Photos: Melissa Michaels

Welcome Guests with Light

Nothing says "welcome" like light. If your guests are arriving at night, make sure you turn on all the outside lights. Inside, keep overhead lights at a comfortable level. I love using dimmers and adding warm ambience with lamps.

  • Wrap white strings of lights (lovely all year) around windows and doorways.

  • Use paper lanterns for indoor and outdoor gatherings.

  • Dim overhead lights for evening parties, and turn on lamps for a warm, festive glow.

  • Place lit candles (or use flameless candles) throughout the house.

  • Decorate areas with glass or metal lanterns and floating candles in vases.

  • Create a path of mason jar luminaries for your front walkway.

Create an Inviting Entry

After the front porch, the entry space gives the next first impression of your home. Here are some simple ways to let your entry say, "Come on in!"

Make room for guests' belongings. Create an obvious place for guests to hang their coats and bags so they feel right at home right away. If you don't have a coat closet, you can make a creative coat hanger for a wall with just about anything (shutters, an old door, a wooden stepladder...and add hooks). If you want guests to put belongings in a bedroom, remember to tidy the room before guests arrive!

Consider the cozy factor. Drape a seasonal table runner on an entry table and place a textured rug in the entry to make it warm and welcoming. You can also add a basket of textured blankets and cute scarves and mittens hanging from hooks.

Create a focal point. This could be a striking table, cabinet, or bench. In smaller entryways, a bold and fabulous mirror can grab attention and reflect light around the room. You can also display a collection of photos in frames. Whatever your focal point is, feel free to embellish it further for your gathering (greenery around the mirror, flowers on the table, cloth bunting banner, or a string of twinkle lights by the photos).

Set the Mood with Music

Turn on music at a festive volume prior to the gathering to fill a potentially awkward silence as the gathering gets started. Once enough people arrive, turn down the volume just enough to maintain the lively mood and yet allow your guests to converse comfortably. Consider creating a special playlist for your gathering. Think about the atmosphere you want to create, and find music to fit that feeling.

Solve the Shoe Dilemma

It's one of the first things that crosses the mind of every party guest: Should I leave my shoes on or take them off? If you're hosting the party, should you have shoes on? And does a pile of shoes by the front door imply a "no shoes" rule, or do you need to be more specific?

A few things to consider:
1. Look at your guest list and consider how the people on it might feel about walking around in socks or bare feet (or in shoes, for that matter).

2. If you choose to go with the no-shoe rule, make it obvious. A hand-lettered sign or a big basket or special space for shoes can help get your message across.

3. Take the weather into account. Is it snowy or muddy outside?

4. During the party, will guests be going indoors and outdoors frequently?

5. What seems right for your entertaining style and the type of party you're having?

Set up a Welcome Station

A welcome station provides an opportunity for someone to locate friends or fill a small plate with goodies as they get to know other guests.

  • Place a table near the front entry to welcome guests with a few simple snacks as they arrive. This invitation gives each guest a place to go right away and a chance to feel comfortable and connected as they enter your home.

  • If possible, locate the table near the hooks or bowl you have set out for people to place their keys, purses, and other odds and ends.

  • Make it festive. This station can be a great spot to bring in color and creativity. For example, margarita glasses can make salsa or dips feel extra celebratory.

  • Hang up a welcome sign or banner or write your own special welcome message on a chalkboard.

  • If you have access to one, create your own station using a dresser or buffet unit. Then store and access the supplies and treats you need for the welcome and goodbye. Easy!

Simple Gatherings Reprinted from Simple Gatherings. Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Michaels. Published by Harvest House Publishers.