17 Things You Should Never Do Before Company Arrives

These mistakes are hosting no-nos.

Every good Southern hostess has her checklist of things to accomplish before the first guest arrives. She prepares the food, vacuums the floors, and wipes off the counter. You’ll be hard pressed to find her unprepared. If anything, she’s over-prepared. Where she often stumbles into trouble though, isn’t the things she wishes she had thought to do, but rather, it's the things that she regrets doing—the things she wishes she hadn’t done before the party. The hostess needs a reverse to-do list, if you will. With the help of national etiquette expert Diane Gottsman from the Protocol School of Texas, we’ve answered the call. Ahead of hosting your next gathering, go through these tips of what not to do before the party even starts. Here’s your ultimate list of things to avoid before welcoming guests.

Woman Standing by Table Decorated for Christmas

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Don’t: Start A Project At The Last Minute

“If you have to do something that requires organizing, don’t start the project even an hour in advance because you’re going to run late,” advises Gottsman. “We all get distracted. We’re getting ready, we’re getting our food prepared, then all of a sudden we realize we can’t find the can opener or wine opener. Then you start to tear a drawer apart.” Face these problems sooner rather than later so that you have time to solve the issue and clean up the messes they make.

Don’t: Clean The Floors Too Late

Save time for all cleaning, but especially the floors. The last thing you want is a guest slipping on freshly mopped or waxed floors. 

Don’t: Have Clutter On The Tables

We love a good centerpiece as much as the next Southerner, but remember that table space is important. Clear off coffee tables, dining tables, and any other surfaces in advance that may be useful for guests.

Don’t: Let The Trash Pile Up

Empty the trash before guests arrive so that you don’t have an overflowing waste bin before the party even gets started. Have extra garbage bags at the ready in case it needs to be switched throughout the event.

Don’t: Put Food Out Too Early

Whether it’s hot or cold, this mistake has the potential to ruin the meal. (Gottsman’s golden tool for keeping hot food warm for the whole party is a slow cooker.) The rule applies for drinks too. No one likes warm beer or starting the party with a bucket of melted ice.

Don’t: Be Unprepared For Gifts

“You don’t want to have to search for a vase,” says Gottsman. “Have a couple off to the side ready to go, just in case someone brings you flowers, so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to figure it out.” When it comes to food gifts or wine, Gottsman is adamant that a host is not required to serve anything that is sprung on them.

Don’t: Expect Gifts

Unless you're hosting a clear-cut potluck, don’t rely on guests bringing things. If you absolutely need something at your party, make sure you already have it. If you need something, ask, and please, especially don’t expect necessary items when you tell guests not to bring anything at all!

Don’t: Ignore Allergies

Hopefully, your guests with allergies have everything under control, but it’s important to be considerate nevertheless. This is especially important in situations where the allergy is particularly severe, can be affected by cross-contamination, or can be set off by airborne allergens. In any situation, be prepared to inform guests with food allergies of which dishes they can and cannot enjoy. 

Don’t: Set Guests Up For Failure

Leaving a low roll of toilet paper with no replacement in sight is pure evil. Make sure your bathrooms are stocked.

Don’t: Drink Too Much

“Certainly, no one is going to fault the host if they have a glass of wine before guests arrive,” Gottsman says. “However, don't start an hour early or greet your guests with a drink in your hand.”

Don’t: Forget About Pets

“Make sure your pups are put away safely if they have a tendency to bite, get in the way, or run out the door,” says Gottsman. “You’re doing this early so you’re not chasing your pet when the door opens, and they start nipping at everybody’s ankles.”

Don’t: Assume Everything Is Clean

When cleaning in preparation for a party, make sure to look both up and down and the floors and ceilings to make sure you get everything. Don’t assume either that just because something looks clean, that it is. Gottsman recommends checking for smells weeks in advance. 

Don’t: Frantically Shove Coats Aside

One thing to think about ahead of time is where guests’ coats will go. The same goes for umbrellas.  “There has to be a designated place that you have prepared in advance,” Gottsman says firmly. Clear out in advance a coat closet, umbrella stand, or any other designated place for guests to drop off their outerwear. 

Don’t: Put Out Too-Precious Things

We love showing off our prized glassware, china, and art, but they’re not worth spending a whole party worrying over rather than enjoying your party. If guests aren’t allowed to touch it, it probably shouldn’t be out. “Everything has to be usable,” says Gottsman. 

Don’t: Turn The Heat Too High

Have your temperature controlled and set to something long before guests arrive. Be careful not to go too light on the AC or too heavy on the heat because the room will naturally get warm once it’s filled with so many people, advises Gottsman. 

Don’t: Overlook The Details

It’s the small stuff that counts. Cut up any fruit you’re serving and make sure you have hand towels to spare. 

Don’t: Get Ready In The Dark

Set the mood with your lighting long before guests arrive. “You don’t want to start turning on the lights and lighting the candles when the guests are walking through the door,” Gottsman says. “The candles should already be lit and the scent should already be permeating the air by the time the guests arrive and the lighting should be adjusted to where you want it.”

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