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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 Tips to Being a Great Guest




This summer is seeing an increase in house guests. We are traveling by car more and making stops along the way to see friends and family we have not visited in years. It is a pleasant change. BUT, if you want to ensure you receive a return invitation, it is a good idea to brush up on the responsibilities we all have when sleeping over.


1. Surprise! Unless it truly is a surprise, I suggest not arriving unannounced. Give your host as much notice as possible. Personally, I offer to stay in a hotel. If they invite you to stay at their home, then you can make that decision.

2. Groceries: Offer to provide food for your weekend stay. Or, agree you will split the cost depending on your relationship with the host. Being an overnight guest should not be a burden. Do what you can to carry your load.


3. Sorry, Colonel and Louie: Our pets are our family! But do not show up at someone’s home with pets unless you have cleared this ahead of time. Not all people are as welcoming to our 4-legged friends. There also might be allergies you are unaware of. My father was deathly allergic to cats.


4. Fish and People Smell after 3 Days: The rule of thumb is 2 nights (3 days), unless you are family or close friends and have been given an extended invitation.


5. Hostess Gift: We tend to think of these for parties, but when staying overnight, it is nice to bring a gift. It can be anything from wine, a cookbook, or maybe a certificate to their favorite restaurant for the hosts to enjoy once you have departed.


6. Make Your Bed: No matter how loved we might be, guests disrupt a routine. Do everything you can to minimize the distraction. This starts with making your bed and keeping a tidy room. Include the bathroom in this, too.


7. Do Not Assume: If you need something, ask before grabbing! Do not rummage through cabinets looking for the item you forgot to pack. This is not your home. Do not take liberties. Are you hot? Do not assume you can adjust the thermostat. There may be a reason the A/C is set to a certain temperature. I am a big believer a hostess should provide guidelines for all house guests, but if she does not, you should ask for the rules of her home. Boundaries make everyone happy!


8. Servant’s Heart: Be self-sufficient. Do not rely on your host to transport you places, buy tickets to the theatre, provide your meals, or serve as your guide. In fact, if they are providing you a place to stay, I think the nice thing to do is for you to take on the role of hostess. If your friend has small children, offer to babysit them one day so she can have a break outside the home. Help her clean around the house or do some of her daily chores. Think of ways to make your stay enjoyable.


9. Be Invisible: Although you are a welcomed guest, everyone needs a little down time. In our family, after lunch seemed to be the time we would head to our rooms for a little R&R. This allowed us time to rest, to clean up for the evening, and rejoin the group refreshed before dinner.


10. Departing: Ask the hostess what she would like you to do with your bedroom upon departing. I ask my guests to strip the sheets and put them, along with the bath towels, in the utility room.


11. Thank You: A handwritten note is in order once you return home. Showing gratitude never goes out of style.


12. Bonus Points: Let your hosts relax in another room with a glass of wine while you prepare dinner. What a treat! If you can accomplish all twelve of these points, your friends will be begging you to come back again!


Together with you,

Lisa Lou