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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

My 10 Favorite Hostess Gifts

Updated: May 3, 2021

Giving a party requires a great deal of work. If you have been fortunate enough to be included in a festive soiree, it is nice to arrive with a gift for the hostess. The typical present will cost between $15-$30, but there are less expensive things you can find at the local discount store. I love the challenge of putting together a nice basket of goodies for pennies on the dollar. When trying to figure out what you should bring, keep in mind what type of party you are attending. Is it a formal dinner? A backyard BBQ? Also, know the likes and dislikes of your hostess. If she is allergic to flowers, you probably will not arrive with a bouquet in hand.

I like to give items that can be consumed in some fashion (and this does not just mean oral consumption). This way I have not taken up precious space in her home with something she might or might not enjoy. Here is a list of some of my favorite hostess gifts.


Yes, this is what everyone seems to say, but, if you have a hostess that enjoys great wine, it really is nice to give. Put some thought into the selection. Maybe the two of you tried a new chardonnay at a local restaurant, and you both loved it. Purchase a bottle of this with a note attached saying how much you treasure your friendship. If she enjoys vacationing in a certain region or country, see if you can purchase a bottle from that area. If you do not wish to bring wine, bring an elegant wine stopper to add to her collection.


Food can be nice to bring, but make sure it is the right type of food. If the hostess has invited you over for dinner, showing up with a platter of appetizers would not be the best choice. She has worked hard on her menu and might feel obligated to serve what you brought. The added addition might mess up the food choices she has planned. Instead, bring something for her to enjoy later, or maybe something that has meaning to you. I love giving a small bottle of our favorite home-made steak rub. It is unique and shows I took time to give something made by hand. Or stir up a batch of your favorite pasta sauce. You can tie a raffia bow around the lid and attach a wooden serving spoon.

One of the more enjoyable gifts I have received was a basket filled with Graham crackers, a bag of marshmallows, and 8 Hershey bars. It was my own little s’mores kit! Memorable and delicious. If you decide to bring food, let the hostess know this is a special treat to be enjoyed after the party. By doing this you are saying, “I brought food, but I do not expect you to serve this during the party.”


A box of notecards or a journal makes a wonderful gift. Maybe purchase a gratitude book where she can keep track of moments and people she is grateful for. Add to the beauty of the journal by writing on the first page how much you appreciate her. Attach a pretty pen and you have a memorable gift.

Paper Guest Towels

I never have enough of these, so this is a favorite item I enjoy giving. You do not even need to wrap these. Just tie a festive bow and attach your greeting card.


Beautiful hand soaps are a favorite for many. A bottle of pump foam goes great in the kitchen or powder room.

Christmas Ornament

I love presenting a beautiful ornament during the holidays, but only if I know my hostess has an eclectic tree. Giving a hanging football with the name of her favorite college team probably does not work when her tree is decorated with crystal balls. Of course, ornaments can be collected and used in other ways. So, as with everything else, know your audience.


A candle is always a well-received gift. If the hostess has a certain brand she enjoys, then treat her to her favorite fragrance. Candles are a great item you can stack up on during after-Christmas sales. Most stores will mark down their seasonal merchandise from 50-75% off.

Reading Material

If your hostess is a reader, purchase the newest release from her favorite author, or bring a gift card to the local bookstore. A stack of her favorite magazines would be fun or a subscription for an audible book app are two other ideas.


This could go under the food category, but it makes a wonderful gift, so I listed it separately. Purchase a fun mug and a bag of her favorite flavored coffee. This can be done with tea, too. There are wonderful little pots that come with a single teacup on top. Wrap this in cellophane, add a bow and include her favorite tea leaves.


I enjoy giving board games, if I know this is something my hostess and her family enjoy. A nice deck of cards with the family’s initials printed on the front is a treat.

Many of the above items I have found for $10 or less at my local discount store. A hostess gift does not need to be expensive, but it should be memorable and show you have taken time to think about the recipient. This is your way of showing her that she is appreciated and valued for gifting YOU an evening of celebration.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou