Thinking back on the days as a child playing on the playground during recess. I remember looking forward to that bell ringing and those doors opening so I could go out and hang out with my buddies. I am quite sure most of my classmates thought the same, although they were looking forward to hanging out with their own group of friends. More often than not, the idea of playing a game of kickball would come up. Through the process of selection not always were my buddies and I on the same team. The more interesting part to all of this is when I look back on these times, what I remember most about recess is playing kickball in comparison to the time spent just hanging with my buddies . I think that by participating in a greater group activity, I was getting out of my comfort zone, interacting with new people, and focusing on something that was for the greater good. This same principle applies when entertaining. Whenever I’m setting the table for a dinner party that I’m hosting, I always try to add some familiarity, and introduce some new dimension. This is done by the assortment of people invited, and where they sit at the table. Whether you are doing this for a table of eight ,or a room filled with 200, the principles are the same. Combining and mixing up your guests will offer that comfortable element while introducing new potential relationships, this dynamic helps to build the reception’s energy to make your happening memorable!
So now, with our cast of characters in their proper place, let’s work on setting the stage. When designing a table, I like to think about it like a campfire. At a campfire, we have a fire in the middle that dazzles by ,catching the warming energy. We gather ourselves around it, and it becomes the focal point for people to come together and begin to socialize.
I like to start with the center of the table and work my way out. I begin with either flowers or fruit or natural objects placed at the center of the table. There is something special about flowers. In a dining experience flowers are solely for our appreciation, and in that moment when they are at their peak beauty , I believe we are subconsciously able to appreciate the moment, and experience life’s gift in the present. When arranging flowers, I like to start in the center with a grand statement and then work my way out to the place setting with something more intimate, that each guest can connect with. When working on a large scale, I try to create some variation among the arrangements, and sometimes as well the containers. This adds depth and dimension and makes it feel more personal and less produced.
Somewhere along the way, somebody told me for every candle that you light, it brings a kindred spirit from your past. I have always been a fan of candlelight, and when I heard this it made sense that each candle has a life of its own.Similar to that campfire, they can bring an energy to a table setting, as well as providing a warm and engaging glow to all the guest’s faces. I personally like to play with scale and range with candles similar to flowers. The center piece something more of a statement and as we go to the place setting’s something more intimate. I often place one candle in front of each place setting. Please remember, it is important when designing your centerpiece to make sure that it does not obstruct eye contact. A narrow column or taper in the site line is not a problem, but anything that would fully obstruct a guest’s face when looking across the table would defeat the whole purpose. With the flowers and candles in place, when you stand up and walk around the room, you will notice that each one of the tables is omitting it’s own magical energy. Unique onto it’s own just as much has each guest that surrounds it.
With the centerpiece in place, now let’s consider the place setting. Whether your design is modern or traditional is totally up to you, however the arrangement of the place setting will remain consistent. I like to start off with a charger plate and typically use one that is silver or gold. With the silverware or flatware typically the place settings are set in conjunction with the number of courses. Therefore it is common to have two to three utensils on either side, and one to two utensils at the top. All of this builds to the significance and importance of each guest, additionally the metal surfaces reflect light and will catch the flicker of the candlelight. This effect will provide hundreds of points of light to the table. For the stemware, I suggest putting out as many glass types as offerings, the more glasses on the table will add a fullness and nice progression. On top of the charger plate I like to place either a white or an ecru cotton or linen napkin, one of my favorite is the hemstitched. I am not a fan of the colored napkins especially in a larger dinner reception, because I feel that this item will make contact with my guests mouth. Therefore if being extremely clean is imperative, that can only truly be easily judged on a white or ecru napkin. With china, think about mixing some styles and sizes, this will complement the evolution of the evening.
I like to use table linens on all of my larger happenings; they present an opportunity to introduce color and texture on a large scale to set the tone for the room. I strongly suggest being courageous with your color, especially in nighttime settings as bright colors tend to tone down significantly at night. When trying to build a memory making an impact with color can really go along way. On a personal level, the table linens also makes contact with the guests, therefore it’s feel should be appealing.
Last but not least is the chair. When selecting your chair type you want to be considerate of the agenda. If for instance you are having a dining and dancing party, with dancing taking place between courses,you want to make sure chairs are light and easy to get in and out of. The Ballroom or Chiavari chair has become a very popular chair to use for this type of evening. It’s up right back actually was designed to engage people and not to be too comfortable so that the idea of getting up and dancing was rather inviting. In contrast if your dinner is for a long meal with dancing to follow after completion, you would want to consider a chair that is comfortable to sit in for a longer period of time. This is where a chair like the Louis chair ,it has more cushion on both the back and the seat.
Now with the table set the last key ingredient is for the host,to make contact with each and every guest, Going around table to table, so that every guest feels you have acknowledged them while dining. This, albeit brief interlude, will add a personal touch to every table environment. Giving every guest your heartfelt connection and recognition for their attendance at your special occasion.
Connect Together and Celebrate Life!