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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

A Hassle Free Vacation Begins with Planning

Summer is here and it is time for a vacation! Here are a few tips to make your time away go smoothly.

1. Population: If you are concerned about vacationing in an over-populated place, look for areas that are more secluded. Stay away from the hotspots you see on social media. Ask a travel expert for recommendations that have the activities you want without the congestion.

2. Children: If you are traveling with children, let them be part of the planning. This will help everyone in the family understand the desires of each member. Use this opportunity to teach your little ones about the culture you will be visiting. If traveling out of the country where a different language is spoken, help them learn basic words like please and thank you. Find an age-appropriate book they can read about the place you will visit.

3. Rules: Establish rules and set boundaries BEFORE you leave home. This manages expectations and helps avoid arguments. We enjoy cruising, and one expectation we would set with our son when he was a teenager was, while we were at sea, he could spend his free days hanging with his new friends, but dinner time was reserved for the family. We never had an issue because expectations were set from the beginning. If you are staying in a friend’s home during your vacation let children know they are to act as they would in their own home. Make the bed, clean up after themselves. Setting the ground rules before you leave will avoid confrontations later.

4. Regulations: Check on any restrictions or regulations before traveling. Some countries, and some states, still have covid restrictions. You might be required to produce a negative test. Just know what you are walking into before traveling.

5. Money: If you are leaving the country, it is recommended you have cash on hand in the currency of your foreign destination. I recommend $300-$500 in small bills, but it really depends on your comfort level.

6. Ambassador: Remember your manners! You are an ambassador for your city, state, and country. From the moment you arrive, you will leave an impression on others. Represent your home well!

7. Cell Phones: Bragging about what you are doing is not something others want to hear. Be selective in your choices, be humble, and remember anytime you state on social media you are out of town you have just advertised your home is empty and unprotected. Police strongly advise against this. If you do decide to post, show interesting places you are visiting that others might not get to see. A picture of your hamburger from the local grill? Maybe not. A picture of a chuck wagon breakfast cooked by a real cowboy? That is post worthy! There is an unstated rule among travel professionals and social media influencers. They advise no more than 10 photos should be posted for a two-week trip. You can agree or disagree, but that is the standard opinion. The best tip? Take as many photos as you want during the vacation. When you return home categorize and delete pictures you no longer like. What seemed a big deal two weeks ago at the museum may not be important now. In all things, remember why you are on vacation. It is to spend time with family and friends and disconnect from the real world. That is hard to do on a cell phone.

8. Beach or Pool Bag: I venture to say most people will head to outdoor, beach destinations this summer, so let’s talk specifically about vacationing in hotter climates. When packing, include a separate bag you can take to the pool or beach. Fill it with items you need so when you arrive you have everything neatly in one place. Here is what I pack:

a. Sunscreen

b. Glasses

c. Hand sanitizer and wipes

d. Lip balm

e. Cooling spray

f. Sunglasses

g. Reading glasses

h. Portable charger

i. Earbuds

j. Snacks (items that withstand heat: nuts, beef sticks, hummus, breakfast bars, fruit)

k. Bottled waters

l. Hat

m. Plastic Ziplock (keeps items protected like phone, money, keys)

n. Toys for children

9. Towels: If you are heading to a hotel pool/beach, check to see if you can checkout towels. Some places will not allow room towels to be used, and others have a limit on how many beach towels you may borrow. You might consider bringing your own.

10. Hydrate: I cannot say this enough! You do not want to be sick on your vacation. For every alcoholic beverage you consume drink at least one big glass of water.

11. Pool Chairs: It is alright to save a chair if you are waiting for a companion, but only do this for a short time. If they do not arrive within 30 minutes you should let the chair go.

12. Sandy Towel: After a day at the beach, be mindful of where you shake out your towel. Remove yourself from others so sand does not blow onto your oil covered neighbor. Or worse, get in their eyes.

13. Tidy Up: Clean up after yourself. If you can throw it away, throw it away. Just because there might be a wait staff does not mean we leave an unnecessary mess for others to clean up.

14. Bonus Tip: Leave a cash gratuity in a sealed envelope for the hotel housekeeper. This can be placed on the dresser before you check out of your room. They work hard to provide clean accommodations for you, yet they are often overlooked. The customary amount in the U.S. is $2-$5 per day.

As we begin to escape the heat, let’s do what we can to make our travel experiences fabulous. Be intentional, plan well, set boundaries, and remember to go with the flow. The true treasures in life are not found in our phone, in the 5-star meal, or an incredible destination. They are found right in front of us in the form of friends and family. So let’s celebrate!

Together with you,

Lisa Lou