Hospitality for a Crowd - Part I--The Background

"Houses full of love have elastic walls."

That's a quote from a movie based on O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. I've loved that quote since I was 12 years old, but it became more of a reality to me when I was a new bride and we lived in a one bedroom apartment. Our tiny apartment did not stop us from practicing hospitality, because "houses full of love have elastic walls."

More importantly, Scripture commands us to practice hospitality. Hospitality is not a gift given by God to certain people, but it is something all Christians are commanded to practice. Here's just a sampling of what God's Word has to say about hospitality:

--Hospitality is to be generous: "He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days." - Acts 28:7

--It is commanded: "Practice hospitality." - Romans 12:13

--It is a blessing to others: "Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy..." - Romans 16:23

--It is a good deed that godly women practice: " well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality..." - 1 Timothy 5:10

--It is to be shown to strangers: "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

--It is to be cheerfully given: "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." - 1 Peter 4:9

After less than a year of marriage, we moved from our newlywed apartment when we purchased a condominium. Now we had 900 square feet with elastic walls! We had friends over for dinner, hosted birthday parties, baby showers. week-long stays from out of town guests, extended family celebrations, and started the tradition of an annual Christmas party. We had a baby, and another, and ANOTHER. Five people in 900 square feet requires a lot of creative storage solutions and furniture arranging, as well as daily walks to enjoy some s-p-a-c-e. There were times when I thought I couldn't stand another day in our ever-shrinking condo, and I prayed to God for another house, for a spirit of contentment, and poured out prayers of thankfulness for a solid roof over our heads and food on our table. The size of our home, however, never stopped us from having guests. I would remind myself that "houses full of love have elastic walls."

We lived in that condo for 7 years, 3 months, and 8 days (but who was counting), and have moved twice since then. Our hospitality has seemed to grow with the blessings of our home. We have had more friends for dinner, barbecues, bridal showers, out-of-town guests, baby showers, teas, monthly homeschool group meetings, musical evenings, large homeschool events, and our annual Christmas party swelled to 100+ people. More than a hundred people!?! No problem, because "houses full of love have elastic walls", and a backyard with a trampoline for the kids doesn't hurt either.

But our practice of hospitality, not just our walls, was required to stretch last year at the time of our daughter and son-in-law's wedding. Ten days before the wedding my parents arrived to stay with us. Two days later five more people moved in. Two days later two bridesmaids arrived. And a day later my parents moved out into a hotel with my aunt, and six more friends moved in. Bear in mind, we were a family of five. In case you're trying to figure this out, we are now three days before a wedding and there are eighteen people under our roof.

What a blessing to have so many friends and family arrive from all over the United States! And those staying with us were just some of them. We had more friends and family in hotels and a campground. We wanted to have a relaxed and enjoyable time with all of them, not just see them at the wedding. So two days before the wedding we hosted a barbecue at our house...for 32 people. It rained, so the barbecue moved inside. No problem! "Houses full of love have elastic walls!" (Scroll down to the bottom of this posting for the barbecue's menu and some recipe links**.)

The now-indoors barbecue.  Our formal dining room and the dining area of our kitchen abut each other, allowing us to join one 8-ft. table with two 6-ft. tables, so that most of us could eat together.  There was another table in the family room off to the right.  It was crowded, but so much fun!!!
The morning before the day of the wedding, we hosted a bridal shower brunch for Felicity, since most of her bridesmaids and all of her female relatives were here to attend. The rehearsal went well (despite rain, thunder, and lightning), the wedding was beautiful, and Walter and Felicity departed to start their life together. The fun with our guests, however, was just beginning.

Man and wife!

Period dancing at the wedding reception.
For the next five days twenty-eight of us toured New England!

Our group (minus my husband and in-laws) in front of Paul Revere's house on the Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.
There were still seventeen of us living under our roof, another nine in a hotel, and two in a campground. That's seventeen people who must eat breakfast and be out the door each morning by 8:30-9:00-ish. In addition to getting breakfast, each morning we made and packed lunches for all 28 of us for four of those five touring days. And all twenty-eight of us ate dinner each night at our home after a long day of touring. How did we do it? That's what this series of postings is all about.

Over the rest of this week, I will be sharing what we learned in a series of postings:

- Part II--The Basics
-Part III--Bedding and Bathing
-Part IV--Breakfasts
-Part V--Lunches
-Part VI--Dinners

I will be sharing tips, pointers, and recipes!

**The menu for the barbecue was themed around local and New England flavors. Appetizers were crackers and an assortment of New England cheeses

we bought while cheese touring in Vermont with the first seven guests we had. Dinner was Maple-Chipotle Barbecued Chicken topped with maple caramelized onions, a recipe from the Balsams Grand Resort in New Hampshire,

local strawberries, a fabulous salad recipe from Yankee magazine with dried cranberries and bleu cheese, and locally-baked artisan breads. We served wine, locally brewed beers, and locally bottled, artisan sodas. Dessert was an assortment of New England-themed ice creams served up in homemade waffle cones.

Come back tomorrow for Part II--The Basics.


  1. Oh goodness - I can't wait for this series. We've had plenty of friends over for meals, and relatives down for visits, but never so many people at once for as long a stretch as that! I'm looking forward to seeing how you managed it all and filing away some notes for future reference. We just had a helpful little hospitality workshop at church this weekend and I was preparing to post notes from it when I saw this pop up in google reader. Perfect timing!

  2. Wow, what a great post! Can't wait to read the rest this week. Blessings, Abby Jo

  3. Hospitality is such a blessing to everybody- for those that recieve it and those that give it. I loved reading your post and really enjoyed the verses you shared!

  4. Wonderful post on hospitality... I'm looking forward to rest of the series!

  5. Thank you all so much for your kind comments! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I've been having technical issues, which ( usual) were my lack of technical expertise. I do like to respond to comments quickly, so I apologize.

    Sarah - I'm glad it's good timing for you!

    Abby Jo - Thank you!

    Abbi - I completely agree! A blessing all the way around!

    Donna Rae - Thank you!

  6. Great content material and great layout. Your website deserves all of the positive feedback it’s been getting. Hoteles Cali


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