This week we’re talking about table setting ideas for your next dinner party, and I’m happy to welcome Nicole Cline of Seasonly Creations, who has a GREAT eye for table-scaping and planning crazy-gorgeous dinner parties. She’s got a great list of 15 ways to take your entertaining to the next level, and I’m excited to share her expertise with you ninjas!
Hey there! Nicole Cline here. If you struggle to get creative with your dinner party table setting ideas, this post was written with you in mind. We’ll explore 15 Stress-Free Ways to Level Up Your Next Dinner Party so you can relax and impress your friends with your hostess skills.
But before we dive in I want you to consider the following:
I realize that in this context, defining your goal can sound silly and kinda weird. But I challenge you to think about this idea. Why are you having a dinner party? Is is to get your girlfriends together for a night of fun? Perhaps it’s to get more acquainted with your friends’ significant others. Or it could be a casual catch up dinner. Regardless, think about what you need to do to achieve that goal. For example, if your goal is to get strangers to know one another better, find a mechanism to make sure these folks actually talk to people they don’t know. You can think of your dinner party goal this way: By the end of the evening, what do you want to have happened?
When debating table setting ideas, ask yourself: Is this a fancy-shmansy deal? Then you might opt for white as a focus color. Is your party meant to be fun and casual? Then try out some bright and bold colors (more on colors later). Whatever the case, think about how you want your guests to feel.
As you read through this post, think about those two items :)
So what are some ways we can take your dinner party to the next level (minus the stress)?
1. Choose three colors max and stick with them.
When it comes to tableware, linens, decorations, and props that will bring your table setting ideas to life, try to stick to a color “theme.” I’m using the word “theme” here loosely because I don’t want you thinking that you MUST have a special theme. We just want to make sure there’s a consistent color palette so your party doesn’t seem all over the place. And this may feel like you’re limiting yourself but in reality, it’ll help you focus on how you want to pull off your party “look.”
2. Have a music plan for your dinner party.
No one likes awkward silences. Make sure you have music playing from the moment guests arrive to when they set out for the night. The music should be loud enough for your guests to hear and soft enough so that people don’t feel the need to talk over it. You can simply pick a station on Spotify or Pandora, or create your own playlist.
3. Lose harsh lighting elements.
You do not want to remind people of being back in the office, so try dimming the lights and using candles to create a more welcoming atmosphere at your dinner party. Do this in all of the rooms your guests may find themselves in, not just where dinner is being served.
4. Choose a simple centerpiece.
Don’t overthink this. A simple vase with flowers is perfectly fine. I’ve even seen the pros use toothbrush holders with flowers for their centerpieces! A basket or bowl of fruit is another simple option. If you really want to get fancy, try a floating candle in a wine glass.
Tip: Need some inspiration? Try searching Pinterest for terms like “dinner party centerpieces” and see what else is out there.
5. Send actual invitations.
Invitations speak volumes about your event. A formal snail mail invitation says “this is special to me and I hope you’ll come.” An email invite could indicate that the dinner party is important enough where you’ll send something out, but not super formal. And a phone call or text tells your guests that this will be more laid back and on the casual side. Taking this one step of actually sending out an invitation is an inexpensive way of letting your guests politely know that this is of significance to you and they can’t bail on you last minute.
6. Create a beverage area.
Create a makeshift bar out of a kitchen cart or place a tablecloth on a card table and set up beverages there. This makes it easy for guests to figure out where they should go first and keeps them out of your way in case you’re busy when the first few people arrive. People tend to congregate where the “action” is happening, so consider placing appetizers nearby.
7. Have cold appetizers ready to go.
Opting for cold appetizers (made ahead of time) instead of hot ones will make your life much easier. You already have dinner to worry about, so just grab your pre-made apps and set them out (by the beverages) as guests begin to arrive.
8. Personalize your dinner party.
You can really take your dinner party to the next level by adding a personalized element into the mix. You could achieve this in a number of ways, including having name cards, using menu cards or providing a written out recipe of the main course.
10. Have a “no phone” rule.
There’s nothing worse than being at a dinner party with people staring down at their smart phones, avoiding conversation. Consider telling your guests ahead of time that you’re “challenging” everyone to not take out their phones (unless there’s an emergency of course!).
11. Keep pets away.
You can really decrease your stress levels and create a better dinner experience for everyone simply by keeping pets in another room or area while your guests are around. This ensures your pets will stay out of your way and won’t make your guests uncomfortable.
12. Have a dessert table.
If you have the space, set up a dessert table in another room or area. It’ll be one less thing for you to worry about after dinner is served.
13. Take photos.
Dig out the camera and snap some shots during your dinner party. Capture some great moments and share them with your guests via email or on a private website. They will love it and remember your party forever :)
14. Consider a small gift.
Sending your guests off with something adds a nice touch. It can be something small like a recipe card, a dessert box to even an invitation to your next dinner party!
15. Give yourself enough time.
The one mistake I still make is underestimating how much time I think a task will take (say that three times fast!). Make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to make your dinner party happen and prep as much as you can ahead of time.
16. Stick with what you know.
I’m all about trying new things, especially in the food arena. But your dinner party is NOT the day to try new things. Do not stress yourself out by trying new decorations or recipes the day of. Instead, test your recipes ahead of time and consider doing a mini “rehearsal” for yourself before dinner party day is here.
Follow these tips and and you’ll be well on your way to planning a stress-free dinner party.
Question: What has been your biggest dinner party hurdle? Do you have any table setting ideas you don’t know how to bring to life? Let me know in the comments and maybe I can help ya out!
P.S.- Wanna impress your friends with your food skills on Instagram? Click here to download my FREE e-book: “10 Ways to Instantly Improve Your iPhone Food Photography!”
About the Author: Nicole Cline is the food blogger, recipe developer and obsessive baker behind Seasonly Creations, a sweet and savory baking blog featuring practical recipes with how-to (iPhone!) food photos. Her first career was in the culinary field, where she worked in a number of professional kitchens ranging from popular local diners, to high-volume production kitchens, to fine-dining establishments. Now Nicole enjoys sharing recipes with step-by-step photos on her baking blog. In between playing with cookie dough and obsessing over iPhone food photography, she likes running, kickboxing and spending time with Louie and Ben, her two cats.
Photo credit: Nicole Cline
This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.