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Your Table

How do you set the table for connection?

(and making light of mishaps)

Some personal stories of Renee’s dinner parties gone awry:

I used a crock pot recipe that directed me to cook the rice in the pot with the meat. The rice turned out to be the consistency of mashed potatoes.

I broiled fish and missed the window of it “flaking.” The entire fillet was not salvagable. Even worse, the house smelled like burnt fish for nearly two weeks.

Upon guests ringing the doorbell, I discovered a bat perched on our front door–inside the house. We ate dinner standing on the deck, sweating in 93 degree weather while waiting for Animal Control to remove the bat.

I hosted Thanksgiving dinner and made a separate turkey meatloaf for the gluten-free guests. But I forgot to mark the meatloaf with a toothpick and we couldn’t figure out which one was gluten-free.

Upon exiting the restroom, a guest pulled the restroom door closed. Somehow the door was locked with no one inside, and I had no key to open it.

“Inviting people into our lives doesn’t start with worry and stress. It starts with a desire for connection. Hospitality is always a matter of the heart; it’s not the condition of our homes.”

Maria Goff

Simple & Sweet

If you’re not good at something, work on it…but the bulk of your time is better spent maximizing your strengths.
-James Clear

Who: Invite a few neighbors who live closest to you or women in our Community

Start Small: Host an event without a meal. Invite women for “Coffee & Conversation” on a weekend morning or “Drinks & Discussion” one evening

Hosting Dinner: Make it a potluck. Provide the main dish. If food isn’t your forte, utilize frozen meals (e.g. Stouffer’s lasagna) or prepared foods (e.g. Costco’s chicken pot pie)

Atmosphere: Set the stage. Play background music. Light a few unscented candles.

Make it Meaningful: Make plans to move beyond superficiality. Put a bowl of thoughtful questions on the table for women to draw from during dinner or pick another suggested activity.

Lean into your Strengths: Focus your efforts on what you enjoy. If you prefer baking over cooking, make much of dessert. If cozy settings strike your fancy, set a beautiful table and make the main course something simple.

Reverse engineer an outcome: Think of what you want to be different because you gathered, and work backward from that outcome.

-Priya Parker


A good cook knows that it’s not what’s on the table that’s important—it’s who’s in the chairs.

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The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou

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Hospitality is the key to new ideas, new friends, new possibilities. What we take into our lives changes us. Without new people and new ideas, we are imprisoned inside ourselves.
Joan Chittister

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There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
Roger Staubach

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Our full humanity is contingent on our hospitality; we can be complete only when we are giving something away. When we sit at the table and pass the peas to the person next to us we see that person in a whole new way.
Alice Waters

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The focus of entertaining is impressing others; the focus of true hospitality is serving others.
Tim Chester


Setting the Stage

Meals are momentary. Human interactions leave lasting impressions, even if a given relationship is passing. Adopt simple but meaningful ways to make much of others.

Place Settings

Let your ladies guests know where to sit at your table. Assign seats with name tags and chalk pens from a dollar store.


Dress up your table with a tablecloth or fabric napkins. You can often find them at thrift stores like Goodwill, North Raleigh Ministries or Durham Rescue Mission.


Does one of your guests have an upcoming birthday or special accomplishment? Tie a balloon to her chair, use a special drinking glass, or put a candle in her dessert.

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Have You Hosted?

Bravo for your bravery and kudos for your kindnesses. Tell us about your experiences as a hostess and we’ll share your insights below.

Take a photo of your table before your lady guests arrive and we’ll add it to our gallery. Submit to: TheTableRDU@gmail.com (faces are ok if you have each guest’s permission)

8 + 3 =

   Insights from Fellow Hostesses

Hosting is worthwhile. It allows me to connect with people from different backgrounds, create meaningful experiences, and expand my horizons. It can be demanding at times, but the rewards of building relationships, learning from others, and creating lasting memories make it all worthwhile.

I believe that hosting is essential!  Bringing people together is what it is all about.  As I child I remember many get togethers that my parents initiated as well as block parties. Those were the happiest of memories for me!

I had good excuses–time constraints, three children and a small home–but eventually it was a desire to step up when no one else was offering that challenged me to host. I still have thoughts of failure that guests’ expectations will not be met. But I discovered I liked the planning and preparation.

Remember to think about hosting as creating a comfortable conversation space. You are not responsible for everyone’s experience or emotions. If you start thinking about everyone’s experience, it will make hosting overwhelming; thus, a sense of failure can creep in.
-Lauren P.
Cooking wasn’t something that came naturally to me so I never saw myself as “hostess material.” I’ve learned that the interactions around the table are so much more important than the food on the table. Knowing this has helped me to host with less anxiety.

Our Gallery

Women are welcomed. Pretenses are dropped. Connections are cultivated. 

Share a photo of your table dressed for guests (send to: TheTableRDU@gmail.com)

Click on the photo below to scroll through submitted photos.

“The way we gather matters. Gatherings consume our days and help determine the kind of world we live in, both our intimate and public realms.”

Priya Parker