*Disclaimer: When we originally commissioned this piece, citywide regulations were loosening. Due to the current rise in Covid-19 cases and the continued encouraged lockdown, we recommend that you stick to small outdoor gatherings or festive meals for roommates until the situation is safer.
Hosting, entertainment, FUN: all words that have been buried deep, deep down beneath the long, dreary, quarantine-ridden winter. Finally — praise dios! — restrictions are lifting, and socialization is back on the table. I have already indulged in some sidewalk wining and dining, however I am equally excited to start hosting and attending (small) social gatherings en casa. I love, love, love hosting. Whether it’s a birthday brunch or a just-because Wednesday night dinner, I always put the effort in to make it extra special by having a festive tablescape.
Below I’ll take you through the basics of table setting, plus some extra creative tips and tricks that will excite and impress your guests for your future gathering.
Building the table of your social-gathering dreams…
It is not a MUST to have a tablecloth, however- I find adding that first layer of color and texture really elevates the look of your table. You can also get creative here, patterned sheets or funky fabrics that you may have.
2. Placemats and/or Chargers
Build more texture and dimension on the table here. Also, placemats/chargers give the plates a home, so the plate is not floating on the table alone.
Depending on the vibe of your gathering, you could go eclectic by mixing and match your bowls, plates, and glassware. You could go monochrome with shades of all one color, or you could stay neutral with standard white dishes and clear drink ware. Remember to keep it neutral and consistent- whatever you feel! Once you have the tableware down, your table should already be filling in nicely.
Bringing nature onto the table is a must for me! Flowers add such a vibrancy and freshness. Greenery is great for scattering around the table, filling space and adding additional texture. (PS- branches are free!) You can create one giant flower arrangement, make several smaller arrangements – or both! It’s a great idea to play with heights- using various sized vases to draw the eye high and low. You can even get creative with your vases; I have hollowed out pumpkins and filled them with flowers, for example. I also love to add a flower or some greenery on top of each plate.
Arrange addition elements such as fruits (lemons, mandarins), candles (tea, votive, taper), artifacts (small sculptures, statues), anything that fits the vibe! Books are another great addition- which you can add based on theme or color. If you’re having Mexican food, for example, you could stack books about Mexican art, or even Mexican cookbooks. Removing the sleeve of a book often reveals a beautiful color, so choose books with nice colors that match your table. Stacking them near the middle gives height, and you can place candles or flowers on top as well.
Beyond the Basics
1. A Theme!
Everyone loves a theme. Want to host a happy hour? Why not make it a 20’s theme? You can focus your table on golds and blacks, serve old fashioned finger foods, a specialty cocktail (perhaps a French 75?), and so on. Theme ideas are endless- but a few others are Around The World (picking any country- like Italy, and basing the food and décor around Italy), White Party (you guessed it- everything WHITE!), Spring Harvest (lots of flowers here!). Of course you can ask you guests to dress accordingly.
2. Your Menu
Menu planning is an entirely different book, so I won’t get too into details or actual food suggestions. My advice is not to bite off more than you can chew. Setting up a lavish table setting plus cooking every bit of the meal may be a lot to juggle. However, if you are organized + enjoy cooking, shine, baby, shine! If not, absolutely no shame in ordering from a local place, whom you know will appreciate your business! I will say it is nice to have some nuts, olives, grapes, or other quick bites ready when guests arrive. *A nice touch is to print out menus or hand write menus.
3. Boards/Small plates/Small bowls
Whatever it is that you have on the menu for the evening (whether you cook or order in), arrange it beautifully on wooden boards, and different plates and bowls. It creates amazing visual interest and a WOW factor when you see the food presented in various vessels.
4. Creative Locations
You don’t have to dine in your typical dining area. Do you have a terrace, a patio? Or even just moving your table into a different room can create a completely new, exciting and fresh experience. I also love creating a dining spectacular on the floor! Layering rugs/blankets/pillows, and arranging everything on the ground the same way you would a table…it is very casual- but magical.
5. Drink Station
Create another small table for drinks. It’s great to use a tablecloth, or add a few flowers to enhance the station. Nicely display your drink selection by making sure bottles are neat and organized, labels facing towards the front, perhaps present juices in nicer pitchers versus plastic cartons, etc. It’s nice to have lemons, limes, and oranges cut up and places in small bowls. These small details make a big difference.
Setting a mood with music is equally as important as the food and décor. Think of the vibe you’re going for during this gathering. If you did go with a theme, like Italy, you could play Italian music. Spotify really is your best friend for this…allowing you to curate pretty much anything you can think of. Want Soft Italian Jazz? Italian R&B? Italian House Music? The latest of Argentine releases each month? You’ll find it.
So, who’s with me?
It’s time for the re-birth of FUN, with an extra flair of style while we’re at it. I hope this advice results in the most spectacular and safe gathering you could’ve ever imagined.