Table setting for Dinner Parties

Edouard Manet

(Edouard Manet)

I love dinner parties, for my husband and I they are the best way to enjoy an evening with ourselves and our friends. We try to have them as often as we can and I would say out of all the people we know, we’ve hosted the most.

Here’s the building blocks to an awesome night that you get to enjoy also. I’ve learnt over the years that I should be the one to get the most fun out of it. I shouldn’t feel over worked or stressed or too busy to eat properly or too scattered to sit and talk. Now days I put the effort in beforehand, set it up and my guests take over and I end up relaxing and enjoying my own home and others company while one or two of my guests feel ‘let loose’ and they take over. Perfect!

1 – What do you want to eat? It’s about your favourite foods or what you feel like eating or cooking not how to impress anyone. If you want to try something new – do it. If you know you won’t have time to prepare then organise a clever pot luck – without the ‘luck’. Most people want to bring stuff – say yes and tell them what to bring. It’s a dinner party not a restaurant review.

The Fabric Queen - by Ali Davies, Pacifica place mat in orange

2 – Spend the day setting up your dining area before you hit the kitchen. To me that’s the fun part but I’ve learnt the hard way that its best to do it before you start cooking. Not after. If you leave it to after you’ve done prep in the kitchen you will never have time to do it properly. What I do is I set the table first and clear the decks so that while I’m preparing the food, I can look over at the table and be inspired and feel happy, it just looks so darn good. I enjoy the cooking so much better if I’m not rushing to have time to set the table.

The Fabric Queen by Ali davies - kowhai lace table setting


3 – The Table – Vitally important. It sets the tone of the evening (or day). This is where you engage the senses and bring them all together. Colour, texture, pattern, mood. Choose your table cloth. Heavy linen, hemp or the best quality cotton is preferable. Light, flimsy fabrics will slide all over the table. Table cloths are better at dinner parties because they alter the acoustics in the room. They quieten loud sharp noises. Plates clattering, glasses being put down and the noise of cutlery. Also, if your guests become rowdy the fabric will absorb some of the sound. Only use white if you are able to soften the lighting. Choose a colour that enhances a mood you are trying to create. It might represent the season, event or just be your favourite colour of the moment. Pattern can be fun also. I find using pattern is less formal than plain table cloths, the pattern tends to put people at ease. So if you have some guests that don’t know each other – use pattern.

If you don’t want to use a table cloth, then table runners going across the table rather than down the middle will create a nice effect also as seen in the image below. If you only have a plain table cloth, then use a colourful runner down the middle.

The Fabric Queen by Ali Davies - pohutukawa dusk table runners


4 – Candles and flowers.

Have some for lighting and some for scent. Not too strong, you could burn the scented one before dinner – turn it off during dinner and on again after dinner. Some scents are not right for eating with. Flowers are great in the room but don't put them on the table while you're eating. They can be distracting.

Ali Davies candle


5 – Invest in some great dinner ware.

This doesn’t mean spend heaps on fancy stuff. You can get great serving dishes etc from your local thrift store. Having an interesting collection of plates, platters, candle holders and bowls will give you fun options to compliment your hard work in the kitchen. Glasses are good to have a selection of also.

6 – Music

Sort your play list out beforehand. Don’t just opt for back ground music, put some surprises in there. Give yourself at least 3 hours’ worth so you don’t have to think about it again. Play it for yourself before people arrive. I usually have a private party by myself before people arrive – after all, I’m gonna have the most fun!

7 – Clear an area for dirty dishes and forget about it. People don’t mind dishes. Just create a space for them to be stacked. Don’t start washing dishes while the conversation has just really begun – unless you want people to leave early….

8 – Be comfortable! Wear comfortable clothes that make you feel great!

Stephen Tanis

(Stephen Tanis)

Leave a comment

Left Continue shopping
Your Order

You have no items in your cart