This is my first post on the topic of home entertaining (just one other thing I absolutely love doing), and as such, I’ll do my best to keep this post as interesting, exciting, and visually fascinating as I possibly can.
The Art Of Entertaining
Entertaining is an art because as with any other form of art, entertaining simply is self-expression. Throughout the process of planning, organization and execution, you’re giving your guests a glimpse of who you are, what you’re passionate about, what your taste is when it comes to your wine, your tableware, your centerpiece and even your mood music. Not to mention that a lot of heart goes into the preparation of the very meal that you will serve.
No matter what the occasion or purpose is, the bottom line of home entertaining is to have a great time with family and friends, and to make it an enjoyable and memorable experience for you and your guests. Careful planning, attention to detail, creativity and a great sense of style are all keys to successful entertaining.
So Why Entertain At Home?
Because of the growing crisis in global economy, the idea of throwing get-togethers in fancy restaurants or party venues is slowly becoming less appealing and more impractical to many these days. Especially if you’re not celebrating a milestone or any major occasion anyway, or you’re only talking about an impromptu dinner with a small group of friends or business associates.
I believe that if you have all the elements of stylish home entertaining at your disposal, you would also rather entertain friends at home, would you not? Think about it. You won’t have to rent a venue, the food will cost significantly cheaper, there will be no service charge, taxes, or tips to worry about, you dictate the starting and ending time for your party, you decorate your place however you want to, and need I even stress the benefits of privacy?
But many of us, moms especially, get intimidated by the thought of opening our homes to guests for a number of reasons — I’m not a good cook. I’m no Martha Stewart. I don’t have a very nice dining set. I’m no good when it comes to presentation. I hate cleaning up after a party. The list goes on.
Well, that is why I thought of starting a series of posts on “Home Entertaining” where I give you a basic list of things you need to have in order for you to be ready for home entertaining at any given moment — whether you have three weeks to prepare, three days or three hours. This first post will focus on the elements of stylish home entertaining.
Before I begin, allow me to reiterate and lead y’all to focus on the last word of the title (of this post): Style. Yes, stress on the word “style”, please. Not every Tom, Dick or Harry (or shall I say Mary, Jane and Susie?) can throw stylish parties. Sure, pretty much anyone can announce a get-together and send out lavish invitations to a battalion of pals but that alone does not guarantee a truly entertaining evening that will leave a lasting favorable impact on his guests. In this post, I’ll be giving you tips on stylish home entertaining — just the way a-ha, a-ha, we Goddesses like it! A-ha! A-ha!
And so we begin…
The Dinner Table
You don’t have to have a luxury dining set to impress your guests. When you’re home entertaining, any decent, clean dining table will work. Just remember to invite no more guests than the number of seating you can provide. Otherwise, think of a way to rent additional chairs. If you really are concerned about the unsightly stain or scratch on the surface of your table, before you think about immediately ditching your set in exchange for a new one, consider other less costly alternatives. For example, if you have one, don’t underestimate the value of your coffee table. For informal gatherings, you may set up or extend the party around the coffee table in the living room, especially if there isn’t enough seats at the dinner table.
Throw a clean, stain-and-wrinkle-free table cloth over your dinner table. If you would like to go for a classic, neutral look, I’d say choose a white or a black table cloth (it won’t hurt to keep one of each in your collection). If you think white is just too boring of a color, then, by all means, use a colored/printed/patterned cloth. It doesn’t even have to be made from an opulent fabric. If you want a more formal look, choose a length that goes all the way to the floor, making sure the legs of the table are completely hidden from your guest’s view.
If you don’t have a full cloth, or if you don’t want to completely cover up your table, there’s always the option of using a table runner. You may spread it across a bare table or over a full table cloth.
Another alternative is to invest in really pretty place mats. Place mats are very versatile being that it works well with or without a table cloth or a table runner to match. If your place mats did not come with a matching table runner but you intend to use it along with another table runner or cloth that you already have, make sure to use a set that goes well with the color or design of your runner/cloth to create a cohesive look.
Make sure your table napkins also match your table cloth, runner or place mats.
If table napkin folding is not your talent, invest in a set of gorgeous napkin rings for a more elegant presentation. Napkin rings are wonderful decorative accents so don’t be afraid to go unconventional with these babies.
The basics consist of a dinner plate, a salad plate and a soup bowl. I suggest you purchase a separate set of dessert plates, as well as cups and saucers for after-dinner coffee and tea. Later on, especially if you are likely to be throwing a more formal gathering in the near future, I suggest that you also add bread-and-butter plates to your collection. A bread-and-butter plate is smaller than a salad plate but only slightly bigger than a saucer, without the circular indentation in the center, and as the name obviously indicates, it’s a plate for serving your butter and dinner rolls.
Your collection should have the basics: a salad fork, a dinner fork and spoon, a dessert/tea spoon and a knife. Eventually, you should also add a dessert fork, a fish fork and knife, and a bread knife. Whether stainless or silver (uh…gold, you say? Well, there you go, Goddess!), it’s important to properly care for and store your flatware so you may be able to enjoy it a lot longer and won’t have to often replace it with a new set. Clean silver with a silver cloth and wash them separately from any other metal as this may cause a chemical reaction that causes discoloration. Polish away any stains on your flatware by using a reputable silver polish.
Your collection should include the basics — a water goblet, a highball or juice glass, a red wine glass and a white wine glass (trust me, they’re two different glasses). Mixing a tablespoon of vinegar with your rinsing water helps the water evaporate off the glass quickly and generally won’t leave streaks. Wipe dry or polish your glassware with a dry terry cloth to keep it squeaky clean and free of streaks.
The Buffet/Console Table
The buffet cabinet is not just for storing your dinnerware collection, nor is a console table found only in entryways and living rooms as a place for displaying your framed photos, lamps, flower vases and other decorative ornaments. They can also double as your actual buffet tables. Use your buffet to hold your chafing dishes and serving platters. Your console can hold extra plates, your flatware caddy or use it as a beverage bar.
Use serving bowls, trays and platters.
Use chafing dishes for a more elegant food presentation and to keep the food warm throughout the party.
Don’t forget your serving utensils so that guests won’t have to use their own spoons to dig into the food.
Serve your drinks using beverage servers such as pitchers, carafes, decanters or dispensers.
For Extra Elegance, Entirely Optional
For an added touch of elegance, you may also consider using charger plates to dress up your dinner table, an ice bucket with scoop that you can place right beside your beverage server, a napkin holder (if you’re opting to use paper napkins instead of cloth napkins, and a flatware caddy which would be a very beautiful way of organizing and displaying your flatware, if you’re not gonna put them on the table for your place settings. Also, to prevent food sauces from getting onto your buffet/console tops, use spoon rests as a place to lay your serving utensils.
The Dinner Place Setting
So there you go, friends. These are all the basic must-haves of entertaining with style. My advice is that you don’t wait until your next party to run to the mall to get some of these must-haves. As the budget permits, I suggest that you start shopping ASAP for whichever is your top-most priority among the elements I mentioned above, and then gradually build your collection. Soon, you’ll be ready to throw a fabulous party at your home any time. Remember though that it takes more than the aesthetics to set the tone for a stylish home entertaining. Don’t forget to set the mood with candles and soft music, and don’t neglect your appearance either. Just because you spent half the day prepping your place and setting the table and the buffet, and cooking the meal, doesn’t mean you should look and smell like you just did. Make sure to give yourself enough time to jump into the shower, dress up and put on your makeup before your party starts.
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