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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 Woman’s Influence on Her Family



(Left to Right): Christopher and Lisa Zook. Cecelia and Christopher Zook, Jr. (And Colonel! Louie didn’t make the cut. He was too squirmy.)


“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I could not change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I could not change the town, so I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.” –An Unknown Monk (1100 A.D.)

Learning to juggle responsibilities of a career, volunteer duties, friendships, and family can be a herculean task. As we navigate adult life, we need to remind ourselves our activities outside our family should not cause us to neglect our responsibilities to our family. As women, it is a top priority to protect the interests of those under our protection, and the most sacred place we do this is within the 4 walls where we live. As the unknown Monk said, if we can create healthy families, we can change the world.

My husband and I mentor newly married couples, and we notice most brides catch something from each other. It is called the nesting bug. Sharing the same season of life with other ladies elevates this gathering instinct, but I am here to state, the desire to nest is very real. God has placed this in our hearts, and it should not be ignored. Proverbs 31 is often quoted as an example of the godly woman. One of the verses shows how she effectively cares for her family.

Lisa Lou’s maternal great grandparents.


As we begin to build our homes, the responsibilities can seem overwhelming. We look for guidance in our moms or grandmothers, but often wonder, “How did she do it?” We need to give ourselves a little break, because the examples we watch in our mentors are of ladies that have been on the job for many years. They, too, learned through trial and error.

With fulltime careers, many women struggle to balance what the perception of family life should be verses reality. The Instagram pictures and Pinterest boards of designer homes flood our minds. We envision 5-star homecooked meals. Our perfect ending to a long day is settling down with our recently betrothed to unwind with a glass of wine while sharing experiences from our day and dreaming about the 1.5 children we will one day call our own. As an empty nester married more than 3 decades, I can confidently say this perfect scenario is rare.

A more realistic day looks like this: Traffic causes you to arrive home late so the dog did not have his routine potty break. You are greeted at the door with a pile of poo you barely step over while at the same time realizing you forgot to thaw the chicken for tonight’s dinner. You can either eat late or order take-out…again. The laundry you put in the dryer before leaving for work is still wet, leaving the clothes wrinkled. They will require extra ironing. If you have children, they are starved for your attention. You hand off the crying baby to your husband when he arrives home (he was late, too) so you can help little Johnny with his homework. After everyone is fed, bathed, and in bed, you have a few minutes to yourself, but you are so tired, you close your eyes, drift off to sleep, and dream about the “perfect” home life you are determined to create.

When the honeymoon is over, the routine of life takes hold, and responsibilities begin to pile up. Women can feel overwhelmed with family life and what they perceive it takes to manage a godly home. They can also feel pressure from the outside world that tells them other pursuits (more important agendas) should fill their time. It becomes an internal game of tug-of-war. This is when we stop, take a breath, realign our priorities, and remind ourselves family and home are designed by God to be the primary place we meet our needs. And as wives and moms, we are part of the lifeblood that flows through our family.

Homes should be a refuge from the world. It is the place we need to feel safe and loved. It is where we learn, grow, and establish relationships. When the home is a place of protection, it will successfully serve as ground zero. It will become a place to teach and train our families, where we grow and learn, where we share laughter, sorrows, play games, struggle through homework, and engage in disagreements and arguments. Home is where we shape the personalities and beliefs of our children and learn to become partners with our spouse. It is where we heal the sick, nourish our bodies, and celebrate milestones. The Oxford dictionary states, “Home is where something flourishes.” Simply put, the home is where we “do life.” The influence a woman yields in her house is powerful as she creates, guides, and leads the personality of her family. God has placed us in a position of honor and authority, but it comes with responsibility, and it should not be taken lightly.

Although that yearning desire to establish our families and our home can lead to attention distracting pursuits of beautiful furniture, top notch appliances, and impeccable landscaping, it is important we remember our homes are to be used to minister to our families, and the physical building in which we dwell should not be seen as the ultimate goal in creating our storybook life. If we do this, we will have turned those four walls into an idol that replaces the purpose of home.

Whether you are the main provider, a single mother, or the always-on-the-go volunteer, it is important to remember our priority is within our family. No one can serve two masters, and as a modern woman living in the world, we must never lose sight of this fact.

To make sure there is no misunderstanding, becoming the embodiment of Martha Stewart is not required to have healthy and functioning families. Nor should it be our goal (unless you are naturally gifted in this way). I rarely cook, I do not enjoy yard work, and I will NOT pick up dead bugs in my house! What I can do, though, is provide a refuge for my family, create a place for them to grow and learn, and equip them with the tools they need to face the challenges of the world. I can prepare my children to stand on their own, and I can be a partner with my husband.

I can also work to make our home a place of hospitality for others. These four walls in which we live may not be ideal. Our dinners might be burned, our bedrooms left messy, but love of family covers up a lot of mistakes. When our children leave home, they will not remember if their 5th birthday party was perfect. In fact, they probably will not remember it at all. What they will remember is the love you poured into them and the legacy they will carry in their hearts of a godly woman they call blessed.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou