A quick guide to keeping your cool when playing host this holiday season.
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There is a moment, a certain and undeniable experience that anyone who has ever hosted overnight guests knows. There's no precise timing to it—sometimes it happens several days in, sometimes mere minutes—but you know the feeling. It's when, as a host, your reserve of patience, graciousness, and pleasantry has near run out. Because no matter how much you love your family, no matter how much you love hosting them, and no matter how hostess-with-the-mostess-Pinterest-board-ready your home is, people get sick of each other. It's just what happens. And then on top of that, there are surprises, like they brought their dog, their kids, their political opinions, and their problems. So here's a brief refresher on a few ways to stave off the inevitable houseguest-related holiday stress. Are you on the visiting team? We've got a guide for you too.

  1. Create some structure. A rough itinerary of the time they'll be there (meals, gatherings, events, and outings) is also a subtle way to make sure you're both on the same page about the length of their stay, how many meals you'll be supplying, and more importantly, the expectations of your role as entertainer.
  2. Don't be afraid to dole out duties. Give guests something simple and unfussy to do while you prep; sometimes in big gatherings people are actually more comfortable when given a purpose and way to contribute. This doesn't have to mean multiple cooks in the kitchen; someone needs to set the table and fill water glasses too. Just because you are the hostess that CAN do it all, doesn't mean you have to. It's win-win.
  3. Make sure there's built-in entertainment, so keeping up conversation and entertainment for four days doesn't fall on you. Keep books in your guest bedroom, games in the family room, and movies on hand. More likely than not, everyone would like a break to get away and read.
  4. Encourage guests to explore. AKA, get them out of the house! A drawn-up guide to the city that you can leave in the guest room will let guests know it's okay to break away for a bit and go sightsee. An extra house key encourages vacation-style freedom.
  5. Wine. When all else fails, wine works wonders.