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We hope that you’re ready to get back to entertaining and gathering with friends! That’s a large part of what makes life with the military fun and friendly! But, maybe there are some of you who never were at ease hosting parties and events in the past and are now starting to be concerned with the thought of the how-tos in hosting in the near future. These tips and ideas have worked for us and others, and we hope they will give you the confidence to perhaps host a unit coffee or backyard barbecue and find the joys of entertaining.

The first thing to do when planning an event, no matter how large or small, is to put together the guest list.

If hosting in your home, decide how many you can seat comfortably, perhaps around your dining table or in the living room or, if on a patio or deck, in chairs or other outside options. The same for a unit coffee, even if they’re always casual and some might sit on the floor. Michelle said she places chairs from other rooms into the living room and in various spaces to see how the seating would work there. If need be, you might ask friends and neighbors to borrow folding chairs. 

Next, decide on a theme or type of event you will have so you can add any pertinent information on your invitation besides the usual date, time, and location.

This information should include, for example, cocktails, potluck, game night, or barbecue if hosting a dinner. This helps tell your guests how to dress, but you may also include your dress preference on the invitation, especially if it’s a theme-type event. For example, everyone can enjoy a neighborhood Halloween costume party, meeting up to pass out candy, with a crockpot of chili added for dinner.

Michelle’s husband’s brigade farewelled her with a Hawaiian theme but with a twist, making it Michelle’s “big fat luau” theme, as she’s part Greek!

Ginger shared a “denim and diamonds” party idea with line-dance lessons—folks wearing jeans and bling. She also participated in neighborhood Friday night porch parties with attendees bringing a dish to share and the porch host providing drinks. This is so easy for everyone; it’s all outside on the porch or driveway!

Next comes the menu planning, and some of us enjoy that more than others!

If you really don’t enjoy cooking, make it simple! Chili cook-offs with prizes are a great way to include participation from everyone. You can also try low country boils, ice cream socials, murder mystery dinners, or mashed-potato bars with all the toppings. Entertain in a way that fits your budget! Find ready-made appetizers you can heat and serve, ask friends or unit spouses to each bring a dish to share, or look for a variety of delicious take-out options. You can even plate onto your own platters or dishes. Even with a homemade salad dressing and dessert, guests will assume you made it all! Most people are happy to gather for a good time and don’t mind that the food isn’t homemade! 

Our final tip is, before an event, use your five senses!

Hearing: Provide background music, maybe to compliment your theme. 

Smell: If you decide to use candles or scented melting wax, have them lit before guests arrive. However, consider not competing with other aromas like your meal. Unscented or LED candles are a good option.

Touch: Setting your table or buffet items a day or two ahead saves time the day of your event! One suggestion for buffets or receptions is to write on pieces of paper what food item will be plated on that dish. This makes it so easy the day of the event when plating your food! 

Taste: Check to be sure all food is out. Having a written timeline for reheating or cooking is essential.

Sight: Ensure your house is neat, the bathrooms are clean, and all dust bunnies are whisked away! If using decorations, have them all in place. 

Please keep in mind that the most important thing about entertaining, whether for the host or the guest, is to have fun, enjoy meeting people, and build lasting relationships!


  • Protocol and Etiquette Team

    Ann Crossley and Ginger Perkins are the authors of "The Army Spouse Handbook," the go-to guide for the 21st century Army spouse. The 440-page book describes situations that you may encounter as an Army spouse, irrespective of your spouse’s rank or assignment. The book is not meant to be read from cover-to-cover, but kept handy and used as a reference book when you need to know what to expect in social situations. Michelle Hodge, a seasoned spouse, has taught protocol and customs classes and continues to be an advocate for soldiers and family members. Lynda Smith, the newest member of the Traditions and Protocol team, enjoys finding new ways to bring old Army traditions to life with fun and humorous experiences, a little old-school vibe, and a modern twist.


  1. Sharita Knobloch

    I love entertaining/hosting people, and it’s one of the things I’m most excited about now that COVID is hopefully-kinda-sorta calming down… Ish.

    Thanks for mentioning the 5 senses aspect– that’s a great approach and something for me to keep in mind, esp the LED candles (because for me, the food aroma is one of the best parts!) Thanks, P & E Team!

    • Michelle Hodge

      Thanks so much, Sharita, for sharing your thoughts! I hope like you, that others will keep the 5 senses in mind when hosting family and friends in their homes.
      I’m so honored to be a part of this P & E team and we all love making suggestions and sharing so many of our personal experiences!


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