Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Attitudes and Manners: Discussion 6 — The True Spirit of Hospitality

Attitudes and Manners: Discussion 6 — The True Spirit of Hospitality

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 30, 2011

Discussion 6 – The True Spirit of Hospitality

For Tuesday, March 13, 1962

Objective: To point out that the development of the art of being a good hostess and an ideal guest is a woman’s responsibility and that the pleasures derived therefrom are her special privilege.

To have people in one’s home, however humble it may be, to make them welcome without apology, to provide for their comfort and pleasure, is a woman’s special privilege and one she should not neglect. It is under these circumstances that the art of living, rather than the mere essentials of it, are brought into focus.

While the details may differ between a formal dinner and patio picnic held in a home – with or without employed help – the warmth and graciousness of both occasions should not vary. Ideally, the situation can be summed up this way; it is a delight to have guests in the home. for their pleasure we have used our best efforts to make the arrangements attractive, the food delicious, and the company compatible and stimulating. These, of course, are obvious requirements of a hostess showing unselfishness and lack of pretense. Anything done to impress or strengthen one’s own social position through entertaining can almost always be detected, and it detracts from the atmosphere of the party.

Reinforcing the true spirit of hospitality should be the thorough knowledge of the accepted code of behavior. Knowing the social rules and using them make hospitality easier, and self-discipline, which is necessary to make any party run more smoothly, becomes automatic.

The Hospitable Hostess

The hostess should try to arrange her affairs so that she can greet the guests at the door and make any necessary introductions. If her husband is helping with the entertainment, he can do these honors; otherwise, she should be on the scene until all the guests arrive.

A good hostess anticipates the needs of her guests – their comfort, preferences in food, and entertainment, because the code of behavior of guests (for very good reasons) limits markedly for what they may ask. However, an overzealous hostess can be as trying as a thoughtless one. She should use great care not to be “encumbered with much serving.” She should not be guilty of saying, “Make yourselves at home.” This is something no self-respecting guest would ever do, really. Rather, the calm manner of the hostess and obvious pleasure in their company, her thoughtful attentiveness will make the guests feel at ease.

It is embarrassing when a hostess apologizes, belittles, or in any way calls attention to her own party preparations or setting.

One uncounted bonus in entertaining in the home, is the precious example set for the children. They can learn valuable lessons in refinement and social know-how by watching mother prepare the food, the table setting, and sparkling up the home.

Entertainment to the home sets the pattern and mood for similar affairs held elsewhere. In the case of Church socials, where guests are not invited but expected, the same feeling of delight in preparing pleasure for others should be the directing spirit behind all details. The hostesses should be as careful and considerate of the guests as they would be in their own homes. They should see that the guests mingle well and get acquainted; that no one is left to sit alone; that unpleasant topics and embarrassing circumstances are avoided; that mishaps made by guests are glossed over as unimportant.

The Late Guest

When a hostess invites guests to a meal (breakfast, luncheon, or dinner), she specifies the time at which the meal will be served. This means that the food will be prepared and ready to serve at that given hour. Every hostess takes pride in serving choice foods at their best. therefore, delaying the serving of the food when it is ready is not fair to the hostess or the other guests. If, at the appointed mealtime, a guest has not arrived, it is proper for the hostess to wait fifteen to twenty minutes. If at the end of that period of grace, the guest has still not arrived, it is in keeping with good propriety to serve the meal to the guests who are present. When the late guest arrives, she quietly apologizes to the hostess and takes her place at the table, partaking of the course then being served.

When a guest finds it impossible to be on time for such an appointment, she should apprise the hostess at the earliest moment. It is most inconsiderate to be tardy for an appointment for a meal.

The ideal guest is often invited again. She is a joy to have at a party. she reflects back the underlying philosophy of the hostess: “I’m delighted you invited me; I appreciate your efforts to please me and feed me well; I like the other people you have invited.” This she may not say in so many words, but her actions should convey this attitude. She will co-operate with the hostess by not taking unfair advantage of any situation; wandering unbidden to the kitchen, asking for special treatment, or offering things to other guests, except at the suggestion of the hostess. She will be charming to other guests, careful of the feeling of all present, skillful in conversational exchanges, and reluctant to gossip or discuss questionable topics. She will be prompt in arriving and not wear out her welcome by staying longer than she should. When the time comes to leave, after expressing her “thank you and goodbye” to the hostess, she will move on out the door quickly, not prolonging conversation while chill winds blow in and the hosts become weary. Above all, a guest should no repeat anything learned about her hostess while she was present in her home. This is like betraying a confidence. She will make apologies and amends quietly but sincerely if a mishap occurs, and, as a thoughtful expression, she may call the next day and thank the hostess again for a memorable time.

Questions for Discussion

1. If a guest should accidentally break a dish or a treasure, how should the self-disciplined hostess react?
2. As a guest, what obligation do you have toward the hostess, as your contribution to the success of the party?


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