The perfect table setting is an entree to a dinner party. Consider it a calling card for how to make someone feel quite at home while they relish in the effortless style and unique way you have created a backdrop to the perfect meal. When it comes to dressing a table let your imagination (and the seasons) be your guide.
Striking contrasts work well if you want a dynamic look thats bold and classy. Black and white, shades of grey, black and gold, navy and white, green and orange...whatever it is, make it look intentional.
In most cases in designing anything repetition brings a sense of rhythm. So group or arrange things with a purposeful order whether you want a formal or informal arrangement.
Coordinating two or three elements like a drinking goblet and your cutlery or a side plate or charger (under plate) is always a clever touch and quickly brings a look together. When it comes to linens, I have a pet peeve...nothing says I don't care more than soiled, torn or unpressed table cloths and napkins. Golden rule, if you cannot hide it or fix it...turf it. You will only embarrass yourself and annoy an eagle eyed guest.
Music, or entertainment: Consider one aspect, who is coming to dinner and why are they there?
Avoid all gimmick acts. Unless you have a sterling pianist and a glorious baby grand, keep it simple and find music that is laid back, not too loud...or too vocal. Again its a dinner party and YOU are hosting, not Guns 'n Roses. I usually find a good streaming station or a collection of well grouped tracks to play at different stages of the evening. Welcome music should be buzzy but not loud, light hearted and friendly to encourage conversation. Dinner music somewhat laid back and smooth not loud at all - again allowing dinner party chatter to continue uninterrupted. Make sure the music flows, doesn't jump from one genre to the next with enormous excitement, and above all... doesn't have you jumping up all the way through dinner to either change tracks or swop genres. You are the host/ess not the dj.
Lighting ...ok ! Lighting, lighting, lighting, lighting..... there I said it.... You cannot underestimate the compliment of good, sensual lighting. If you have overhead lighting like down lighters or a chandelier, dim them down as best you can, burn lamps in the background to lift the lighting so your room isn't dark. This allows you to do votives and table lighting to create a great ambient light and trust me everyone looks great in candlelight. (*Tip)
Dim the chandelier or pendant over the table to create a soft warm white light (No not pure white lighting, its a dinner party not a surgery ward) In vest in dimmable lighting - you will thank me I promise. Then subtly introduce votive tea lighters and if you don't like live burning candle light, try battery operated LED votives - they're as effective, last longer and are much safer, some even flicker. Readily available at most event shops and party stores.
Floral center pieces are always a great idea. Especially seasonal exotics or just plucked from a good garden. Deep red roses always cry class in a crystal vase and especially on a piano or a dark console table. (Remember the lighting but be weary of long candles or candles in the wind, they get messy and could prove hazardous). Containers can be rustic or uber glamorous. Let the flowers do the talking. Perhaps source some random vintage glassware, and arrange flowers among the votives to create a sumptuous table setting in groups of mismatched glassware.
Center pieces may not be flowers but if they are, then opt for subtle scented flowers on the table or no scent at all... no one wants a sneezing spell from heavily scented blooms that compete for the smells and flavours of the food.
Keep it simple, striking and well lit leaving room to eat comfortably.
If you're serving platters on the table, center pieces may not be permanent and may be cleared away just as guests are seated. Alternatively use raised vases or boxes well clad in lively papers to create heights for the different platters and let them be your center pieces. Oh, and keep the guest eye contact open. Conversation flows with guests who are able to see each other.
Last but not least, plan your food to flow effortlessly, no one wants you buzzing around all night and not spending time with your guests. Dinner for up to six or eight people can be effortless. Any more and you need some help.
Ensure your food is simple and edible and delicious. intermittent platters of fruit or snacks can help you buy time in the kitchen, or a little sorbet to clear the palate.
Plan all of this in advance. Be ready with canapés and cocktails prior to guests arriving and you can sit back and relax knowing drinks and snacks are all effortless and you can focus on being the perfect host. Bon Apetito.
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