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The day after a party a gracious guest will follow up with a thank you note or phone call. Do this within 1-2 days so your appreciation does not seem stale. The formula for a thank you looks like this:

Some dinner parties require a more formal protocol. For example, a military dinner will have strict guidelines as to where personnel will sit. If you are hosting a client dinner, you might also prefer a more formal arrangement. Even in a casual setting, you can choose to follow protocol to honor a special guest. The below description is based on a social party (vs. business), a rectangular table, and includes both men and women:

When hosting a dinner party, where you place your guests around the table is a crucial element for the success of your event. You presumably put thought into who you invited to the gathering. Do not stop there. The placement of each person around the table is something that should not be thrown together at the last minute.

I love entertaining friends and family in my home, especially during the holidays. But I must admit, it can be a bit overwhelming hosting a dinner party in the stage of life with little ones running around. The cooperation I receive from my toddlers is a significant factor in how efficient I am on a daily basis. Add in hosting a party, and it can be overwhelming. If you find yourself wanting to gather friends for a festive evening, here are my tried-and-true tips for entertaining with young children:

Planning a party can be fun, but do you know the best way to ensure everything runs smoothly? Have a rehearsal for your party. Yes, you heard correctly. You have spent a great deal of time planning your theme, creating your guestlist, and delivering your invitations. Now is the time to do a mock rehearsal which will allow you to create an action list of outstanding items around your home that might need attention. It also helps solidify any last-minute details.

These thirteen tips will get your through any dinner party. Here is a quick refresher. 

1. Leave The Cocktail Glass Behind:

If you are attending a dinner party, there may be cocktails offered before the meal begins. When the hostess signals it is time to head to the dining room, leave your drink behind. Why? The dining table has been pre-set with the glasses you will need and adding another to your place setting will only clutter the minimal real estate in front of you. Your palate is another reason to leave the cocktail behind. Many hostesses go to great lengths to pare wine with the food being served. Once seated at the table it is time to switch to wine or water.

You just received an invitation to a party, and the attire says: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture. What??? Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for a party, make it clear. We do not want our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”

Table manners are the area in which I receive the most questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in managing an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction. Even if you are unsure, most people do not care.

When attending a party, there are certain expectations we have of our hostess. We appreciate everything she has done, but we do assume there will be food, drinks, a clean bathroom, and a home that does not smell like the local pet store. What some people forget is there are also expectations of the guest. When a hostess plans a party, a great deal of time is spent deciding who she will invite. What group of friends go well together?

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party looking scared, so unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screamed, “I wish I was anywhere but here!”

You are invited!!! There is something special we feel when we receive an invitation. It is the anticipation of a celebration, the excitement of choosing what to wear, but more importantly, it is the affirmation that tells us, “I was chosen!” We know a hostess has responsibilities to ensure her party is a success, but did you know there are expectations of the guests? And your first job begins when you receive an invitation that says RSVP. Follow the six steps below and the hostess will be singing your praises!

  • Lisa Lou

12 Party Themes Everyone Will Enjoy

A perfect entertaining year for me would be hosting a different themed party each month! Will I do that? No. Will I dream about it? Yes! If I cannot have a party every 4 weeks, I can at least help my Lisa Lou family with ideas so hopefully a few of you can carry the torch of hospitality for the rest of us.

When planning an event, I believe the first step is creating a theme. Answer these questions: Why am I doing this? What is my common connector? The answers help decide the direction you will want to go with your party ideas. Hosting can be more difficult if we do not know how everything ties together. Just as an essay needs a controlling idea, so does a party. If you know your controlling idea, all the decisions starting with choosing invitations, to meal planning, to party favors will be easy to make.

Most party themes do not, and in my opinion should not, be elaborate. Save the over-the-top Cirque du Soleil or Casino Royale events for special occasions like a 50th birthday or philanthropic fundraiser. For simple gatherings at home think of one thing that ties your event together in a cohesive manner.

Maybe you are hosting a spring brunch and the best flowers this time of year have shades of blue and yellow. If so, then let the colors of blue and yellow be your connector. You might start with blue and yellow invitations, choose a menu with bright spring colors, adorn your table with blue hydrangeas and yellow roses, set your tablescape with your favorite blue linens, and send your guests home with a sweet-smelling blue hand soap tied with a yellow ribbon as a thoughtful party favor. See how easy that was? All because I had a theme for my party, I was able to channel my focus and make quick decisions.

As I live vicariously through each of you, I have listed twelve different party ideas I would love to host. Some, I have done before. Others are still on my list to do. They range from creative to traditional (and expected) gatherings. These are fun events I wanted to pass along so when the occasion arises and you are out of ideas, just grab this list and see what I would recommend. Remember, a get-together does not need to be unique. Often the tried-and-true celebrations are what your friends and family really desire.

1. January: Football Party: January is when the college playoff games are held. People are usually still recovering from the holidays, so this is a fun, casual and relaxing party to host during January.

2. February: Game Night or Casino Party: This month seems like a “blah” time of year for some. It is the depth of winter, we are surrounded by the color grey, it is cold, and we feel stuck inside. What a wonderful time to host a Game Night or Casino Party! Game Night can be executed on a tight budget. A casino party, if you hire a company, will be a more expensive affair. Both are great fun, and it really depends on your crowd. There is nothing better to pull people out of the doldrums than laughter, friends, and the sound of rolling dice.

3. March: Chef Party: Spring is around the corner, and it is a great time to learn new recipes as we begin to see warmer temperatures. If you enjoy cooking, you can be the celebrity chef and save money. Or enlist a friend to help. If you feel like splurging, hire an expert from a top-rated restaurant or find an aspiring chef that is just starting out. If you have a culinary school in your area, this is a perfect place to search for someone with a little experience, and their fee will not break the bank. You might choose a more formal evening with couples, or you can go casual and have the chef demonstrate their favorite BBQ techniques. Invite just the girls over and focus on healthy recipes they can make for their families. There are many options when you host a chef inspired evening.

4. April: Movie Night: Spring Fever has taken hold, and a fantastic way to celebrate is with a classic movie…outside! This is fun for an adults-only night or make it more child friendly and bring the entire gang. (My friends in the northern part of the U.S. may have to wait a little longer to host parties outside. Brrrr…).

5. May: Pool Party: This month is full of opportunities from graduation parties, bridal showers, end of school events and of course, Memorial Day. This is a great month to have a pool party. Children are eager for that first splash in the water, and even the adults are excited to dip their toes in the cool blue. In most parts of the country, May weather is nice but not too hot. In addition to patriotic colors, give your party a military theme. After all the reason we have Memorial Day is to honor our soldiers who have given their all. Let’s always remember this when we celebrate the start of summer on what should also be a day of remembrance.

6. June: Bridal Brunch: June is still one of the most popular months for weddings. It is an exciting time to host a brunch for those within your circle of friends who have upcoming weddings.

7. July: Independence Day: This holiday never gets old when it comes to hosting a party. You can create an event resembling the Memorial Day party mentioned in May, but this theme should be all about the red, white, and blue. Most guests prefer casual for an event like this, but if you are entertaining a more senior crowd that might struggle with the heat, having a comfortable sit-down dinner inside is always an excellent choice.

8. August: Back to School: Often families leave town in July or early August before it is time to ramp up for a new school year. This month can be a challenging time to entertain because many people are away. Personally, I stay away from August entertaining (I am usually away, too!). But, if you have school-age children, this is a fun time to throw a back-to-school party. If you do this, I suggest it be the weekend before school begins. Some families vacation right up until the day before classes start, and you do not want your turn out to be small.

9. September: Wine Tasting: The children are back in school and cooler weather is around the corner. This is a perfect month for more adult entertaining. Host a wine tasting! An elegant evening with a group of close friends is the perfect introduction for the start of the festive fall season.

10. October: Murder Mystery Dinner: October is my favorite month of the year. In the south, where I live, we are just beginning to have a break in hot weather. I have always felt October represents “what is coming.” There is so much you can do during this month from pizza and a slumber party to a progressive dinner which allows you to enjoy the fall foliage as you go from house to house. A favorite party of mine is a Murder Mystery dinner. It fits with the Halloween theme and adults love it! There are also Murder Mystery dinner kits you can purchase for teens.

11. November: Thanksgiving Dinner: Thanksgiving is usually the gathering of choice for this month, and I agree. Your efforts should go into extending hospitality to family and friends, but also to those around you that do not have loved ones nearby. Turn your thoughts outward during this month. Hosting a casual “Friendsgiving” is a great way to connect with people that might not be able to go home for the holiday.

12. December: Leftover New Year’s Eve: Christmas brings endless party opportunities. There are too many to mention in this post, so let me tell you about a different party we hosted for years. It was called a Leftover New Year’s Eve! It was great fun and works beautifully for families with young children who cannot get babysitters. The entire party revolved around Christmas leftovers being served, all party guests chipping in, and families arriving in their pajamas.

Hosting can be fun, and it does not need to be stressful. When you choose one common thread that ties everything together, starting with your invitations and ending with your party favors, it will make all your decisions easy. If any of you have hosted a themed party you would like to share, we would love to see it!

Coming soon: Ideas on decorations and party favors for each theme listed above; and be on the lookout for menus and recipes that accompany each party!

Together with you,

Lisa Lou