According to the messages the I receive regularly, many of you find the idea of throwing a dinner party rather daunting! And I don't blame you... I actually agree. The idea of styling a table AND having to prepare the perfect meal for a group of people is just too much! Plus you have to get yourself looking somewhat presentable, right? For me, all of those things are just never going to happen, simultaneously anyway!
So as promised, I'm going to share some tips with you, to help you throw a dinner party with the greatest of ease...
Firstly, for me, it's style the table OR cook the meal, not both. Case in point, this little family dinner party I had at my place the other night. I decorated the table, used my best plates and cutlery, and served up takeaway Thai! Yep. Why not? It's delicious. We all love it, and it takes the pressure off the host.
Here's the thing though... If you invite people over for dinner, and you chuck some takeaway containers on the table and tell your gets to have at it, it doesn't really make your guests feel welcome. It kind of feels like an afterthought. This is where some sneaky decor comes in! If your guests walk in and see the table set with care and intention, it really sets the mood, and creates an atmosphere. It makes people feel happy, and lets them know that you're excited to have them over.
Now I'm not saying you need to style the table to a tee. I'm a stylist, so I happen to have lots of props at my fingertips, but you can also create a welcoming, cozy space with a few candles and some flowers. Here's some tips:
* Don't have any vases? Save some old jars. Once the flowers are in them, nobody notices, and I think they're super cute anyway.
* Get some plain white pillar candles from the junk shop. They never get old. I'll never tire of seeing wax dripping down the side of a white pillar candle. Flowers and candles together are so simple, beautiful and timeless.
* The next time you receive flowers, dry them out. (See how in my FAQ's under my 'about me' tab)
I used dry flowers on this occasion, it saves you having to go out and buy flowers. So right there you've saved time and money. I also now grow some of my favourite flowers in my garden. I've become such a little gardener! I just love it. It's so handy having roses, pansies, violets, hydrangeas, bougainvillea, daisies and lavender at my fingertips whenever I need.
* If you'd like to use napkins, I love plain white muslin/cheesecloth roughly ripped into squares. Drape these under the plates for a beautifully rustic look.
* Collect mismatched cutlery from the op shop. I love this look, and it's great if you can't afford a fancy set.
* Try and keep the colours simple and not too busy.
* Set the table ahead of time to give yourself time to get yourself and the food organised.
* Start with something that speaks to you. For example, with this particular dinner, I started with a rustic white wash candle stick that I was feelin' and it went from there. Suddenly I wanted an earthy, muted setting with peach and lilac hues, accented with sea shells. I find that one thing always leads to another when styling, so instead of trying to think of the big picture and getting overwhelmed, just start with one piece that catches your eye and let it flow from there.
Now, if you take the other route and decide to cook, let the food be the centrepiece! Of course you can still scatter some beautiful little accents on the table, such as flowers, candles, etc. Here's some tips:
* Serve the food in beautiful servingware. This doesn't mean it has to be expensive. Some of my favourite serving plates/dishes are vintage, sourced from op shops.
* I often get asked where I get my servingware/plates from... So here's my faves: Pottery Barn, West Elm, Williams Sonoma and Wheel & Barrow.
* Again, keep the colours simple!
* If you have a wooden table, use mainly contrasting colours, such as white. If you have a white table, do the opposite and use mainly wooden/dark colours.
* Don't forget the drinks! Drink garnishes are a simple way to take things to the next level. Some mint/rosemary or some edible flowers can take a drink from drab, to fab!
Anyway, there you have it... My tips on putting together a dinner party. Be yourself, do what makes you feel comfortable and remember to collect things along the way. If you see a cute vase or candlestick, grab it and start a little collection! At first it might seem like you're getting nowhere, but before you know it, you'll have collected a few little treasures that can make all the difference when having guests over.
And the last thing I would like to say, which is WAY more important than the way anything looks, be present with your guests! I know it's sometimes hard for a host, but speaking from experience, I'd rather a host that falls behind with topping up drinks, because she's too busy having a laugh with friends/family... (And after a couple of drinks, who isn't helping themselves to more by now anyway?) It's much better than a frazzled host, buzzing around and missing all the fun!