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Grandmama knows best. 

Grandmothers are fountains of wisdom, with seemingly endless supplies of well-timed quips, gracious responses to not-so-gracious comments, and recipes for casseroles that could feed armies, and freeze well to boot. It’s no surprise, then, that we’re constantly calling our grandmothers for thoughtful hostess tips or channeling them whenever we have to whip up clever solutions to unexpected party conundrums. Here, some of the best hostess tips we’ve learned from our family matriarchs.

Always have a pitcher of something on hand.

Whether you treat them to sweet tea, cucumber-infused water, or a signature cocktail, visitors (even the unexpected ones) should never go empty-handed or thirsty. For lunches and afternoon teas, set out a plate with lemons and fresh mint so people can dress up their iced tea however they’d like. Plus, it makes the room smell good. Be sure to set out cocktail napkins, too: Leaving your guests without a buffer between their ice-cold beverages and warm little hands is just plain rude!

Don’t even think about skipping the flowers or greenery.

You don’t have to import peonies for an effective and fragrant centerpiece. Fresh-cut clippings from the yard will suit just as well, and you can almost always find pretty hydrangeas on the cheap at the neighborhood grocery. Having natural, organic elements throughout the house, whether it’s a philodendron leaf in a vase on the entry console or a bowl of camellias on the coffee table, is a quick, easy way to liven things up and make your home feel especially inviting. Plus, at the end of the festivities, flowers make nice parting tokens for guests.

Have a go-to appetizer that can be ready in a pinch.

There’s no shame in the store-bought game. My grandmother, though an excellent and inventive cook, always had three straight-from-the-store ingredients on hand to whip up last-minute bites for a crowd: crackers (usually Wheat Thins), cream cheese, and a jar of pepper jelly. Delicious, inexpensive, and 100% foolproof.

A fresh hand towel is a powder room must-have.

Whether your preference is for disposable paper hand towels (pretty ones do exist!) or a lovely linen one that you can wash after every event, it’s important to make sure all of your guests’ needs are met thoughtfully. The same goes for soap: Do a quick powder room check before any occasion to ensure that guests will have a fresh bar or bottle of soap at their disposal.

Make each of your guests feel like the most important person in the room.

The number-one lesson we learned from our A+-hostess grandmothers? Good appetizers and pretty hand towels don’t mean a thing if your guests don’t feel absolutely, positively welcome in your home. Take time, even if just a few minutes, to look each of your guests in the eye and chat with them about their families, the weather, anything at all…Except for politics and religion, of course. A little “Hello! I’m so glad you’re here” goes a long way.

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What are your grandmother's go-to hostessing tricks? Share them with us in the comments. We'd love to know about them!