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Formal Dinners

Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'

Formal Dinners

Dinner parties can be held in the host's home, a club, or a restaurant. No matter where they are held or how many guests are invited there are six requisites for success: Congenial guests, well-planned menu, attractive table, well-prepared food, gracious host and hostess, and competent and pleasant service people.

At formal dinner parties, guests are greeted at the entrance by aides or protocol personnel or, at a club, by the club manager or protocol personnel. The hostess stands near the door to the room and greets and welcomes guests. The host circulates and comes to greet new arrivals as soon as he can.

The host leads the way in to dinner with the female guest of honor. If place cards are used, the hostess is the last to enter the dining room, along with the guest of honor. If place cards are not used, the hostess is already in the room as the guests enter and tells them where to sit. (For more on place cards, see Table Seating and Arrangements

The exception to the host leading the way is a large dinner where the host and hostess and guests of honor (and sometimes everyone at the head table) are last to enter. In this situation, they are asked to wait in a side room and are brought in and announced/introduced by the master of ceremonies

At a large dinner at the club or a restaurant, you should have You-Are-Seated-At (YASA) cards to hand to guest as they arrive and seating charts showing the location of the tables. If you're using name tags, they should be arranged alphabetically on tables close to the entrance so guest will have them prior to being seated for dinner. Position protocol staff members at tables to assist guests with name tags. Name tags are positioned on the right side (unless you have a four-star general who insists on having it on his left side pocket -- then you put it wherever he wants). See more on name tags in Chapter 6, Invitations.

We recommend using name tags whenever possible. They are invaluable to the host and hostess and also the guests. And they are definitely a useful tool for protocol. The name tags remaining on the table allow us to see who has not arrived yet (in case it's one of the guests of honor and perhaps forcing a delay in starting dinner until he/she arrives) and also tells us who did not "show".

Menu cards can be placed in front of each guest or between two guests. They are best on light colored stock with black ink. They can be written in calligraphy, handwritten, printed, or typed on a computer. List only the main courses and wines being served (not the rolls and butter, celery tray, chocolates, ice water, salt and pepper!).