The first time I gave any thought to entertaining was during my teen years.  My best friend (BFF Sharon) and I were talking to Ann (BFF’s oldest sister) about a dinner party Ann and her then husband had recently given.  I totally envisioned a sophisticated event that undoubtedly included laughter, sips of something alcoholic and a casual but wonderful meal.

The Party, with Peter Sellers [if you’ve never seen this ’60’s movie you should, its hilarious]

My romantic impressions of entertaining were reinforced by my step-brother’s wife, Joyce.  Joyce was the closest thing to a “blue blood” (whatever that is) I’d ever met and she shared with this awkward teen (moi) all of her knowledge and etiquette on the topic.  I was fully launched and determined to “entertain” on a regular basis once I had a place of my own and certainly once I was married.

The Age of Innocence showed dining and table setting at it’s most elaborate!


I’m happy to say that while I’ve continued to entertain throughout the early years of independent living and continually since I’ve been married, I don’t make too big a deal of it.  I do enjoy setting the table and maybe even trying a new recipe or two on my guests, overall I keep it simple and only use my grandma’s china (seen HERE) on occasion.

Photo by Aimee Herring

Southern Accents


I recently used Ikea lanterns on a table for a spring dinner                                                                       The simple setting Gwyneth Paltrow used here is without place mats; the runner is lovely.


The fun part for me in the whole entertaining scenario is probably setting the table.  So I thought I’d pass along some tips and inspiration (via pictures) for setting the table when you have invited guests.

Table via Southern Accents

Above the plates are two different patterns.  I love mixing and matching my table accoutrements and think it makes the setting more interesting and fun.

1.     Once you have a date for the party, plan which dishes, flatware and stemware you will use.  If you’re like me, you’ll use the same stemware for each event, but I’ll add colored glasses that coordinate with some of my dishes.

Using colored stemware can add a wonderful reinforcement of the color scheme and simple glasses can be very inexpensive.  I’ve seen some great glasses at stores like Pier I and Cost Plus World Market.  Notice the little clay pot on the table, even though the picture doesn’t allow you to see it, it’s one more interesting addition along with the flowers at the center of the table.

2.     Think about a theme you might want to use, like a collection of figurines or architectural ornaments.  I’m happy to report that tablescapes have come a long way from the conventional vase of flowers plopped in the middle of the table!  Feel free to use fresh flowers but don’t be afraid to buy flowers from the nursery that can go into the ground or planter after the dinner party.  My friend Carla has mastered this technique for re-purposing nursery plants/flowers.  In addition, don’t feel you always have to use blooming  flowers of any kind;  greens, fruit and vegetables can create an unexpected riot of color.  I’ve seen asparagus lined up and tied with rough twine around a straight sided container with maiden hair fern used inside the container…your imagination is your guide.

The table above doesn’t use flowers, but notice the leaves inside the glass containers that house the candles.  I love the throws on the chairs as an addition in case anyone feels a chill from the outdoor air.  I remember seeing a table setting in Veranda created by Carolyn Roehm where she had draped a wool throw over the back of each chair on the outdoor deck of her Aspen home…the throws matched and it looked wonderful.

Notice  (on this table by Slim Paley) there are clusters of fresh grapes used in addition to the flowers and candles.

I like the use of the footed cake stand on this table and the height that it gives the flower arrangement.  The jelly jars are doing double duty as votive candle holders and vases, hanging them from a tree over your table is inspired.

Vignette Design sets some of the prettiest tables I’ve ever seen, visit her HERE for ideas and inspiration.


3.     Determine if you’ll use a table cloth, place mats, chargers or any combination of the aforementioned.  There have been some amazing “placemats” that are doing double-duty as kitchen towels after the event.  I’ve also seen quilts and throws used to great effect.  There are no taboos on what you use only that you enjoy the vignette you’re creating.

Image via Veranda, Toby West

4.     Another area of creativity can be the napkin rings.  We’ve all seen ribbon, raffia and twine used but to that you can add sprigs of rosemary, ivy or small flowers such as pansies or a recent blog site feature of a grape leaf with a wine cork tied to it via twine, which held the napkin (it was very clever use of something you might throw away –wine cork).

Image via Velvet & Linen during a visit to Belgium

I love the weathered plank as a runner on this table.  The simplicity of the white dishes and the juxtaposition of the silver holding the flowers and the weathered plank and a wonderful blend of elegance and basics!


Southern Accents

5.     Finally, after everything is set and before your guests arrive, sit down at the table to make sure nothing obstructs your view across the table.  Happy entertaining!

I would love to hear how you like to set the table when you have dinner guests.  Have you tried any new ideas you’d be willing to share?