Beauty may be skin deep but first impressions do matter and that is why as well as fretting about food preparations for a dinner party we also get into a flap over “the state of the place.”
After dragging the hoover around and working up a scrubber’s sweat in rubber gloves attention turns to the finishing touches.
1) Candles. First and foremost for me there have to be candles. Not only do they create an atmosphere and flatter skin tone but they also disguise grubby paintwork and splatters.
2) Flowers. Fresh flowers are an instant brightener so pick a colour theme based around your table setting and get some flowers that tone in with that. Ideal places to plant your vases are on the dining table, in the hallway, the loo and the kitchen window.
3) Table & Chairs. You will probably want to protect your dining table to some degree from red wine stains and candle wax so some sort of table covering is required. No matter how much stain devil or bleach I use I never have success in lifting stains so generally steer clear of white.
For my last get together I used a silver roll of wrapping paper cellotaped under each end of the table. It didn’t matter that by the end of the night it was covered in candle wax and ripped because it looked great. I’ve bought hand-beaded velvet table runners in the past for Christmas and while beautiful to look at even the dry-cleaners couldn’t lift the candle grease stains out. This year I think I’ll try wrapping up my table in Christmas wrapping paper and a big bow.
(The disadvatage here is that it’s more of a fire-hazard than a cloth so keep an eye on the candles)
Chairs can be freshened up with colourful seat pads or chair covers.
4) Table Mats & Napkins. It’s the little things that make a difference and using napkins make it a bit more special than everyday dining . Colour co-ordinate with your theme and be innovative when it comes to napkin rings – a piece of wrapping string or ribbon looks quaint and a packet of hair bobbles can also work well.
5) Place Cards. If you are entertaining at home I think they are over the top and best left for weddings etc however the kids make them for Christmas Dinner here and generally set fire to them. (I wish I was joking!)
6) Cutlery & Glasses. Set the table as in a restaurant and give everybody 2 wine glasses (1 for water)
7) Plates & Serving Bowls. I may be the only one with chipped plates and bowls that I don’t yet consider dangerous enough to throw away but I don’t use them when entertaining. It saves a lot of hassle to have rooted out a stack of them before your guests arrive. Some people can pull off eclectic mis-matched plates effectively and this can look great. Plain white is probably the easiest as it won’t date and it easy to replace.
8. Salt & Pepper cellars, butter dish, sugar and mik jug. Rounding these up and filling them is an easy job to delegate as you won’t want to ruin your lovely dining table by lobbing a big container of Saxa or Lo-salt on the table (yes I am ashamed to say that I have done this)
9) Coffee & Tea cups, pots etc. Again having these ready to go perhaps stacked on a tray will save you hassle.
10) Music, Matches & Bottle Opener. Not much needs to be said on these essentials except that perhaps they should have been number 1 on the list!!
Most of the above can be sorted the evening before and will make a huge difference to the atmosphere of your dinner party. (If I ever manage to do any of this myself the night before I’ll let you know… )
Til next time, Sheila
(Note: any prices displayed were valid on 15th July 2010. Shops visited were Penneys & Homefront at Wilton S.C. and Dunnes Stores at Bishopstown Court)