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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

6 Important Points for the RSVP



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!


1. First, determine if you want to attend. This sounds strange to some, but I often have people tell me, “But I don’t really want to go.” My answer: Then do not go. Maybe you know you have a busy week leading up to the party and your plan is to live in your pajamas all weekend. Or the party offered is not of interest to you. That is fine. In most situations, you are not obligated to attend, and you do not owe an explanation. Whatever you decide, though, just decide. Accept or decline and move on.


2. Once you have decided if you will or will not attend, the next step is to check the invitation to see if a response is required. Most hostesses will ask for an RSVP (which is an abbreviated French phrase that means “please reply”). If you see those letters written, or some other form of request made that you reply, then guess what? You reply.


The biggest headache most hostesses encounter is the lack of guest responses. If a friend sent you a text asking you to meet her for lunch, would you ignore it? Or would you instantly send a text back with a yes, or no? The same holds true when responding to an invitation. When a guest does not respond, the hostess is left wondering how much food to purchase, how many chairs to place at the dinner table, or if anyone will even be attending her party. The hostess has extended a kind invitation, and it causes stress and difficulty when guests do not respond. So, respond!


3. Even if the RSVP has a deadline for the reply, rule of thumb is to respond within 24-48 hours of receiving the invitation. Within 24-48 hours?!? Yes, within 24-48 hours. I understand we live busy lives that often require time to shuffle things around, but if you cannot respond within the first 2 days, then let the hostess know you have received her invitation and you are re-arranging your schedule so you can attend. Tell her you will give her an answer by a certain date. This lets her know you want to be at her party. She will proceed as though you are attending, which helps her in early preparations. If you receive an invitation and know you cannot attend, then there is no reason to delay your response. Reply right away. Sometimes a hostess only has room for a certain number of people in her home, and if you quickly decline the invitation, she might have the opportunity to invite another guest to replace you. Bottom line do not leave her hanging. Respond quickly.


4. Respond to the invitation in the way in which the hostess has requested. If she lists her phone number, then respond by calling. If she lists her email, then email your response. If she does not specify, then respond however you wish (phone, email, hand-written note). When I am hosting a party, my personal preference is to only list email. I do not wish to receive a lot of phone calls, so I do not give that as an option. Know your audience, though. If some of your guests are not as computer savvy, then provide a phone number along with an email.


If you run into your party hostess when you are out, it is fine to tell her you are attending (or not attending), but still respond to the invitation in the manner she requested. Why? If I run into an invited guest at the grocery store, and she tells me that her family will be attending my party, my “too full” brain does not remember this by the time I get to my car. “Did she say yes, or no? Did she say only she and her husband will be attending or are they bringing the entire family?” If you tell a friend in person you will be attending her event, also tell her you will reply to the invitation officially when you get home. This way she does not have to worry about remembering what you said. In summary, give your response in the way the hostess has requested.


5. Respond to the hostess and not the guest of honor. If the party is given in someone’s honor, you still need to respond to the hostess that sent you the invitation. Letting the bride know you are attending her shower is nice, but it is not her job to then tell the hostess who is and is not attending. The bride is not the hostess, and she may not remember to pass along your response. When I respond to a party in someone’s honor, I will email the hostess and copy the honoree.


6. “I want to attend, but what if something else comes up?” I hear this quite often. If you want to attend the party, and your calendar is clear, then respond in the affirmative. If a “big” something comes up that you must attend (your best friend is having an engagement party and you are the maid of honor or you must attend a funeral), it is fine to call the hostess and let her know that you regrettably must change your reply. I would let her know why so she does not think you decided to bail on her. However, changing your reply because you received a bigger/better deal, or simply because you do not “feel” like going on the day of the party, is not acceptable. The hostess has gone to a lot of trouble to put on a wonderful event, and you may have been invited for a specific reason. Maybe she needs your personality to balance out the other guests at the dinner party. If you cancel on her, it leaves her in a tight spot, and it is just simply rude. We have all been in situations where we receive a more exciting offer that conflicts with something we have already accepted. Deal with the disappointment and move on. Remember, to have good friends, we must be a good friend, and good friends show up for each other.

To genuinely appreciate life, we must be present. My husband and I live by these words: be intentional and be present. Two things will happen if you continually turn down invitations. First, you will eventually be excluded from that social circle. Hostesses do not continue to invite people that repeatedly turn them down. She will assume you are not interested in forging a deeper relationship, so there will come a point where she will exclude you from future parties.

Secondly, and more importantly, when we constantly decline invitations, we miss being present in life. When we show up for life, we expand our minds and learn more about the different worlds around us. We also expand our networking base, which expands our sphere of influence. Do you wish you had more influence in the world? This can only happen if you increase the size of your territory. The way we expand our horizon is through interaction with others and continual education, and the best way to accomplish this is to be present. Do not sit life on the sidelines. Accept the invitation and show up!


Together with you,

Lisa Lou