Since I only post weekly, I decided I should start giving some good tips on the holidays and especially the holiday parties! With over 30 year of entertaining, you get a few tricks up your sleeve and once it "wows" you tend to stick with it. Just remember to mix it up each year as you never want your guests to think..."oh, i see how she/he did that...he/she just did the same thing!"
I'm going to start with traditions as I often do. My Mom had two black wrought iron candle hurricanes on the dinner table when we grew up. They were modest and utilitarian. I'm not exactly what age it started, but whenever we had a family dinner she lit the candles. Now we also had the dining room lights on a dimmer switch thanks to Dad. So Mom would light the candles and slightly darken the room, which made the announcement we are ready to eat. With seven kids dinner was whomever could come. Everyone tried to make it, even on just a school night. Our dinner conversations were lively and full of laughter. I don't remember what we chatted on about, but my memories bring back love and smiles. When I look back I think the mood Mom set was just a bit magical, a bit out of the ordinary with the subtle lighting and the candles lit. If you don't believe me, TRY IT! But you need the dimmer too...OR enough candle light to power the dinner. You will see that it makes it "not ordinary." I think we have lost this part of the family day. A time where we feel special, loved and cared for. OK, that's for another time!
Ok now let's fast forward. I always have two candles on my table and I light them and dim the lights if anyone is coming for dinner. I'm just trained this way and I love to have a special meal around the candlelight. For parties over the years I always tried to do different things a a centerpiece to make the dinner or celebration even more special. I love to create a wow factor and the centerpiece is the perfect place to do it as everyone is sitting around it... looking at it! So this is my go to centerpiece. You will find that I am very economical and I try to make things I already have in the house look phenomenal.
First trick is grab a tray. Something you have sitting around the house thats pretty. The base doesn't have to look pretty because it is going to be covered, but the edges need to be nice and coincide with what you planning to do with the table. I have several trays, pretty much all silver and different sizes and shapes. My go to is a beautiful round tray that has a waved edge of sorts that I got at Pottery Barn years ago. They usually have pretty amazing trays each year, so if you don't have one check them out.. The tray I like is unusual so I like to start with that. Next, get out your candlesticks or hurricanes. Either can work. Oddly enough I tend to go back to a very simple silver set that I have had for years. You need two matching in this case...lol. Then you set those in the middle of the tray angled. Now you bring in two vases. These should be the same. Usually I use the standard clear ones from the flower delivery service since I always have some of them laying around. If you don't have any vases, cheap glass vases can be found anywhere. Now I put the vases in next to the candlesticks in the middle of the tray. As you walk around the table is should go candle, vase, candle, vase. Look at the photo below. I used a set of vases that I had with a black and white motif.
Now I kinda gave away the whole thing with this picture but you are gonna get it anway! LOL So next, add your votives. As you can see above I am going with different votives sizes and shapes but all are some sort of silver. I place those around my tray somewhat strategically so they are not too close or two far apart. Here is another tip...if you look inside my votives I have a small glass votive that is filled with a candle. You can get these many places but I again like Pottery Barn as they have good ones that last a long time. This way, your nice votives don't get wax all over the bottom of them and you have to clean them at the end. This way you replace the old votive with a new glass votive. As long as the votive you are going to light is in SOMETHING inside the votive you are good to go. Just don't drop a votive inside and have it melt all over the bottom of your favorite glass votive. Get it? Ok good.
Next you are gonna fill the tray. Over the years I've done faux ice crystals, pinecones, berries, greens, it all works as long as it goes with your "look." For the above I chose to do silver and glass ornaments that at the time my old company was making for Walmart. They are beautiful ornaments and I still love them to this day. So scatter what you have around until you feel you have the look you want. So far we have used everything you probably have had in your house. So the only thing your going to need is flowers. Here is another tip...I often think florals can take over the table. Often they are not sized correctly for a dinner and you can't see over them or they are just too wide to be able to set anything on the table. I like to do family style and have people serve themselves if it is 10 or less. So I like lots of room on my table to bring out the food on serving trays with serving pieces. But I digress. Back to the flowers and this is my favorite tip. Instead of buying a big bouquet and spending lots of money on flowers, buy 2. Buy something awesome like Lilies or Hydrangea. This way you save money, and your focus remains on the centerpiece instead of all of the flowers. Now special note: Make sure your flowers are away from the candles flames. On this table you can see my pillar candles are just slightly taller than the flowers, which to me then was safe and I could nuzzle them together. You don't want your flowers catching on fire so make sure you plan that one out well. Hurricanes are another great way to go if you have leave that kind of go everywhere!
Now thats a "Wow" centerpiece and almost all of it comes from home. All you need to buy is 2 flowers! Or a small bouquet if they do not sell individual bouquets! Now light the candles and do a pre run. This is ALWAYS done the night before the party just to make sure how it looks in the daytime and how it looks at night. If your like me...your pre run through is done several days before the party. Because well I'm a bit of a "Martha" In your pre run look at the lighting in your room. How dim can the lights be before guests can't find their fork? Then have it slightly above that level to create an intimate atmosphere that says to your guests. "Welcome, I am glad you are here to share this meal with us, I hope this makes you feel special and appreciated!"