Over the weekend, we finally threw a dinner party on our deck! We’ve been envisioning an al fresco dinner party there ever since we first hung the string lights, and were so excited to finally make it happen. We decided to keep the guest list adults-only, and as I started preparing, I realized how long it had been since I didn’t have to plan for kiddos at a party we were hosting. I was surprised how refreshing (and, dare I say, relaxing) it was to not have to worry about unpredictable little guests 🙂 As much as we love welcoming whole families to our home, this was a welcome change of pace, and something I want to keep in mind for the future when entertaining is starting to feel overwhelming.
Another thing that was different about this evening for me was that I didn’t plan out the decor ahead of time. Over the years, I’ve assembled some trusty supplies that I can pull together in a pinch, so that’s exactly what I ended up doing. The only things I bought new were two bunches of eucalyptus and one bouquet of orangey-gold mums from Trader Joe’s to arrange into a “garland” down the table. The whole thing came together in less than ten minutes and felt next to effortless. Since I know that hasn’t always been the case for me, I pulled together a list of the pieces that I rely on again and again to make a table look polished and welcoming…even if you don’t iron the napkins or table runner. Real life, friends 🙂 While those steps may have made these photos a little more blog-worthy, I knew our friends wouldn’t care in the least, especially once the candles were lit and the table was covered with food!
P.S. In case you’re curious about the menu, I made warm brussels sprouts salad, spicy chicken chili with pumpkin white cheddar biscuits, and a salted caramel apple galette, and picked up some Trader Joe’s apple cider doughnuts. All fall-inspired and delicious!
Here are a few of the things that I use again and again when entertaining:
– Place cards: If you scroll back through all of the parties I’ve shared over the last few years, you’ll see navy place cards again and again. I ordered this specific pack for our wedding in 2015, but since Dave and I were the only ones with tent card place cards, I had tons leftover. I finally used the last of them at this party! I almost always use a gold Sharpie to write names on them and the effect seems to elevate every table I set.
– Cloth napkins: I have full sets of navy and cream linen napkins from our wedding registry, both of which have served me well for practically any occasion. World Market carries inexpensive options in a whole rainbow of colors.
– An assortment of taper candles/tealight candles/holders for both: My collection includes about a dozen silver taper candle holders from our wedding, some white, gray, and dusty blue tapers (Creative Candles and World Market are great sources of colored taper candles), simple white tealight candles, one set of glass tealight holders, and a few gold mercury glass tealight holders (similar to these).
– Versatile dinner plates: We purposefully chose Kate Spade Library Lane as our china pattern for our dinner plates because it’s simple and neutral, but still a little special. We pull them out for every occasion and party!
– A few simple tablecloths (or yards of different fabrics): I will say that renting a tablecloth or two is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to take things up a notch, but I’ve only done it once (the buffalo check tablecloth for Charlie’s first birthday party). Other than that, I rely on an inexpensive white tablecloth (seen here), two runners (one from our wedding and the gray one pictured above that we received as a wedding gift), and a few yards of fabric that I keep on hand (like the gold sequin fabric seen in this throwback :)). I also don’t hesitate to ditch the tablecloth altogether, since I think our tables are pretty on their own and cloth napkins easily add some texture to the table.
– A few white serving dishes and/or cake stands: Again, you could “where’s Waldo” our white Crate and Barrel serving dishes in the photos of almost every party I’ve ever thrown! Along with a few round/oval dishes, I love using a simple white cake stand (like this) for displaying anything from biscuits to scones to, well, cakes 🙂
Do you have any party decor staples that you would add to this list? I’d love to hear!