Hosting (especially for the holidays) can be a monumental and often exhausting task. Thankfully, it doesn't have to always feel that way. According to Liz Marie Galvan, USA Today best-selling author, interior designer and West Michigan woman, an organized host is a good host.
"I've found the key to holiday hosting is simply planning ahead," said Galvan.
Before we dive in any further: If you love a good list, take the time to handwrite all tasks that need to be taken care of so you can check them off as you go (is there anything more satisfying?).
Galvan works to set the tone for the holidays through carefully curated decor, including multiple Christmas trees throughout her home and property.
"The way to make guests feel comfortable and cozy is by making them feel at home," she said, recommending keeping a mini hot chocolate bar set up in a corner of the kitchen for when guests arrive. "I love welcoming people into our home by quickly filling their hands with a warm drink and perhaps a snack to tide them over until dinner is served. I also love nesting everything on a bed of evergreen branches. My collection of Santa mugs is both decorative and practical. Make it personal with your own collection or family treasures, whether it's your grandmother's apron or a favorite cookie jar."
Placing everything needed for setting the dinner table—serving bowls, utensils, etc.—out early is also a top time-saving tip of Galvan's.
"For a simple holiday centerpiece, lay a bed of greenery (faux or real) down the table's center and top with candlesticks—and, they don't have to be real candles to feel cozy," she said. "There are some great battery-powered options that look quite realistic and can give the same effect."
If scent is important to you, consider having a simmer pot of ingredients like orange slices, cinnamon sticks, clove and rosemary going to fill your home with a truly festive aroma.
For food, feel free to make things as simple or complex as you wish. Reach out to guests ahead of time to ask for any meal requests and to get insight into any dietary restrictions or allergies. And if children are in attendance, consider adding some dedicated time for cookie baking and decorating to get everyone involved. Not much of a cook? Ask guests to bring a dish, or reach out (early) to one of many West Michigan's many local catering options.
Don't forget the magic of a good tablecloth, which not only elevates the look of your table, but comes in clutch when cleaning up.
"At the end of the night, fold in the sides and carry it right into the dishwasher, along with cloth napkins if you're using them," Galvan said.
Guests staying overnight? Galvan offers up the following tips:
- Prepare your guest area ahead of time.
- Have throw blankets and pillows readily available.
- Fill a basket with those oft-forgotten essentials.
- Have a table nearby for a glass of water, reading glasses, a lamp, bedside book, etc.
- Share Wi-Fi passwords and other helpful information.
- Plan for meals, and make snacks and drinks readily available.
- Provide a closet, drawer or space for guests' belongings.
If space is tight, consider sleeping options like air mattresses, portable cots or thick throw beds that can be unrolled as needed.
"If you're hosting, don't be afraid to ask for help," Galvan said. "Remember, things don't have to be perfect! The simple truth is this: Making guests feel comfortable is not so much about the decor or the design or furniture or the space—it's about the thoughtful welcome and little touches."
Whatever holidays you celebrate, these tips are sure to help make your hosting duties less stressful so you can enjoy time spent with those who matter most to you.
Galvan's new book, Create Your Own Cozy: 100 Practical Ways to Love Your Home and Life, is available now wherever books are sold. For more tips, visit lizmarieblog.com and @lizmariegalvan.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Dec '23/Jan '24 issue of West Michigan Woman.
Photo Courtesy of Anna Vanderberg Photography.