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At Lisa Lou’s we believe no table is complete without a decorative charger! These underplates, along with napkin rings, are the go-to accessory every tablescape needs. They can dress up, or dress down, the simplest of dinner plates. Just as we can change the look of a black dress by the accessories we choose, we can do the same to basic pottery with the chargers and napkin rings we use.

What is a charger plate and why are they used? Drop into any boutique that sells place settings, and you will see tables decorated with, what appears to be, exceptionally large dinner plates. Chargers, sometimes called an underplate or service plate, can set the tone for your entire look. This is the one piece in your setting that will stay on your table throughout most of the meal, and it is the item that will be most visible to your guests once they are seated.

“I don’t know what to say when I enter a room full of strangers!” I hear this quite often from people, including some you would never suspect had any type of social anxiety. Knowing how to engage in small talk is an essential tool we need to increase our soft skills. But before we learn a few tips, we need to change our psychology.

A duck on water. On top, it appears to glide gracefully over the pond, but underneath you see webbed feet paddling energetically towards its destination. When hosting a party, we may feel more like the duck under the water than the duck on top of the water. Throwing a gathering takes time and can be stressful, but our goal should be to reduce as much of these feelings as possible. Is this realistic? It can be if we get our priorities right.

When I read the words, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” I am reminded that as a spouse and a parent, our homes and families come under our leadership. We cannot control whether those under our roof accept Christ, but we can control how we act within those four walls.

Have you attended a party where you were enjoying (or maybe not enjoying) a conversation with the people around you, but you needed to remove yourself to speak to someone else? How do we graciously extricate ourselves without seeming rude. Here are a few tips to help you exit a conversation with style.

4. No one wants to hear your conversation. When you must speak on the phone in public, remove yourself and take your call in private. If you cannot find privacy, step at least ten feet away so you minimize the chance of disturbing others. No matter how private we try to make our call, our body language speaks volumes. Patrons enjoying a dinner out do not want to be disturbed watching someone throw their arms around while arguing on their phone.

​I am convinced we need to start thinking of our phones as a human persona. I do not care if you make it look like your spouse, mother, or college roommate. If we were to add eyes, a nose, hair, and a big smile to the front of our phones, we might begin making the connection that every time we converse with someone via text or email, we are allowing them to become a part of whatever we are doing.

  • Prostrate on the ground praying earnestly for those in his life.

  • Living on 3 hours sleep for months to build something special to improve the lives of thousands.

  • In all his busyness, never making me feel I come in second. Even when it means sacrificing himself.

  • Lisa Lou

Four Ways to Set the Table for a Dinner Party

Gathering family and friends to share a meal is important for our overall health. Creating beautiful tablescapes is one way we elevate our time together to let others know they are special. With that said, we need to ensure our desire to entertain does not override our display of hospitality. Too often we sit down at a table that is gorgeous, only to realize it does not function well. A 3’ floral arrangement will eliminate conversation for those sitting across from each other. A place setting with a soup bowl, stacked on top of a salad plate, stacked on top of a dinner plate, stacked on top of a charger, is a logistic nightmare. Stores will showcase settings in similar fashion, but it is for the purpose of helping the customer see how well the different crockery works together. These displays are not meant to function effectively for a dinner party.

Although there can be variations, and I am all about trying new things, there are four basic ways a table should be set if you want things to flow smoothly. Deciding which is best will be determined by the type of service you will offer.

  1. Formal:

  2. Setting: salad plate/dinner plate/charger

  3. Serving style: professional servers

  4. Order of service:

  5. Guest takes her seat at the table

  6. In front of her are a salad plate, dinner plate, charger

  7. Salad and dinner plate are removed by the professional server and the salad is returned plated and placed on top of the charger

  8. After the first course, the salad is removed by the professional server and the main course is returned plated and placed on top of the charger

  9. After the main course, the dinner plate is removed by the professional server, along with the charger, and the dessert is served plated

  10. Semi-Formal:

  11. Setting: salad plate/charger

  12. Serving style: hostess is the server

  13. Order of service:

  14. Guest takes her seat at the table

  15. In front of her is a pre-plated, ready to eat salad sitting on top of a charger (no dinner plate is present)

  16. After the first course, the hostess gets up from the table, removes each salad plate, returns with the main course plated and places it on top of the charger

  17. After the main course, the hostess gets up from the table, removes each dinner plate, along with the charger, and returns with dessert plated

  18. Hostess will also need to keep drinks filled throughout the evening

  19. Family Style:

  20. Setting: dinner plate/charger with salad plate to the left and bread plate at top left

  21. Serving style: Food is placed in the middle of the table in large bowls and casserole dishes

  22. Order of service:

  23. Guest takes her seat at the table

  24. In front of her is a dinner plate on top of a charger with a salad plate to the left and bread plate above the salad plate

  25. Food is passed to the right, and everyone serves themselves on their salad plate, bread plate and dinner plate

  26. Once the meal is complete the hostess removes the salad plate, bread plate, dinner plate and charger

  27. She returns with dessert plated or she places a large dessert in the middle of the table and allows everyone to serve themselves

  28. Hostess will also need to keep drinks filled throughout the evening

  29. Buffet:

  30. Setting: charger

  31. Serving style: Food is on a buffet table where salad and dinner plates are located

  32. Order of service:

  33. Guests serve their salad and seat themselves at the table

  34. Once the first course is finished, guests go back to the buffet for the main entre

  35. While guests are at the buffet the hostess clears the salad plates and refills drinks

  36. Repeat same protocol for dessert

(With all four examples the napkins, utensils and drinking glasses are present.)

There are different variations in the service styles we have talked about. For example, with family style you might choose to have only a dinner plate. No bread or salad dish as guests are expected to place all food on the main plate.

Another example might be if you do a combination semi-formal and family. Guests sit down to a salad/dinner/charger, but the salad is not pre-plated. You have a big salad on the table that is passed so others may serve themselves. Then, the hostess removes the salad and returns with a pre-plated main course. This represents a combination of styles.

For the buffet, you might choose to have the dinner plates at the table instead of on the buffet. I prefer this configuration when I serve buffet style. My guests gather around the table and find their seat. While we are all standing, we say grace, and then each person picks up their plate and heads to the buffet. This is an easy and comfortable way to serve. With buffet, you can always skip the salad plate and just provide a large dinner plate for both salad and dinner.

How you choose to serve your guests is up to you. But always ask yourself, “Does the meal function smoothly?” If you place a soup bowl/salad plate/dinner plate/charger in front of a guest, chaos will ensue as everyone begins to disassemble all your hard work. Your beautifully designed tablescape will be a big mess with dishes scattered everywhere. Think through the evening, ask how everything functions, do a trial run, and keep the comfort of your guests as the top priority. When you do this, everyone will whisper, “She always throws the most beautiful parties!” Never realizing that the secret behind a great party is not style, but function.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou