How do you make a dinner party feel special? Truly special? It is a delicate balance. Bending too far toward the everyday may leave guests feeling like they’ve interrupted family dinner, yet an over-the-top or overly thematic gathering can feel stiff and contrived. Embracing your personal entertaining style is the key to lending an authentic atmosphere. Seeking inspiration from the guest of honor or the celebration’s purpose is next—it elevates the experience and allows guests to feel considered but not labored over. Entertaining at its best.
Is it an anniversary dinner? Plan a menu around their Italian honeymoon. Are you hosting a birthday lunch? The guest of honor’s favorite flower can serve as the jumping off point for your tablescape, informing not only the centerpiece but the color palette as well. Take it a step further and place miniature bouquets at each place setting —they perform double duty as table beautifiers and party favors, and guests will remember the experience for days to come.
A favorite dinner party that comes to mind was given for Wes Gordon, the Creative Director of Carolina Herrera. It was an intimate gathering at our home honoring Gordon’s inaugural collection for the storied fashion house. Herrera had retired after 30 years at the helm of her eponymous label, and Gordon was taking the reins.
I wanted the gathering, and most importantly the table, to highlight Gordon’s fresh, happy collection. After viewing the exuberantly colored pieces at neapolitan collection in Winnetka (neapolitan was an early and avid supporter of Gordon—long before he took over at Herrera) I chose flowers, linens, and china that reflected his new work. Guests did not need to know that I drove to four garden centers and Elawa Farm, gathering lily pad-leaved nasturtiums (the unique oranges and yellows in his collection were what struck me first) to give to the florist for arrangements!
Hand-painted floral stemware referenced the centerpieces— arranged in my collection of brass baskets — and Gordon’s love of florals. Luckily my favorite china pattern, Davenport’s Flying Pheasant, reflected many of the colors in his designs, and the first course of chilled corn and lobster soup deliciously and strategically worked its way into the palette. Finally, strawberry-rhubarb shortcake with a biscuit base—a nod to Gordon’s Georgia heritage—closed out the dinner with a sweet, colorful pop. A resort collection was translated through my personal entertaining lens into a dinner party setting, creating an atmosphere rather than a theme. Let your imagination run wild the next time you seek celebratory inspiration … nasturtiums optional!