Things Every Southern Host Does Before Company Arrives

When you're inviting guests into your home, a little planning goes a very long way.

In the South, we take pride in our hosting skills. We’ve tried our best to follow in our mama’s and even our grandmother’s footsteps. We have just about every copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette in existence, and we'll never forget the pearls of wisdom shared by our older family members, year after year. On occasion, we even follow our own advice. Whether we're discussing what not to do or just sharing the low-down on all things Southern, we try our hardest to listen and learn. However, when we’re expecting company, our composure and the skills we’ve been practicing since high school home ec go out the window. Sometimes, we don’t even know where to begin. That’s why we reached out to Suzanne Pollak of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits to share her tips with us. Pollak co-wrote The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits: A Handbook Of Etiquette With Recipes, which deserves a place on every Southerner’s bookshelf. We’re taking a page out of her book and following these tips she shared with us whenever company arrives.

Take It All In

Before you welcome your guests, pause for a moment and make sure you embrace your space. “Take time to sit down and relax, enjoy your house, the lighting, the smells, the anticipation of people you like coming over,” Pollak shares. 


Yes! Relax! Pollak defines Southern hospitality as “Friendly, welcoming, not stiff.” That’s hard to emulate that when you’re a ball of nerves. Pollak says that relaxing is the thing that we Southern hosts forget to do the most. If you’re calm, cool and collected, you can take on anything and everything that your party throws at you, from unexpected guests to a spilled glass of wine.

CROP Southern Living Bloody Mary

Grab The Ice

Whether you are having a last-minute get-together or an elaborate celebration, you’ve got to have ice and enough of it to last throughout the entire evening. In her book, Pollak says you can pop a few sodas, seltzers and beers in the freezer for a few minutes to ensure everything is properly chilled. Another tip Pollak shares is to have plenty of glasses out and ready so your guests can sip with ease and not go searching through your cabinets for a champagne flute. 

Set Up Some Snacks

Having some appetizers at the ready the moment your guests arrive is crucial. Hungry and happy are two feelings that rarely coincide. However, you don’t need to have anything big, Pollak says. Some olives or warm nuts should tide people over until dinner or whatever festivities you have planned. 

Go To Your Garden (Or Your Neighbor’s)

A vase full of fresh stems goes a long way in brightening up any home. Pollak says grab some greenery from your yard, or your neighbors, if you are looking for a welcoming, seasonable look that your guests will love.

Lighting, Lighting, Lighting

No matter the size of your home, lighting is crucial to setting a festive mood. Pollak recommends using dimmers on your lights, if you have them, and lighting a few candles before those guests arrive to transform your home. “The ambience immediately becomes calm and sets the stage for a party,” she shares.

Remember: There’s More Than Just One Way To Plan A Party

There are so many parts of a Southerner’s life that feel set in stone. You have to love sweet tea. You must dress up for every occasion, even when you’re spending the holidays at home. You have to bring a hostess gift when you are someone else’s guest. However, when it comes to planning the perfect party, Pollak says there is no right way. The moment you are in a hosting mood: take action. It can be the day of or a year ahead, but make sure you follow your heart. Embrace your sense of Southern style and we promise, everything will fall into place. You’ve got your mama’s wisdom and us here at Southern Living to help.

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