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The day after a party a gracious guest will follow up with a thank you note or phone call. Do this within 1-2 days so your appreciation does not seem stale. The formula for a thank you looks like this:

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

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