How to Host Small Gatherings

How to Host Small Gatherings

By Christen

People want to be together – we were not made to be alone.  Let that simple statement alleviate any undue pressure or self-doubt and encourage you to take the step in hosting!  You don’t have to have a large home, designer furniture, or be up-to-date with the latest décor trends to host a meaningful and high-impact gathering.  Stepping out in faith that your role in opening your home is meaningful and needed is sometimes the hardest part – but is absolutely worth it for the connection and beauty that come from togetherness.

Two cozy chairs nestled together for the perfect spot to host small gatherings

I am not a trained event planner, but over the years I’ve found that meaningful connection is experienced without needing training or extensive hosting experience.  Don’t be deterred by having not hosted in a while OR intimidated by Pinterest-worthy examples of events – for most, that is not real life and sets an unrealistic comparison (which will steal your joy and freeze you in inaction!).  Instead, focus on taking a step forward by starting with a small gathering and planning ahead, both physically and mentally, to allow you to enjoy the event and set the stage for connection with (and amongst) your guests.

Tip 1: Pick your theme and invite your guests.

Is this a seasonal celebration? (Along those lines, I love fireside s’mores with neighbors in the fall!)   Will you be meeting recurrently, perhaps for a supper club or bible study, or is this for a single calendared date?  Is a meal involved?  Does everyone invited know each other, or will you be fostering new connections?

Share details of the event with your invited guests so they are prepared for this time of togetherness.

Two coffee cups with a fall candle near two chairs for a cozy, intentional gathering

Tip 2: Plan ahead. 

This is a big one!  I’ve been guilty of staying up late the night before events (I’m looking at you, housewarming party) prepping favors and hanging decor – and last-minute planning, while sometimes unavoidable, adds a level of internal buzz that I prefer to avoid in the future!  When I’m scrambling or rushed, inevitably I forget a key detail or simply feel off-kilter and on-edge, none of which is ideal for fostering a peaceful mindset of confidence in preparation for hosting. 

Planning ahead does not mean you’re planning to create perfection.  Rather, the goal is to have time to consider with intentionality the elements you’d like to include, be those the décor, menu and food prep, favors (if applicable), or any other element specific to your event.

Need an easy finger-food idea?  I LOVE these Scottish shortbread cookies set out for guests to enjoy – they are absolutely delish and so simple to make ahead of time!

Two cups of a coffee and a fall candle, the perfect spot to host a small gathering

Tip 3: Prepare your home.

  • High-impact clean.  Don’t feel pressured to deep clean your whole house; focus instead on the areas that will be trafficked by guests.  When hosting, my cleaning checklist is:
    • Tidy common areas
    • Wipe kitchen counters
    • Vacuum floors and sofa
    • Damp mop wood floors
    • Clean guest bathroom
  • Set out flowers in the guest bathroom and on the coffee table.
  • Dim overhead lights and light some candles.
  • Play music in the background.
  • Set out food and drinks. 
A small watercolor piece of art next to a comfortable chair, a focal point for hosting a small gathering

    Tip 4: Quiet your mind and heart.

    Once the house is ready, I like to spend time before guests arrive to prepare my mind and heart for the event to come.  If you’re able, the ideal time to do this is the hour leading up to your guests’ arrival.  Recommendations for how to use this time include the following:

    Dwell on the unique details of each of your guests.  Focus on them one at a time (by name), considering commonalities guests may relate on and what attributes you admire about each person.  This time of intentional framing will serve in welcoming your guests in a personal and authentic manner and also prepares you to successfully connect guests with one another.

    Bring peace to your heart by considering all the things you are grateful for in relation to the event you are about to host.  Jot down your top hopes for the experience of the event and a couple ideas for how to bring those to pass.  This process might look as simple as something like the following two examples:

    Hope:  Form a meaningful connection with my new neighbor. 
    Action:  Share that I was reading an intriguing book recently and ask whether my neighbor has discovered any interesting reads lately.  Then ask questions to learn more about how it was meaningful to them. 
    ------------------
    Hope: I’d like guests to mingle in different areas of the downstairs, rather than just in the kitchen.
    Action: Set snacks out in appealing bowls on the coffee table and in the breakfast nook.  Place drinks on a console outside the kitchen for easy access.  Intentionally invite guests to mingle and make themselves at home.

    Often, as excited as I am ahead of time to invite people into my home, when the actual day of the event arrives, I find myself experiencing jittery nervousness and second-guessing whether people will enjoy themselves.  Surely I’m not alone in the pre-event jitters!  The above practices help assuage those feelings of butterflies and will allow you to open your door to your guests with grace, confidence and assured purpose.

    Fall tablescapes with lit tapered candles, gourds and topiaries, a festive spot to host small gatherings

    Tip 5: Engage as a gracious host. 

    • Formally greet everyone with a warm smile and a generous welcome.
    • Be attentive to your guests. Notice when someone could use a refill, help guests jump into conversations with others they’re meeting for the first time, offer to let someone help with a task (like setting out a new snack) if they seem to want to contribute.   Your ability to anticipate others’ needs and your active awareness of guests’ comfort will play a huge role in enhancing the ambiance of thoughtful intentionality at your gathering.
    • Step into the role of “people connector.” Are there individuals yet to meet one another?  Make introductions, sharing an insight about each person to the other as you acquaint guests.  Is someone dominating conversation?  Gracefully contribute and invite others’ input and insights.  Is a guest more reserved?  Begin a conversation on a topic you know she has particular interest in.  Helping to connect people fosters a sense of belonging for each of your guests and elevates their overall experience.
    • Consider strategic food placement.  The location of food encourages gatherings in specific spaces.  Would you like people to hang out in the living room? ...place appetizers on the coffee table.  Snacks in different locations will encourage guests to walk around and mingle.  Drinks both in and outside the kitchen (maybe even on the porch, too, if you’d like to encourage movement into the outdoors) allow people the convenience of refreshments from wherever they are.

    Two chairs nestled together near a window, the perfect spot to host a small gathering

    Tip 6:  Enjoy yourself and this time of intentional connection!

    We hope this list helps you feel equipped and prepared for your next small gathering!  What small gatherings are you hosting during this season?  We’d love to hear about your experience!

    A checklist for how to host small gatherings with intention by House of Inverness