We all love the idea of hosting friends and family for lavish dinner parties – but how often do we actually do it? It can feel too difficult, and quickly spiral into becoming a stressful affair that you don’t get to enjoy because you’re stuck in the kitchen cooking.
Rhys Duggan, national visual merchandise manager for Pottery Barn, shares his tips on creating a dinner party that’s as memorable for guests as it is for you the host (for all the right reasons!). “I think there are four key elements to any good dinner party – nail these and you’re on your way to having a great time, and so will your guests!’
Guests – this can make or break a good party. First decide how many guests you can have; then find a good connection between them – maybe they have a similar interest, maybe they like art, or maybe they’ve been to the same holiday destination. This can mean they’ve all got something in common to chat about – and will instantly mean there’s a relaxed feeling at your soiree. Plus – my top tip – if any guests arrive early, set them to work. Ask them to finish setting the table, toss the salad, or pop the first bottle of bubbly – that diffuses any nerves and creates a collaborative feel amongst your party of friends.
Food – this is a big one, and one that requires lots of thought. Try and choose a menu that means you’re not slaving away in the kitchen while everyone’s relaxing around the table, that you can pre-prepare and then plate up. Share plates are also great running down the centre of a table – because it creates a communal feeling and conversation will flow! And make sure you consider your guests eating requirements – nothing worse than a vegetarian turning up to a menu centred around meat!
Music – we all know how music sets the tone; choose a playlist that evokes the theme you’re aiming for – but that won’t impede lively conversation. Or even better – before your dinner party, invite guests to share their favourite song – so they’re part of the playlist too.
The setting – this is the fun part! Pick a theme and stick to it – this plays a big role in creating a dinner party to remember. I love theming my parties heavily – adding drama, and making the table the centre piece – the stage of the dinner party. It makes guests feel really special too.
“So to get to my favourite part – the setting. Think big and cater to your audience.
“Hens party, baby shower, birthday or even a ladies lunch – the setting below is going to get your guests talking. We started off with a white linen tablecloth – and found this great wrapping paper to use as a unique runner! That’s when the fun starts with layering and adding in elements to amp up the luxe factor.
“Well it looks luxe – but it’s actually quite simple, some ribbon to group the cutlery – tying back to the pink in the runner, gold flatware – elevates the table settings, some faux botanicals – which guests can take home as a keepsake after your party, and candles. Plus your menu can riff off your setting too – generous glasses of rose and meringues sprinkled with pistachios and rose petals – you’ll have your friends talking for weeks!”
“Next up, dramatic impact is key here – but the setting itself is actually very simple and perfect for a quick Friday dinner with friends. I am a big fan of moody table linen – and I always think a tablecloth creates the illusion of formality and acts as the perfect base, while the striped napkins add a more casual element.
“We’ve chosen some foliage and flowers to run down the centre of the table to contrast with the inky blue, and the use of lemons as place card holders, bringing everyday objects to the table, keeps the feeling relaxed and is a quirky twist.”
“Finally, thinking of gathering the family for a Sunday roast? You can’t beat going classic – white, blue and taupe, perfect! Fresh white table linen – and for a modern take – run a roll of brown paper down the middle and add some succulents to the setting.
“I love bundling up the cutlery with a little ribbon as a simple feature to each setting. Candles always elevate a setting – and create a sense of ambience, plus they add height to a tablescape.”
Love what you see? All products pictured are available at Pottery Barn.
Styling by Briar Stanley and photography by Jacqui Turk.