Why You Should Have Your Friends Over for Dinner

Our studio in D.C.

Our first home in D.C.

When my husband and I first got married, we lived in a 388 sq ft studio in Washington, D.C. That tiny apartment was like a bird’s nest; we were level with blooming magnolias in spring and could see the Capitol Dome out our window.

Despite having just enough room to turn around in, we made a regular habit of hosting friends for dinner. We were young and so happy, and so we opened our doors and borrowed chairs and sat on the bed and drank wine. Acquaintances turned into lifelong friends.

Looking back, those were our greatest hosting days so far in our marriage. I think part of it was innocence; we were too young to care about our Craigslist furniture and too-spicy curries. But I think the other part was time and energy – those were the days before we (and all our friends) had kids and early bedtimes. We had no one to entertain but other young couples and friends, and we had nothing but time.

When we moved to Coronado, we dreamed of having those days again. We have a deck and patio furniture and a grill, and the weather here is perfect 364 days of the year. The scene is set for entertaining. We have so much to offer now, compared to the tiny one-room studio in D.C.

And yet months have gone by, and my husband and I realized recently that we’ve hardly had any friends over to dinner. Traveling for work, bedtime with the kids, visiting extended family, and so on and so forth – all of these things have slowed our good intentions down.

Then we made some new friends in Coronado. We only hung out with them once before we received an invitation to have dinner in their home. It was a delicious meal in their simple two-bedroom apartment on Orange Ave. Our two kids and their two kids ran wild through the three rooms of the house. Our Moscow mules chilled in copper mugs on an IKEA table. Their simple, genuine hospitality warmed us through and through. Our friends continued this spontaneous, generous welcoming, giving freely of their time and food and home, never minding the kids or the space. They offered cheerfully, and we felt at home.

Since then, my husband and I have decided to try to have friends over to dinner three times a month. It’s a lot of work for many reasons, especially because, like us, most our friends have a couple kids under five. During our meal, we all spend just as much time seated as running after our children. Also I am still the kind of disorganized person who does a whole week’s cleaning in the hour before her guests arrive. So far I only have two good go-to recipes that accommodate for allergies and children and work well on the grill. We are not yet practiced hosts.

But I almost don’t want to be. Yes, I want to serve good food and strong wine and have forks and plates at everyone’s place. I want to clean the toilet before they arrive, do some tidying, and have the meal mostly ready. I want my guests to feel special, loved, welcomed.

But I don’t want them to ever feel like they are anywhere but in a home.

When I walk into a friend’s house and see her dust bunnies and dishes in the sink and pile of laundry waiting to be folded, I see a home. I feel connection, comfort, and even relief. She didn’t hide the mess before I came! She didn’t clean for me! Her kids don’t have any clean underwear either! Being welcomed into such a home is a sign of friendship these days. It’s a way of saying, “I am who I am, and I know you will see my real life and love me for it. I trust you.” I want to spend time in homes like that, to have friends like that, to fill my life with honesty like that.

I want our guests to feel that way, too. In some ways, I never want to get so good at hosting that I lose touch with that newlywed bride stirring a pot of made-up stew with her husband, taste testing from the wooden spoon, and then welcoming guests into a one-room home with no embarrassment and so much love.

So I’ll keep sending out dinner invitations. I can’t promise my guests an immaculate house, or quiet children. I can’t even promise them a wine glass, because I break them all and I drink my wine out of juice glasses now. I’m still working on finding good recipes to feed them.

But I do promise them a clean plate and a chair to sit in. I promise them a family and a home. I promise them a heart that wants them there.

Take this bread, this wine, this friendship, and stay awhile.

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36 Responses to Why You Should Have Your Friends Over for Dinner

  1. Alica April 8, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    I guess our house would really feel like a home, Becca…’cause it’s dirty and untidy and very lived in! I hesitate to invite people over because of our barn schedule and because they might use the downstairs bathroom where the smelly barn clothes are hanging. But you know what? I don’t mind if their house is messy, so I guess I’d just better pick up the phone and do some inviting! Thanks for this post! (and we’ll be over for dinner tomorrow…it would be so fun to meet you!)

    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

      I would LOVE that, Alica! We seriously will be knocking on your door sometime when we’re coming through PA. :)

  2. Meredith April 8, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    I love the sentiment expressed here. I have been surprised to discover that I’m not a natural hostess–or at least it doesn’t feel natural when I get all caught up in worrying about the quality of the meal, the cleanliness of the floors, not forgetting anything, etc. I have been working hard as a married woman to let go of these concerns and embrace the realness (auto-corrected to “real mess” haha) that you describe. I’m always studying my friends when they invite us over and seem so relaxed! But I’ve made great progress and have been much better about sharing our home and letting go of this self-imposed strive for “perfection.” Because really it does make me so happy every time we share a meal and make memories right here around our table. Monthly lunches with Johanna have been the turning point, I think! She has definitely seen my dust bunnies and keeps coming back.

    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

      Probably there’s a flurry of cleaning and meal prep before you walk through your guests’ doors… and THEN they relax when there isn’t anything more they can do to help your impressions! At least that’s what I always think when the guests actually arrive.

      I am so glad you and Johanna are such good friends! I know that your friendship has been a great joy to her.

  3. Abi April 8, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    I completely struggle with the problem of not having a perfectly tidied home before people come round. Equally, I love it when at someone else’s and it’s just them, and not a show.

    It’s a UK book that’s on my pile of books to read, but have you seen ‘Ministry of a Messy House’ ? I think it needs to be further up my pile!

    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

      I haven’t read it, but now I’ll look it up and see! It sounds like just what I need to read. :)

  4. Autumn April 8, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    I want to be like this!!

    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

      Love you, sister. :)

  5. Marilyn April 8, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    I love this so much Becca. Love the little studion too and I know exactly what it’s like to feel so free with little, and then when the designer paint and light fixtures come, suddenly I become insecure. Makes no sense! Robynn who writes for my blog on Fridays did a series on hospitality a couple of weeks ago. Some of the things that came up were so good and wise. One was to note the difference between entertaining and hospitality. It’s fun to entertain but it’s much more stressful and that’s not necessarily what hospitality is. A couple of the gems were “Hospitality is being available to listen to another’s soul.” And “Whether one lives in a mud hut, government subsidized housing, or palatial palace, the practice of true hospitality is simply the genuine warmth of acceptance from one to another. Opening your hearth and home to others is giving the best of yourself to others. Let’s not confuse hospitality with entertainment” Lastly “Entertaining is offering a performance; hospitality is offering your heart.”

    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

      So many good quotes and reminders here! I love the distinction between entertaining and hosting, too. We are not funny people — we’ll leave that for people who are actually funny! — so there isn’t much entertaining going on in our home other than what antics our children have up their sleeves. Hosting is all we can do, for sure. This distinction will be a help to me as I prepare for guests and set expectations for myself.

  6. Johanna April 8, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Amen and Amen! I agree and relate to everything here. Why is it that our once a week dinner with friends has turned into once a month? (Ahem, baby girl, ahem.) Thank you for the encouragement to get back on the horse … and, I’m making progress–two in one week this week (and also this month …)

    Love you!

    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

      I know how you feel! Thank you again for hosting us — all FOUR of us — two years ago in Cville!

  7. Stacy April 8, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    Oh Becca! If you could only know how much this warms my heart but equaliy leaves me tearful. I must say that it is Adam’s gift of hospitality (and soon Jackson’s) that fills our home with last minute dinner guests. I love that his gift pushes me into wonderful circumstances that I might have otherwise missed out on. I so loved having you all in to our our tiny home and sincerely hope to do it again soon. Miss you and your family!

    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

      Miss you too, dear friend! I can’t wait to hear new stories of entertaining in your house when it’s finished. :)

  8. cjoy (Crystal) April 8, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    We may never have met, but you are welcome in my home any time. I promise loads of laundry that needs folding and the day's dishes still in the sink. We can laugh and let kids run around. Okay? So nice to meet you via your realness today. Thank you. :)

    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

      That sounds wonderful, Crystal! I’d love that.

  9. Becca Arthur April 8, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    Yes, please! Your house or ours?!? :)

    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

      Please let’s come to yours this time!!!

  10. Michelle April 8, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    Thanks so much for writing this! Often I’m reluctant to be the hostess because we are in a 2 br apartment, and have folding chairs at our dining room table but I really enjoy having company and THAT should be the focus… not what kind of chairs I have. Thanks for reminding me of what is important!


    • Becca April 8, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

      Folding chairs are wonderful! I know people will love your simple and heart-warming hospitality, especially those who are younger than you in stages of life. I love your focus!

  11. Pita April 9, 2015 at 1:51 am #

    Oh I love this, its such a good reminder. I used to be uncomfortable about my tiny flat but once I stopped worrying about it I realised that no one else even noticed it! My tip for a yummy meal would always be a delicious roast dinner. Stuff half a lemon and a good pat of butter into a whole chicken and bung it in the oven for about 40 mins. If I want to really jazz up the vegetables, chop up some potato, pumpkin and sweet potato into small chunks. Add halved onions and whole garlic cloves and put the lot in a zip lock bag with a grind of pepper, some good glugs of olive oil and sprigs of rosemary to marinate. Then throw everything into a hot oven and cook till crisp. Delicious and easy.

    • Becca April 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

      Yes, this sounds very similar to what I made for Lena for her birthday! It’s a favorite in our house. We always tackle the bird with our fingers, though, because we aren’t very good at carving meat. :( We need a lesson on doing that a little better for our guests, I think! ;)

  12. Bette April 9, 2015 at 5:53 am #

    Oh, I love your article. Thanks for the nudge, I will start doing that again right away! Cute first birds-nest place in DC, too. It is a sweet article.

    • Becca April 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

      Thanks so much, Bette! We loved that little bird’s nest…

  13. Beth April 9, 2015 at 7:22 am #

    Thanks for the encouragement—I really need to do this more, too! Also, I had to laugh appreciatively at your comment about still being the disorganized person who runs around and does a whole week’s worth of cleaning in the one hour before your company arrives. So I’m not the only one? :)

    • Becca April 9, 2015 at 8:24 pm #

      Definitely not! Every time I get out the vacuum my daughter asks, “Who’s coming over, Mama?”

  14. Joy || Jumbled Up Joy April 9, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    I love this so much! I don’t have people over enough, because other people in my family stress so much over the small things. I truly don’t. I feel like, if people are going to hate me for my dust bunnies and fingerprinted windows, they don’t deserve to be my friends. Okay, maybe not that harsh, but you know what I mean. ;-) Growing up, I frequently went to the homes of Bengalis with my family. We knew from early on that they viewed it as an honor to have people visit them, and we would never dream of criticizing. Especially since sometimes they had walked five miles to the next village to borrow spoons for us to stir our tea with!

    I laugh (mostly to myself) when people apologize for “the mess” and think, You have no idea. That didn’t even cross my mind. I’m just happy to be here. And also, hand me some of that laundry. I’d love to fold it if it means time for conversation and laughter!

    • Becca April 9, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

      I want you to come over to my house!

      But yes, I seem to remember a comment on your blog about one of your daughters having Martha Stewart genes. As time goes by, I know I’ll have to accommodate them more and more, which can be so much fun but of course can also mean our focus will change. I’m looking forward to some help from them with hosting whenever that happens… ;)

  15. Liz (Clark) Rogers April 10, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

    Becca, your posts are always so encouraging! From parenting to living simply to hospitality, you challenge my worldview and I appreciate you! You’re able to verbalized what I’ve been trying to put my finger on. So, thanks friend! Maybe one day our paths will cross again, but until then, thanks for being so open and honest in the blogosphere :)

    • Becca April 11, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

      So good to hear from you again, Liz!! Hope all is well. :)

  16. Esther April 14, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    My heart wishes that we didn’t live on opposite sides of the country.

    You beautiful souls!

    • Becca April 14, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

      So, so kind. Love you, Esther.

  17. LaMesha April 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

    Once we get settled in Sicily (how I found your blog) I want to start having people over for dinner. My husband and I always thought our house was too small or our dishes weren’t good enough or we didn’t know enough people. Thank you for such an inspiring post. I feel more sure of myself now and am excited for guests to come over and friendships to grow.

    • Becca April 28, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

      YES! And people will love this in Sicily. It’s definitely a place where I think people pull into themselves instead of reaching out and welcoming people into their homes (mostly in the American community), and so coming in with the mindset to live different is SO key. We had friends who would welcome us over at the drop of a hat, and it was the greatest gift to us. I hope you have a wonderful time there!

  18. Liz April 23, 2015 at 1:15 am #

    We so often let the insecurities of our home, or simply time and organization, prevent us from spending time with friends! Now that we have children and a busier life, we are also in a small apartment in Germany (thanks Army) and don’t feel like we can really “host.” After reading this I realize there is no reason that we can not! Thanks!

    • Becca April 28, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

      You are so welcome. Your enthusiasm inspires me to keep on hosting no matter what the circumstances. I think it is always appreciated.

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