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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

4 Things to Say in a Thank You Note

Updated: Feb 14

Remember as children, during holidays, we would spend what seemed like hours creating homemade craft projects for our parents? It might be a paper Christmas snowflake sprinkled with glitter or a cutout heart for Valentine’s Day. We would address it: To: Mom or To: Dad. We would sign our name, and this became the gift we gave our parents. The act of giving is how we should view all letters, especially a thank you note. We may not be cutting out cute hearts, but when we take time to put pen to paper and share a little of ourselves with someone else, we are giving a part of our heart to another person.

Never underestimate the power of hand-written communication for someone you care for whether it is a thank you for a gift, or to show appreciation for a job interview. A personal message will be greatly appreciated and leave a strong impression on the recipient. Here are 4 quick points to know when it comes to sending a thank you:

1. When to Send a Note: When do you send a thank you card? When you have received something…anything. This can be a gift, a dinner party you attended, a gathering thrown in your honor, or even for something as simple as a meal delivered to your home. The only time you do not need to send correspondence is when the gift received was a thank you to you. Example, if you host a party, and someone brings YOU a hostess gift, this is their way of expressing gratitude for including them in the party. No need to send a thank you for a thank you. (Exception: If you receive a hostess gift that is just too wonderful not to acknowledge, go ahead and send a letter or an email. You can never go wrong by doing this.)

2. I Don’t Like the Gift: Loving the gift is not a prerequisite for showing appreciation! A present is not about the physical item, it is about the heart behind what has been received. An unwrapped necklace arrogantly tossed in your lap by your significant other does not mean very much. A hand-painted rock from your spouse expressing his love for you might mean everything. You may need to be creative but find something you like about the item when expressing your thanks, even if your letter says nothing more than, “I will always think of you when I gaze upon my rock.” 😊

3. Stationery: There are all types of stationery that can be used for personal correspondence. Wedding notes will usually be on high quality paper similar to the wedding invitation. A marriage ceremony is an important occasion, and your stationery should reflect this. I also recommend having fun personal stationery, that does not break the bank, for less formal occasions. Remember, though, that what you choose says a lot about you. If you wish to portray elegance, keep this in mind with the quality of paper you choose. If your personality is more casual, then you might go a different route.

4. Be Timely: A thank you should be sent within the first week of receiving the gift. For a wedding present, the bride and groom are given more time as to what is considered acceptable. If you send a note of appreciation within a 3-month window of the wedding, this is fine. Some people put off this task because they feel it is a burdensome chore. Change your thinking and make it fun! Grab a snack or a favorite drink and use the time as an opportunity to watch that show you have wanted to see while you are completing those special notes. From beginning to end, one thank you should not take more than 5 minutes, including addressing and stamping. Stay organized when it comes to your letter writing. Choose a designated location to keep your stationery supplies. I have a desk in my dining room that holds my paper, pens, and stamps. Everything I need is right at my fingertips, which translates to faster production and a more efficient use of my time. Here is a great tip I learned for moms with small children. After the holiday or birthday gifts are opened, set each item aside until the child writes the thank you note. As soon as the letter is written, the gift is theirs to enjoy. You can imagine how quickly those words of appreciation are completed!

Even when writing a thank you note, my faithful companions are always with me.

Side note: I want to comment on when you should send a hand-written thank you verses some other form of correspondence. In today’s world of electronics, it has become acceptable to send words of gratitude by text or email, but only in some situations. If your mom or close friend takes you out for a quick dinner, it is fine to send them a text the next day with a big thank you. A phone call might even be better. Just keep in mind that an email or text can give the impression that you could not spare the time to thank the person adequately. A written note is a GIFT of your time, just as our cutout hearts were a gift to our parents.

The rules have changed when a gift is opened in front of the person that gives you the present. Protocol states if they see you open the item, and you thank them in person, you do not need to send a hand-written note. An exception to this is a bridal or baby shower gift. I have a different opinion. If someone has taken the time to honor me with a gift, I can take the time to send a thank you. Whether you agree or not, I do want to caution you to know your audience. Younger generations might understand if you do not send a note, but your more mature friends might not. For those in an older generation, I think a hand-written note is important, even if you opened the gift in front of them. I also recommend sending correspondence by hand after you have been on an interview. An electronic missive does not have the same impact, and yours will be lost among all the other emails received by the employer. When deciding if you should write a hand-written note, know your audience, and when in doubt, always write!

Together with you,

Lisa Lou