Ask B: Casual or Formal Dinner Party Seating


Dear B, 

I am hosting a casual dinner/football watching party for 10 people this weekend. We are having a buffet in the kitchen with Mexican food, and one of the guests is brining dessert. As for the table settings, do you recommend I set our kitchen and dining room tables, do place cards, etc., or keep it casual with table cloths and rolled silverware for people to grab when they are ready to eat? I don’t want it to be stuffy! 



Dear B,

If you want a casual atmosphere and seating arrangement, I recommend setting the tables with table cloths (and beautiful flowers), and then have rolled up silverware at the buffet. This way, everyone can serve themselves, eat when they want to, and sit where they would like, be it at the table or standing in the kitchen. No place cards or formal settings necessary for this soirée! Also, given the football game will be on during the party and some might want to watch while they eat dinner, if you have any qualms about food in your den (often sofas and salsa don’t mix!), gently encourage your guests to eat in the kitchen or at one of the tables. Have fun!

Timing Etiquette


I will be the first to admit since having children, punctuality has become a bit of a struggle. Aside from getting yourself ready, you now have the responsibility of this darling brood, and it can be challenging to arrive anywhere on time. You have to dress yourself and them, pack the diaper bag, load the kids up in the car or stroller – you can see where I’m going with this. If you have the treat of a lunch or dinner out, you still have to plan well in advance to make sure you have enough time to get ready and then prepare everything for the kids and babysitter.

I cringe at the times that I have been late to lunch dates, school drop off or social engagements over the past few years, as I really strive to be punctual, but life happens and sometimes we are all tardy! Lately, I’ve been making a true effort to be on time and it had me thinking about all about timing etiquette in our modern world. When is it appropriate to arrive or even leave certain events? There can be mixed messages when it comes to timing etiquette, hence I wanted to set the record straight. And so, here is my guide to timing etiquette from baby showers to dinner parties and everything in between. Enjoy!

A dinner party: 
Arrive on time or within five minutes of the time set by the host. Don’t arrive early, as the host needs every precious minute to prepare for the guests. Be sure to have a hostess gift or dish in tow! After dessert is served, offer to help with any clean up and then you can scoot on home. Leaving any earlier (especially for another party) will only leave the host feeling hurt, so don’t dine and dash.

A wedding: Arrive 15-30 minutes early to find your seat for the ceremony. While most guests will stay to dance and celebrate long after they’ve finished a slice of cake, if you need to leave early, wait until bride and groom have cut the cake.

A children’s birthday party: Arrive within 10-15 minutes of the start time, as parties are typically come and go. If you need to leave early, be sure to have your child wish a happy birthday to the guest of honor and thank the child’s parents.

Drinks with a colleague: Strive to be on time or no more than 5 minutes late. After a drink, it’s acceptable to leave if you have another engagement that evening.

Haircut/spa appointment: Be on time or 10 minutes early so you can get settled before your appointment.

Baby or bridal shower: Be on time – not early, and not late. This day is about the guest of honor, and you want to celebrate with them from start to finish. Plus, being timely will help you to not feel rushed as you find a parking spot and carry in your gift.

Theater or concert: Arrive 15 minutes early to find your seats. Being late will only disrupt those around you and you’ll miss out on a fabulous performance.

Cocktail party: These types of parties have more of a grace period, so arrive within 15 minutes of the start time.

Gala or luncheon: Galas are fluid, yet you need to be timely so you can find your table and mingle during cocktail hour. Aim to arrive around 30 minutes before the meal is to be served.

Job interview: Always be 10-15 minutes early for a job interview. Punctuality = respect for your potential employer and the company, so be on time!

Lunch or dinner date: Out of courtesy for the person you’re meeting, be on time or no more than 5 minutes late.


Ask B: Family Stationery

Dear B, 

I want to order custom stationary for my family. What wording do you recommend? “The ____ Family”? Or “The ___’s”….etc.? And do you think it’s necessary to have family stationery, as well as personalized stationery for each family member?



Dear S,

I’m a huge proponent of family stationery, as its uses are endless – thank you notes, well wishes to family and friends, a note to your neighbor, etc. Plus any excuse to commission beautiful custom paper goods, right? In terms of wording, I prefer, “The ___ Family”, however it is really up to you. As for the look, choose colors and a design that reflect your personal style, be it modern or traditional, bright or subtle.

As for personalized stationery for each family member, I think this is an excellent idea. That way, each family member can write their own thank you notes or letters. Plus, it gives the kids a chance to have fun picking out their stationery! You might have a local stationery store to use, but if not, there are fabulous online options available, such as Love Lucy, Ellis Hill, and Minted. I love this company for children’s stationery too, as they have precious designs to showcase each child’s interests.