Any ordinary moment can turn sacred around the table:
The communal, blissful delight that follows the first taste of something truly delicious.
The quiet when all eyes, ears, and hearts have zeroed onto one person as they open up in a way they haven’t before.
The excitement that bubbles up when someone confirms there is, in fact, dessert.
The meaningful conversations that linger long after the meal is done, because no one’s in a hurry to be anywhere but there.
And isn’t that what gathering around the table is all about: strangers becoming friends and friends becoming family? We’ve found that when it comes to hosting, even the simplest gestures can encourage intentional connection and help guests feel cared for.
We asked a few Magnolia Perks members in our Perks Crew Facebook group (which you can learn more about hereOpens in new tab) to share how they make people feel welcome at their table. Sign up for Perks (it’s free!) to gain access to the group and other exclusive deals. We hope these ideas can spark something within you as you prepare for the gatherings ahead.
I always have some snacks, charcuterie, and beverages readily available in a self-serve style. I think that allows people to make themselves at home when they can seamlessly jump in and help themselves.
At Thanksgiving, I use a table runner that you can write on with chalk. We use it as an opportunity for everyone to write down what they are grateful for.
One thing we love to do is place all the serving dishes in the center of the table so that everyone can enjoy each other’s company without having to get up for seconds. We did that for our first Easter after COVID. We had missed each other’s presence so much, and it was so special to be surrounded by family and see each other’s smiling faces and hear their laughter again. Sometimes during family dinners, we’ll keep a box of conversation cards and trivia questions on hand to spark conversation and keep people engaged. Another favorite tradition is what we call “family jukebox.” As we’re eating, each person gets a turn at picking a song for us to listen to. It stirs up special memories and introduces people to new favorites.
Sometimes we play an ice breaker game with questions about their childhood or family traditions. It gets our guests talking and gives us a glimpse into their story. Other times we’ll simply ask everyone to go around the table and share the best part of their day.
I love to try to make our guests feel special, not just when they arrive but when they head home—so I’ll leave a little takeaway for them at the table. While I’m out and about on daily errands or shopping outings, I’ll stock up on goods from local vendors like honey, candles, or mugs. Anything simple but intentional that communicates they matter to me. For example, when our family was stationed in Washington, I bought guests a bottle of maple syrup and a bag of pancake mix from the local hot spot. It doesn’t have to be expensive or big. It’s just one extra step to show kindness, consideration, and hospitality—things the world needs a little more of right now.
Overprepare on food so that there’s more than enough to go around. Have to-go containers on hand so people feel encouraged to take leftovers home.
We have instrumental music playing on low and lit candles in the entry and throughout the house to set the mood. At the table, we usually make a toast or a little speech thanking everyone for gathering for the occasion. Then we dig in!
A simple invitation goes a long way, and when you have guests at the table, include them in on stories and recipes behind your traditions, and invite them to share their own!
I always make sure to have at least one table question that everyone answers. That way if someone is particularly shy or not everyone knows each other, each person gets their moment of attention answering the question. It helps everyone feel included.
I like to have a list of conversation starters on hand before guests come over. I find cultivating intentional conversation at the table helps everyone feel included and engaged in learning more about each other's lives.
The Perks Crew Facebook group is a place where you can share your stories, connect with other members and our staff, and enjoy more surprises along the way. We hope you’ll join us in helping this little corner of Magnolia feel more like home!