As the days grow shorter and the weather turns colder, my thoughts turn to the fun and festivities of the fall and winter season. I long for the days when frequent and formal entertaining was a thing. Throwing proper, memorable dinner parties has become a thing of the past and I for one would like to see this lost art resurrected. And I never understood the concept of using the dining room and the good china for special occasions only. In the words of the eminently quotable, largely self-invented and always fascinating Mrs. Diana Vreeland “There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.” In anticipation of the upcoming holidays, I decided to collect dinner party tips from the best and brightest in the field, accompanied by images of some of my most favorite formal entertaining spaces. Here we go:
“Let the colors of the season take center stage. Dress place settings with autumnal hues: orange or yellow napkins, flame-red place cards, earth-toned candles. For a harvest-themed centerpiece, fill a few glass bowls, vases, or hurricane lanterns with seasonal apples and pears in several varieties and shades, and set them down the length of the table. To make the dinner a bit more formal, add candlelight.”
“Only invite people you really like—otherwise there’s no point.” When the decorator Elsie de Wolfe asked her why her dining table only sat eight, Wharton replied, “Because there aren’t more than eight people in New York I care to dine with.” When Wharton's guests arrived, she liked to greet them with champagne. Turning off the lights and brightening the evenings with wax candles ensured her living room doesn’t “look like a railway-station, the dining-room like a restaurant,” as she wrote in The Decoration of Houses.
“Focus on a Feeling, not a Theme. Think of the experience you want guests to have, and what you'd like them to feel when they walk away from the evening.”
Giada De Laurentiis
“I don't believe that you have to have all the same glasses and plates. It's totally okay to mix and match.”
“I try to greet my friends with a drink in my hand, a warm smile on my face, and great music in the background, because that's what gets a dinner party off to a fun start.”
“People have been cooking and eating for thousands of years, so if you are the very first to have thought of adding fresh lime juice to scalloped potatoes try to understand that there must be a reason for this.” In other words, don't get too adventurous with your cooking the night of your big party.
W. Somerset Maugham
“At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.”
And last but not least, from the inimitable Oscar Wilde
"After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives." No pressure...