Friday, December 31, 2010

Overcoming Overhostessing 101

Yay! I think I have finally kicked an old habit: overhostessing!

What is it?
Overhostessing might not be a real word, but I'll bet you know what I mean by it. In the January issue of Victoria magazine, a bed & breakfast owner used and explained the word. It refers to putting too much effort into any aspect of welcoming/preparing for guests in a way that results in making someone (whether the guest or the hostess) uncomfortable.

As a word-loving person, I was vastly relieved to see this term in explained in print, and a little relieved that I must not be the only person who has experienced this.

Here's my problem:
I am guilty of being an overly fussy and formal hostess, making too many things overly fancy or creating an atmosphere that is so staged it ends up feeling less than hospitable. I will say, though, that it has only ever been with the very best of intentions!

Today I hostessed a morning playdate for some neighbors, and it went better than any visit I've ever had. This was the first time I'd had this family over; they have been so welcoming to us and had us over earlier this week. I really really really am excited about nurturing a potential friendship with this other mother - we seem to have so much in common, more than simply having daughters the same age, too. I wanted to begin to solidify our acquaintance a bit by opening our home to them and reciprocate their hospitality.

The difference this time, while not overhostessing:

What did I do differently? I still had a clean house, I still offered tea, I still offered a little snack of lovely Christmas cookies.
  • However, this time I made sure a few little things were askew so there was a comfortable lived-in-yet-squeaky-clean vibe.
  • Instead of having the teapot, etc., already laid out in formal tea-house style, I brought things out casually after we decided that tea would be a good idea.
  • And rather than giving in to my overhostessing tendencies and set out a gorgeous (and intimidating) mini dessert buffet of beautifully arranged cookies and candies, I served homemade cutout cookies from the storage tin and one other kind of cookie from a decorative plate.
  • Also, I made use of some pretty Christmas paper napkins instead of using our usual cloth napkins. For some reason that I do not understand, certain people respond with great discomfort to cloth napkins. I have even had guests become so uncomfortable once realizing that the napkins were cloth and not paper that they put the napkin down and only used their hand to catch crumbs from then on. (I find this an appalling shame, nevertheless, my goal in offering hospitality is to serve others and make them comfortable, not give them a course in etiquette).
I found that these small but significant differences made me feel more natural (even though naturally I am more formal than this!). Does anyone else have any similar experiences to this? I would love to read about how others have overcome or prevented overhostessing.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. I try to make things very casual when I entertain. I love to have people over but I think you do have to be careful that you are enjoying yourself as much as your guests otherwise you might be guilty of "overhosting". I totally get that.