To Host or Not to Host. . .

To Host or Not to Host. . .

In this day and age of “instant” everything and the hectic pace of life, I’ve noticed that one nicety seems to have all but gone the way of the dinosaur. . . the at-home dinner party. While so many factors contribute to the decline of entertaining at home, this is something which I am reconsidering and hope that you may, too.

While a beautifully appointed table and home are something which I revere and appreciate, my entertaining mantra is more about connection and hospitality. I will never forget the words celebrity party planner, Colin Cowie, told me years ago. “I don’t care if you cook or order food in. Just make the best presentation you can and enjoy your guests.” These words have stayed with me and I have adopted this attitude about entertaining.


Keep it simple when it comes to meal planning. When cooking, prepare a meal you have made before. Being comfortable and confident in your ability to make a dish will help to make the process easier. Experimentation for company is only a stress inducer! The same goes for prepared food you may order. Keep to what you know and there will be no surprises.

Set the tone for your guests whether you host a formal dinner or backyard barbeque.

Put on your favorite music. When guests first arrive, it is a welcoming touch which lets them know a festive evening is in store. Keep the music going all night to enhance the ambiance.

Dim the lights – create a great atmosphere with soft light or candles.

Make your table attractive. I start from the bottom up, meaning choose your tablecloth or placemats as your base and create a tablescape from there. Choosing the dinnerware and flatware will add the next layer to your table. Do use cloth napkins, even for a casual meal – you’re hosting a dinner party! Finally, end with the centerpiece. The centerpiece provides a focal point for your table. By centerpiece, I do not necessarily mean costly flower arrangements from the florist. A centerpiece can be created using a host of items you already have on hand. Decorative accessories, house plants or even fruit arranged attractively can create a beautiful table arrangement. Whether you use your best linens or casual placemats, a thoughtfully set table adds charm and character to any gathering.

While setting your table, don’t forget the place cards! Place cards take away any awkwardness when guests come to the table. Plus, it allows you to make connections for your guests. I separate couples to really stimulate conversations.

True hospitality is subtle – it is making your guests feel comfortable and special which is the beauty of entertaining at home. Most importantly, it’s your job to get the party started. Start the party with a good attitude and relax.

Let the fun begin!

Three Cheers for the Grads…

Three Cheers for the Grads…

Whether it’s high school or college, ‘tis the season of graduations.  It’s time to get ready for ceremonies, fancy dinners, parties and gift-giving.

Graduation hits particularly close to home for me this year.  Our first-born son is graduating from high school in June and our entire family has been touched by this impending event.  We have gotten through the long college process from research and visits to final decision.  AP tests are being taken and preparations for the Prom are in full swing.  It has left me thinking not only about celebrating the academic achievements of my graduate, but also wondering have I prepared him with the knowledge he needs to navigate these ending high school situations with ease.

As in many of life’s milestones, there are protocols to navigating the graduation season.  When our children are aware of and understand them, everything goes smoothly and feelings won’t be hurt.  This knowledge helps to instill the grad with confidence which will transcend graduation time and help them throughout life.

Let’s start with the graduation announcement and invitation. These are two different documents and some confusion surrounds what purpose they serve.  The announcement should be sent to family and friends after the graduation ceremony has taken place.  The announcement is just that, a communication to let those in your circle know the happy news that the graduate has completed school and perhaps share future college or career plans.  An announcement alone does not require a gift. However, if the announcement is also accompanied by an invitation to the commencement ceremony, it is customary to give a gift.

Not to be confused with the announcement, the graduation invitation is sent to friends and family inviting them to the actual graduation ceremony.  Most often, these invitations are limited due to the space capacity of the graduation location. Therefore, graduates are often allowed only a few tickets and not all of their family and friends are able to attend.  I believe explaining the limited seating to guests you cannot include at the ceremony is the only option.  To avoid hurt feelings, try to include everyone at the graduation celebration after the ceremony.

Additionally, many families host a party for the graduate and invitations are mailed to the celebration.  Whether inviting a large or small group, take care to include those who are closest to the graduate.  It is fine to include older family members along with the graduates’ peers and younger guests. Most importantly, the graduate should greet all guests at the celebration and spend some time with each of them.  It may be tempting for the graduate to spend all of their time with their classmates, but as the guest of honor, it is important to acknowledge each person and express his or her happiness for their presence.

When it comes to gifting, here are a few things to consider. Even though announcements don’t require a gift, many people will want to celebrate the graduate with a gift or token to recognize the occasion.    While some people may give money to the graduate, the amount is up to the giver and what is appropriate for their budget. Keep in mind, some people don’t believe in giving monetary gifts, and will give a present.  As in any gift-giving situation, it is recommended to give an appropriate gift for the recipient – in this case, a youthful, age appropriate gift for the graduate.  And please, it is NEVER appropriate for grads to mention gift registries or gift suggestions on the invitation.  Always remember to send a hand written thank you note for each gift promptly after the celebration.   Of course, this is a habit I encourage you to adopt for life!

And graduates — don’t forget to turn your tassel from the right side of your cap to the left after you receive your diploma.

Cheers to all of the graduates. I applaud all of your hard work and accomplishments and wish each of you a wonderful graduation day. Your future is bright!

Before You Order, Seal and Deliver …

Before You Order, Seal and Deliver …

In my world, it is currently wedding season.  Many couples become engaged over the holidays and embark on their wedding planning during the winter months.  I am always delighted when I receive calls from brides, grooms and members of the family seeking information about wedding invitations.  The first inquiries are almost always the same so I thought I would share some simple tips for helping to make the process easier.

1. Plan ahead

This something that seems very obvious, but is often forgotten. No matter what style and look you require, time is necessary.  Wedding invitations take all forms, from formal engraved invitations to casual flat printed styles and production times vary.  Some invitation suites are more involved than others from the design process to the addition of embellishments. Also, with so many options available today, it will take you time to figure out your wedding paper style.

2. Know your details

When you are finally ready to order, be prepared with all of your details. You will need proper spellings, names, times, addresses, etc. in order to prepare your invitation order for production.   You can’t imagine the countless times I have worked with a bride and/or her Mom and they do not know the Groom’s middle name and/or its proper spelling!

3. Proofread your order carefully

After your order has been placed, you will be supplied a proof of your invitation before the order is printed.  A proof is technical term for a prototype of an image that is supposed to show you how it will appear before printing on the press. At this stage, you will be asked to check the details of your order for accuracy and to sign off on the proof, thus giving your approval for the invitations to go into production. This step really warrants your full attention, as it is an opportunity to double check every detail of the invitation suite.

4. Order extra

As with anything, it’s important to allow yourself a bit of leeway when ordering the invitations needed for your wedding.  I never want to see my clients with boxes of leftover invitations after the wedding, but it’s important not to cut your order too close.  First, since you are planning ahead, you may choose to invite some additional guests as the date gets closer and you want to be able to do so.  Second, whether you hire a third party to address the envelopes or you address them yourself, extra envelopes are always needed just in case of an error, an ink smudge or a guest’s address changes.

5. Get the correct postage

Most invitations include multiple components and therefore do not mail at the basic postage rate.  For that reason, I always recommend waiting to purchase your postage until after your invitation suite is completed.  Be sure to assemble one complete invitation with all envelopes and inserts and bring it to your post office to be weighed – preferably at the same post office where you will mail all of your invitations.

6. Don’t forget the thank you notes

With weddings come gifts, and you want to be prepared to show your thanks for the lovely treats that are sure to come your way.  I recommend ordering the thank you notes at the same time you order your invitations. You will save time and have one more “to do” item checked off of your list!

Most of all, have fun selecting your wedding invitations.  The invites are your first step in setting the tone for the type of event which is to follow.  Whether formal or casual, the possibilities are endless.

Happy planning!

Two Powerful Words

Two Powerful Words

As the holiday season begins to fade and the New Year begins, it is difficult to find anyone who does not need to communicate thanks to someone. Whether it be gratitude for a holiday present, a wonderful party attended or a family gathering, it’s time to acknowledge any kindness which has been shown to you.

Unfortunately, in today’s fast paced world, this nicety is often overlooked – not always with intent, but sometimes inadvertently in the hectic pace of the day.

Your thanks can be communicated in a few ways.  In person, when a gift is received in the presence of the giver, via text as an immediate acknowledgement when a gift is received or via email. Email and text are so commonplace, they offer instant feedback and may be efficient methods to showing appreciation, but because they are free and easy, they are less speical gestures.

While any version of “thank you” is appreciated and important, I encourage you to write a personal thank you note to those who have treated you with kindness.  Nothing can take the place of a warm, personal note.  A few minutes spent to pen a few words can go a long way. Actually, these few minutes are very little effort when considering that someone has spent time and money to select something special just for you.

For those who feel an immedite response is in order and are uncomfortable without making some mention of a kindness instantly, I suggest sending a short text noting the receipt of the gift and then following up with a descriptive thank you note later.  Would anyone really mind being thanked twice? In an age of instant everything, isn’t a personal note worth the wait?

So what to say? It’s really quite simple.  Acknowledge the gift with thanks, express how or when you will use the gift and reinforce your connection with the giver. Most importantly, write from the heart. If you do that, your note will be perfect!

So why not grace those who make your life meaningful with the power of two words – thank you!