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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

Hosting a Party: I Can’t Do it All Myself!

Do any of you relate to this question I received from a reader? “Hosting a dinner party alone can be stressful. I know all the work will be on me, and I am still expected to have a nice meal ready, the house clean, and have my hair and make-up done. I also need to get the children dressed, looking clean and tidy, all while nagging my husband a thousand times to do his man-chores and shower before guests arrive. He seems to wait to the last minute to get ready, then I get upset and no one is happy. Help!”

There is so much to unpack in this reader’s words. Let’s break it down.

1. “Hosting a dinner party alone can be stressful. I know all the work will be on me, and I am still expected to have a nice meal ready, the house clean...” Yes, doing all of this by yourself is extremely stressful. So, why are you doing this yourself? It sounds as if your husband is willing to help, but it is his last-minute actions that are the cause of the stress. In any marriage, chores around the house should be shared. Too often it is not that the husband is unwilling, it is that expectations are not communicated clearly. Tell him how it causes stress for you when tasks are completed last minute. Ask if he can commit to having his chores finished by noon on the day of the event. It might be better for him if he accomplished everything the day before. If so, find a compromise and create a mutually agreeable timeline.

2. “…have a nice meal ready…” Yes, a tasty meal is nice when having guests over, but having a “nice” meal? I wish I could dig deeper into this statement. Are you meaning an elaborate gourmet dining experience? If so, I would suggest the menu you might be choosing is too complicated. At Celebrate, we believe entertaining should be simple. The enemy of a dinner party is unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves. A simple salad, casserole, bread, and dessert make for a nice evening. Be up front when having friends over and tell them what you are serving. “We would love to invite you to dinner for a comfortable evening among friends. We will be serving our favorite homemade casserole.” Always remember the “nice meal” you read about on social media had a team of professionals behind it.

3. “…the house clean…” Let’s be realistic about a clean house when you are in the toddler phase of life. I am assuming your home is on a weekly cleaning schedule. Keeping things uncluttered is different than clean. Each day, children need to learn the task of putting their toys away. How you choose to do this is up to you, but it is part of teaching responsibility and care for the things that belong to us. Life gets in the way, and this might not happen daily so do not chastise yourself. But the easiest way to keep a tidy house is do a little each day so the mess does not get out of control. When the day of your party arrives, grab a laundry basket to place all the clutter. Only pick up in the rooms that guests will see. Once everything has been stored in the basket hide the basket in a closet. Voila! You may have a messy closet, but you have a tidy house. The next day when you are unloading the basket put everything into its proper place. Let’s revisit the “clean” part. If you do weekly cleaning, you do not need to do a lot before a party. I would suggest giving the toilet and sink a quick scrub, though, because it is the only part of the house that could use another cleaning due to our little two-legged squirts that, well…squirt. Then, lower the lights and light a candle. Your home is now clean.

4. “…hair and make up done…” Not knowing your personal dress routine, I will give a few thoughts. If it takes 2 hours to dress, style hair, and put on makeup, then I recommend trying a new routine. This might mean you work with 2-day-old dirty hair, which we all know is faster and easier to style. Maybe a quick updo in a clip is what is needed. Headbands are great for a sleek look without much effort. For the makeup, every detail does not need to be perfect like you might wish when attending a formal event. I would invest in “quick” make up routines. I have a cream blush I use when in a hurry that doubles as eye cover and lipstick. It is fabulous! I put this over a tinted moisturizer, throw on a little eyeliner and mascara, and I am ready. I can do the entire routine in 10 minutes.

5. “…get the children dressed, looking clean and tidy…” This would be a great chore to add to your husband’s list. To help, lay out the child’s outfit the night before so those decisions are made. As mentioned earlier, make expectations clear. If you want the children ready 30 minutes before guests arrive, communicate this. An open ended, “Can you get the children dressed,” will mean one thing to one person and something entirely different to another. Assuming the child has not rolled around in a mud pit, then a quick wipe of the mouth and face is all you need to be “clean.” If you want them fully bathed, then include this in the timeframe. When asking others to help, I always recommend writing your desires down. This way everyone has a list they can refer to, and misunderstandings usually disappear.

6. “…all while nagging my husband…and no one is happy.” You are correct. A nagging wife is never a good thing. “Better to live on the roof than share the house with a nagging wife.” Proverbs 21:9. My husband and I have always entertained in our home. Early in our marriage, I tried to replicate what I thought was expected of me, yet in doing so I made my family miserable. One day my husband said, “If hosting a party causes this much stress, and the entire family is miserable because of that stress, then why do we keep hosting parties?” He was right. I had completely lost focus of why we were entertaining. This is one reason I am so adamant about keeping things simple and reminding myself there is a difference between hospitality and entertaining. Entertaining says, “Look at me!” Hospitality says, “You are welcomed and loved.” If the pressure of entertaining is making you and your family unhappy, my strong recommendation is to take a step back. Have a family meeting on ways you can have friends over without going crazy with your preparations. Create a plan where everyone can help and do this before ever extending an invitation. Give yourself permission to ignore social media posts that seem perfect, because we know it took a full team just to snap the picture. And the last tip I will give? If the people you have surrounded yourself with put these Instagram worthy expectations on you, then I strongly suggest you find a new community. Celebrate life with authenticity and simplicity, and always remember why we entertain.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou