By Libby McMillan Henson
First impressions are often lasting, so if someone important is coming over for the first time, make it count. Let your special someone see the best of you through your home. This is your opportunity to showcase your willingness to make the most of what you have, underscore your upbringing (or ability to overcome it), and even give a glimpse into what a possible future together would look like.
Most importantly, providing a welcoming environment says you care about your guest and the special evening ahead. Here’s how to make sure you (and your apartment) are ready to impress.
Cleanliness is imperative. Dust every surface and vacuum, sweep or mop the floors. Pick up any piles you’ve created. Sort them if you have time, or move them to your bedroom and shut the door. Clean your stovetop, appliance surfaces, kitchen sink and counters. Freshen any plants that need attention.
Don’t forget the guest bath! Clean your powder room toilet and sink, or your first impression could be sunk. Put out hand towels for your guest to dry his or her hands, and make sure the trash is empty.
“Nose-blind” is a real thing; we all get used to smells we’re around a lot. So tackle anything that might cause odors. This list includes trash cans, the garbage disposal, a litter box, dog toys, wet clothes and old kitchen sponges or mops. Let some fresh air in, if possible. Avoid the use of heavily scented air fresheners or candles, which could trigger an allergic reaction in your guest.
Hospitality takes planning. If it’s possible, find out drink preferences beforehand. Do a quick inventory of drink options and what you’ll need for each: from glassware and openers to mixers or limes. If you’re on a budget, it’s ok to limit choices to two (seasonally appropriate) beverages. If you plan to serve any food, check to see if your guest has any food allergies.
If you’re eating at home, plan where you’ll dine and which dishes to use. A simple (short) centerpiece is always a plus; even a few sprigs of something green makes a table more inviting. Have the table set and ready to go. If you’re not certain of a proper table setting, it’s a great idea to look it up online. (Knives and spoons and drink/glass on the right; forks/bread plates on the left.)
Choose lighting that creates the best ambiance, and consider playing music in the background that fits the mood you want to inspire.
Now that your place is clean and you have a plan, take a last look around: Is there anything (books, magazines, mail, art, paraphernalia) that could be offensive? We’re not advising you hide your beliefs, but you might want to give thought to any item which could cause misgivings or debate, saving that topic for a different time or place.
Lastly, go ahead and select what you’ll wear, striking a balance between too casual and too formal. Leaving this decision to the last minute adds unnecessary pressure at a time you might already be a little nervous. (Don’t worry! You’ve got this!) Take care with personal hygiene; your guest’s focus will be almost entirely on you.
Welcoming Your Guest
It’s showtime! Etiquette expert Suzanne Willis explains how to prepare for your guest’s arrival. “Be ready to provide your guest a warm welcome, and be prepared for an earlier arrival than expected,” she says. “Greet your special someone with a big smile, take their coat or purse, and offer a beverage.”
While your special someone is visiting, it’s your responsibility to ensure he or she is comfortable. Is the temperature appropriate? Is it too cold or too hot? Does he or she need a beverage refill? Keep in mind it’s a good idea to offer water before automatically providing another adult beverage. “Be mindful about too much alcohol consumption,” advises Willis.
Now it’s time to enjoy each other’s company and get to know one another better. Let your inviting apartment inspire the two of you to have meaningful conversations (and hopefully a few laughs) with the potential for creating more memories together.
Apartment Guide editor Libby McMillan Henson is a Match.com success story. Her husband Joe was the first person she met after relocating to Greenville, SC. They eventually shared her transition apartment, before marrying and purchasing a home together.