Engraved fill in the blank invitations ($115 for 10 cards/Bell’Invito) Chris Plavidal

Advice

The Dos and Don’ts of Dinner Parties

Heather Wiese-Alexander of Bell’Invito shares some thoughtful tips.

Choose your invitation based on the style of dinner party.
For close friends, a text will do the trick. “I’m all about the throw-together dinner party for around eight to 12 people,” Wiese Alexander says. If you’re putting on cocktails and appetizers or a potluck dinner, send an email. However, for a formal dinner party, paper invitations are a do. “I go for the paper invitations when it’s a formal or casual gathering that I want to call out as special, like a holiday party. In this case, the invitations are ordered 10 weeks in advance and sent out about six weeks out from the party,” she says.

Place cards are making a comeback.
“Place cards take pressure off guests who may not know everyone. As a guest, I prefer guidance from my host. A place card that lets me know exactly where I should sit and who I might be getting to know better that evening,” she says. However, Wiese Alexander recommends swapping it up during dessert. “When that chair next to someone opens up at the other end of the table, feel free to slide in and give them an opportunity to mingle back at your spot—it’s perfectly fine at that point in the meal,” she says.

Help your guests mingle.
“Make introductions among guests that reveal at least one nonprofessional interest or fact about each guest to the other,” she explains. “For example, ‘John Jones, this is Mary Smith. Mary just returned from a weekend in Boston. Mary, John grew up in Boston and just moved here three weeks ago.’”

Heather Wiese-Alexander in her greenhouse.

Divide your time.
“Equally divide your time with your guests,” she says. “We’re not timing minutes here, but the idea is that one of your guests, or your interest in one guest, should not dominate all of your time.”

Don’t forget the powder bath.
“Have a fully fluffed powder bath ready for guests,” she says. “Light a candle and have plenty of hand soap, hand towels and lotion, and toilet paper ready and accessible.”

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