a feast it will be!

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