Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Keeping a Hospitality Journal: Planning

Guest post by Amy H.

When I first got married I did not know how to cook. Yes, growing up I spent time with my mom in the kitchen but personally preferred helping cleaning up rather than learning to cook. 

What I haven't mentioned is that we frequently invited college students into our home, and not just any college students, but CULINARY students. It was admittedly a little intimidating! We also hosted parties and had our family come for overnight visits. 

Planning for each opportunity seemed to take so much time and there seemed to be so many details to remember! I knew there had to be a way to make the planning easier!

This is how my hospitality journal began: to make planning easier! 

At first it was a notebook where I would write my planning notes. This way I could look back and re-use already planned menus instead of thinking about everything all over again. Over time, my planning developed into more of a system.

Now I use a three-ring binder with a prepared form. I've found the binder to work well for now, my journal is always changing to meet my current needs. With my binder I am able to plan several events simultaneously, keeping them separated with dividers, shopping lists are easily included in each section, coupons can be kept in the front pockets, and paper invitations can be kept there, too.

In addition to keeping my planning all in one place, right now I also keep a list of people that we would like to have over or spend time with soon. When I'm planning our calendar, I reference my hospitality list and begin making plans with someone from the list.  The more I have written down, the less I have to remember!

Each hospitality entry is divided into two main sections: planning and reflection. Today I'll share primarily about planning and tomorrow about reflecting.

For the planning portion, I have created a simple form that I keep in my binder. Here I record planning in the following areas:

  • What:  Will this be just coffee, dinner, or a party?
  • When:  Date and time
  • Location:  If not at your home, include address, phone number, contact person, etc.
  • Guest List:  Include phone numbers or mailing addresses. I highlight names when an RSVP is received, if applicable. Sometimes this is a separate page, but it is helpful to have all of this information close by when planning a larger event.
  • Invitations:  Will I invite in person, with a phone call, e-mail, or snail mail? When will invitation need to be given or mailed?
  • Favors:  Will I have any little gift for my guests? Anything to set at their place or by the door to give them as they leave? If overnight guests, am I prepared with items they may have forgotten or need?
  • Menu:  I write down everything, including details like the condiments. This helps me think through my grocery list and table setting, and also helps me not to forget something! The more detail you include, the more useful this will be for the future. Why plan and think through the details twice? Also consider how you will serve: sit down or buffet?
  • Decorations:  Will there be a theme? Any special music to play? Will I use any special paper goods or set the table any certain way? What serving dishes will I use? Do I need to move any furniture, clearly mark an entrance, or provide an area for coats? If there is anything I want to remember then I take pictures to include in my journal.
  • Entertainment:  Any special activities or entertainment for children? Are we planning to play any games? If it's a movie night then what movie will we be watching? For overnight guests, will we visit any area attractions? Will I provide information about the area?
  • Notes:  Are there pieces of furniture I want to move? Candles I want to remember to light? Do I need to pick up small toys because there will be a baby or maybe a high-chair or booster to set out or ask the parents to bring? Do I need to set out a trash bag or trash can for the party?
Keeping a journal has made offering hospitality easier and hopefully made my guests feel more comfortable and cared for. I have found it helpful for small groups, large groups/ parties, and out-of-town house guests.

Your journal will suit your needs and look different from mine! I am simply offering an example of what works for me. Maybe there will be one thing that you can take away that will help you? I hope so!

How do you organize your hospitality planning?


Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister.  Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.


  1. I was thinking this is not for me since we don't entertain favors or decorations needed. But then I was thinking about when I host my husband's family. Sometimes it is around a holiday...and all the food prepared (not all by me) and that type of thing. It could be helpful indeed!

  2. Amy, I love this idea and am in awe once again at your organizational skills.

    Annette, I don't think Amy entertains formally. Most of her hospitality is just having friends over for a meal (which I've had the honor of experiencing!). But she does make a point of doing special touches so that her guests feel valued and comfortable. I think her journal helps her remember to add those small things.

    A hospitality journal can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Find a system that works for you and your hospitality style. :)

  3. I have done a similar journal, just a spiral notebook that I put the title of what I'm planning at the top and then I write down any ideas I have that go along with that event. Not quite as organized as yours. ;-D
    I like the 3 ring binder idea because you can add to it and still have it neat. My spiral notebook always has paperclips holding in color samples and other papers just stuffed in. I just saw really cute 3 ring binders for a couple bucks somewhere...Wish I could remember where that was...Maybe Target.
    Thanks for sharing Amy, can't wait for the next installment!

  4. I know that I could really use something like this! You've got me thinking. We host yearly Christmas open houses for one thing, and it would be nice to remember what we served or who we had last year and what they particularly enjoyed, etc. Always looking for new ideas and not always wanting to revisit the old which also makes this type of journal appealing to me.

    Great ideas and thoughts! Thanks for taking the time to share more of your ideas.

  5. Annette, whatever works for you! Just having this "form" helps me make sure I have thought through everything even if it doesn't apply to whatever I am currently planning. Something very simple might be helpful!

    Stephanie, thanks!

    Crystal, my 3-ring binder is one with the clear outside pockets. I chose scrapbook paper to make it my own--and can easily change it out when a different mood strikes!

    Carrie, this might also be a place to store ideas for next year's open house. On that note, I think you'll enjoy tomorrow's post based on your comment!

    Thank you all for your comments!

  6. What a marvelous idea--I'm definitely going to have to try this myself!