These Are The Things Party Guests Will Always Notice About Your Home

Make your soirée memorable for all the right reasons.

Indoor Potted Begonias
Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Kathleen Varner; Peterazzi Wallpaper in Pale Indigo by Peter Dunham Textiles

Recently, I've seen several viral videos of husbands poking fun at how their wives think guests are going to act upon arriving at their house. Exaggerated reactions to dirty laundry (tucked away in a hamper, mind you), fingers swiping across baseboards to reveal (gasp!) dust, and the use of their own personal lint removers are just a few of the hilarious antics they use to show the ridiculous measures some of us take to get our homes ready for guests. My husband, who now understands the difference between the "us" bathroom hand towels and the "guest" bathroom hand towels, is in the same boat as these men.

And they're right, of course. People you invite into your home, usually close friends and family, are not going to rush to your bedroom to see if you made up the bed that morning, and your loved ones won't (or at least shouldn't) judge you for opting for paper plates for a tailgate. Even with this common sense stowed away somewhere in our brains, gracious hosts can't help but want everything to be as close to perfect as possible for their guests (yes, even in the rooms no one will enter). And though people aren't going above and beyond to dissect your home's cleanliness, they also aren't walking in with a blindfold on.

To get a realistic idea of these situations, I polled the Southern Living editors and my own friends about what they actually notice about peoples' homes when they're invited for a gathering, and the answers were surprisingly endearing. For example, Senior Editor Kimberly Holland says the simple choice to have family photos displayed is a touch she appreciates. "I love to see old photos, or new ones, too, but it gives me a fun way to connect with my host."

So no, they're not bringing a magnifying glass to look for stains on the carpet; the things they recall are much more about the experience. These are the big takeaways.

The Ambiance

The most common responses had to do with the overall atmosphere of the party, not the nitty-gritty details of the evening. If you have a nice-smelling candle burning or diffuser going, for example, it makes the atmosphere feel luxurious but warm at the same time. "I personally always notice if there's a good candle burning somewhere," says Associate Editor Kaitlyn Yarborough. "It's so cozy and pleasant. It's also a super easy finishing touch for the host!"

In the same vein, music is a huge contributor to the night's vibe. No noise is awkward, blaring beats are off-putting, but a melody softly playing in the background—now that's just right.

Fresh florals or simple greenery also immediately up the ambiance ante. "Fresh flowers are such a small detail in the grand scheme of someone's home, but I always appreciate the selection, the vase, the placement…it makes all the difference!" says Senior Editor Katie Rousso. Knowing a host took the time and care to grab a bouquet at the store makes me personally feel like an honored guest. When I'm the host, this is often as affordable and effortless as popping a few eucalyptus branches from Trader Joe's into a bud vase in the powder room. Speaking of…

Nicola McLaughlin San Antonio, TX Home Guest Bathroom Blue and White
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

The Bathroom

If there's one place in your home that will leave an impression, it's unfortunately the bathroom. This makes sense, considering it's the only spot where guests are alone with a quiet moment to actually look around the room and take notice. Of what? Survey says—everything. Not that any grown person needs this advice, but just so I've done my due diligence: Be sure to put out a clean hand towel. Check it throughout the night to ensure it's still presentable and doesn't need swapping, or better yet, get some cute disposable ones. Sanitary and festive! Harkening back to our first section, a pleasant candle or small flower arrangement by the sink is a sure sign of a thoughtful host.

When it comes time to tidy up the house beforehand, pay extra attention to the restroom. Like I said, this is likely the singular time your guests will have no other distractions and therefore no choice but to take in their surroundings. Give this room a thorough cleaning in every corner.

The Good Stuff

You don't have to use "the good stuff" all the time (and by no means are expected to), but setting the table with fine china, sterling silverware, or crystal makes each person feel like the guest of honor. "I always notice if they've pulled out the nice china," says Home and Features Editor Betsy Cribb. "I'm not offended in the slightest if we're eating on paper, plastic, or the everyday plates, but it does make me feel special when a friend brings out the good stuff just for me!"

Not only will your friends and family feel extra-special using the pieces you normally reserve for holidays, but they'll be taking notes for their own collections, too. "I'm always appreciating pretty serveware!" Rousso says. "I think, 'Oh what an amazingly appropriately-sized piece for that exact dish she/he is serving! And it's pretty? How'd she/he do it?'"

So don't spend every Thursday night polishing your silver. But if you do every now and then, it won't go unnoticed by party goers.

The Final Verdict

If reading the headline had you thinking I was going to say that guests always notice when a speck of dust is present in your home, I hope you feel a little better. The things they actually remember about their visit have to do with how they felt while they were there and the small gestures you put forth as a host to make them feel that way. These are the tips that make your soirée memorable for all the right reasons. Just swap out those bathroom towels, y'all.

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