What makes a great party? According to my husband: good food, good people, good drinks, and good music. And he’s right—these are the absolute essentials, whether it’s a superfab fete or a budget birthday party. But, I do believe that the devil is in the details when it comes to entertaining. I definitely appreciate stylish flatware and a printed menu, just as much as the basics.
In the Entertaining in Style chapter of my new book, Everyday Chic, I give you a peek into the 5 special gatherings we’ve hosted over the past few years in our home. Today, on the blog, I’ll be sharing one of my favorite events to host: an intimate dinner with friends. Feel free to use my ideas and inspiration for your own. Or mix and match.
THEME: I often base themes around the season, a special reason for the dinner (such as a congrats on a friend’s promotion or pregnancy), or a type of cuisine (Tex Mex, Pan Pacific, Italian with a twist).
Last year, we had girlfriends over for a fall “harvest holiday” dinner with Simone LeBlanc and C Magazine. Before dinner, Simone set up a chic wrapping table where we learned to make custom wreaths and decorate gift boxes in her oh-so-chic way.
GUEST LIST: Ten to twelve people tops. And I try to pull from a diversity of my friends. A dinner party is a great time to introduce new friends to older friends since the more intimate environment makes it comfortable and easier to introduce new people.
INVITATIONS: A simple email usually does the trick. If you want to go more formal, for a holiday or other celebrations, then an elegant digital invite will do.
STYLING: The dinner table is the focus. Always a tablescape and a printed menu. We also have lanterns lit and scattered in the front garden and in the backyard seating area for romance and ambience. Live arrangements of flowers or greens in the intimate gathering spots of the house can be simple and straight from the garden or yard or something more elaborate.
MUSIC A mix of classics like the Great American Songbook, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra, and modern masters like Ray LaMontagne, John Legend, and Adele. The key is to keep it as background, not blasting.
PLATTER IT UP:
Building the perfect charcuterie platter is a no-brainer for fuss-free entertaining. These work for any kind of dinner party, big or small, fancy or casual. I always have one prepared when guests arrive. Guests love to nibble and nosh while drinking wine, in anticipation of the delicious meal to follow. I love creating beautifully balanced and presented platters. Follow this formula and you will be making party platters in your sleep:
The Perfect Platter:
- Satisfy all senses by including something salty, something sweet, something bitter, and something savory.
- Include a range of meats—at least one that is so and mild, like prosciutto, and one that is firm and stronger flavored, like salami
- Include a range of cheeses—at least one that is so and mild, like brie, and a stronger choice, like Gouda
- Have a bit of soft bread and something crunchier, like crostini or crackers to complement the different textured meats and cheeses
- For something sweet, include grapes, fresh or dried berries, and a dollop of local honey, which goes beautifully which certain cheeses, like goat
- For something acidic, include dill pickles or cornichons—or even pickled jalapeños
- For something nutty, include salted, toasted, or raw almonds, cashews and pistachios
- Serve on a large wooden breadboard and garnish with fresh herbs or flower petals
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What party plans do you have this season? I'd love to hear about your themes and ideas in the comments below!
Actress, model, active humanitarian, & Mom! Author of 'Everyday Chic'.