Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Let's have a dinner party! Are you jumping up and down.... excited and ready to start planning? Or are you filled with anxiety and stress... thinking about all the work involved? 

Most of us love to go to a dinner party... and love the idea of a dinner party... but many of us don't love hosting  them. 

Let's see if we can change all that!  This post is all about making dinner parties enjoyable and easy...  for the hostess... from planning to clean up!

 I'm setting a table for a dinner party and sharing lots of tips with you. And I have lots and lots of tips!!!!!  Hope some are helpful to you as you plan your next Great Dinner Party!

I'm sure many of you have really wonderful seasoned tips too! So join in .... please share your best dinner party ideas and tips with us as a comment! I want to hear ALL your brilliant ideas!


Planning an easy, doable table was the inspiration for this soft comfortable table.

A dinner party does not mean lots of people, a big fancy table, tons of elaborate food and days or weeks of preparation. This is not your mother's dinner party table. 

SG TIP: Plan your dinner party well in advance. Being rushed is hard on a hostess. Put your plan of action down on paper! 


Invite just a few people over for an easy, yet scrumptious dinner... and eat in the kitchen!!! People lead busy lives and today we are looking for an intimate and relaxed dining experience! Host a cozy dinner party with a handful of treasured friends.


Today's table is not a "fantasy table" or one that took much time to set. This table is not "staged" for photography... it is  real! It is in keeping with the spirit of  "an easy and doable table" for an intimate dinner party!

Each place setting is a combination of red and white textures and patterns... with a little touch of organic green to give it a Christmas feel!

The placemats are really napkins. This is a clever trick I use often! We all have so many more napkins than we do placemats, so when napkins work with your table styling just fold them in the center and use them as a placemat!

 These red and white napkin placemats have a nice pattern that brings interest to the table.

SG TIP: Buy an easy to clean and iron white tablecloth. This is sure to be your most used tablecloth! By adding great placemats to it you always have a beautiful canvas to set your table! 

For this table little Christmas balls are scattered over this snowy tablecloth.


Red and white is one of my favorite table color schemes! I love it's crisp and cheery feel. Red and white dishes look so jolly on the napkin placemats!

Chargers are a wonderful and easy way to  make a big statement on a table! They are an inexpensive and  have a big impact!

You don't have to pull out your good china for an intimate dinner party! I LOVE white dishes, and these are my everyday Mikasa Italian Countryside dishes. Pretty enough for company!!! And food always looks the best when served on white dishes!

Many of my dear readers think I have closets and closets of dishes. Not really. I repeat the same dishes over and over again in fresh ways. This pretty red and white accent plate (HomeGoods) adds lots of panache to the the white dishes I use everyday!

SG TIP: Buy a set of white dinnnerware. They go with everything! To add interest to your table purchase inexpensive accent plates!

SG Tip: The dinnner party table is decorated for Christmas. Yet, none of the dishes are embellished with any Christmas motif. Buy dishes that have great colors and generic patterns. Use the other elements on your table to promote a specific theme!

Red napkin rosettes placed in a small bowl greet each guest! This is a VERY EASY napkin fold... and you don't have to iron the napkins! Real rose leaves are tucked into the bowls too! For a tutorial on this impressing and easy fold, click HERE.


One of my very favorite tips is to put something at each place for your guest to take home. A cookie, a little bag of candies or homemade jam, an ornament, a little vase of flowers, a treasure from nature... simple and thoughtful.

My guest are so delighted to carry something home from our evening together.

Each guest will take home the little evergreen  wreath that encircles the small white bowls.  I will tie a pretty festive ribbon to them and present it to my guests before they go home.

SG TIP: Keep your eyes open for little take-home gifts when you are out and about. Always buy on sale or make them. This should be a joy to you too and not a financial burden! I just got a mismatched  assortment of silver spoons at an consignment shop for $6.00. I'm saving them for a girl's luncheon as a take-home gift tied up in a pretty ribbon. BE CREATIVE!

Use your go-to glasses for a relaxed dinner party! I love any glassware with a stem! I think it brings an chic look to a table. Here are my French Countryside goblets from Mikasa.

I added deep red goblets (Williamsburg, Charter House) to hold wine. These will be taken right off of the table and used before we sit down.  I modified the tip below a little for this table. I am using the goblets for my guests before we sit for dinner. Make your table work for you!

SG Tip:  Only put water glasses on your table when serving a casual dinner. Serve your libation of choice to your guests as they come in and then they can take their wine glasses to the table. Keeping drinks simple makes things easy and economical.


Combining different flatware can be a very unexpected surprise! Here I used my vintage flea market silverplate and red handled salad forks. FUN!

White salt and pepper shakers are always a classic! These are Mikasa Italian Countryside.


A couple of cake pedestals and a little bowl make up the structure for this festive centerpiece! 

I pulled out the Christmas ornaments, pinecones and greens. Arranging 6 grocery store roses with the Christmas elements produced a centerpiece that looked like it  took an hour to create it... nope, only 5 minutes!

I love the formality that $5.99 worth of roses can give this centerpiece. Inexpensive and easy... now that's my kind of centerpiece! And this centerpiece gives a big design nod to the red rosette napkins!

SG TIP: You can use this centerpiece over and over again. Just fill it with seasonal decor. Eggs and nests in spring, small vases of florals in the summer. Little pumpkins and mums in the Fall. Snowflakes and pinecones in the winter. I can think of so many themes to use with this centerpiece!

The table is ready and waiting for your guests. Fill you home with music and pour yourself your favorite libation... but in moderation! 

SG TIP: make time to spend 15 minutes relaxing before dinner guests arrive! It will make such a difference in you ability to be a calm and gracious host or hostess!

It is hard to enjoy your dinner guests when you are slaving in the kitchen preparing elaborate meals! Careful planning goes a long way in making a smooth dinner party... one that a hostess can also enjoy!

Choose the memu wisely. Avoid recipes that take you away from your guests to prepare and cook for any great length of time.

SG TIP: Plan ahead, prepare ahead, cook ahead~ the dinner party is a time to be with your guests not in your kitchen all night!

Chopped Salad
Chicken A La King In Puffed Pastry
look for an upcoming post
Roasted Asparagus With Lemon
Ice Box Cake
look for upcoming post


~ CLEAN UP AS YOU GO... clean off counter tops, oven spills etc. Have a clean and workable kitchen by the time your guests arrive.
~Do not do dishes or load the dishwasher while entertaining dinner guests... concentrate on them
 Best SG Tip:~ Clear the table and put dishes, flatware, glasses and pot and pans in separate plastic dish pans filled with hot sudsy water. Stow them away in a laundry room, garage or out-of-sight area. They will soak and be practically clean when it's time for them to be washed
~ Choose dishes that can be put in the dishwasher
~ Collect all centerpiece items that need to be put away in a plastic dish pan or two. It is so much easier to carry the dishpan from place to place putting items away
~ When guests leave put all the table linens and any dish cloths and towel right in the washer and begin the soak cycle

I hope this post has inspired you to host a DINNER PARTY!

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  1. Great tips as usual Yvonne! I love all your tables and the food on them even more!! You should link one of your tablescapes up to Centsationalgirl's tablescape linky party, it is sponsored by Homegoods, and the winner get's a $100 gift card. Your tables are always so gorgeous and admirable! I love red too, and I have set a simple table to take me through to Christmas. I will be referring back to these tips!!!

  2. GREAT tips Yvonne -- you're the hostess with the mostess :)

    Your table is gorgeous -- red always comes off fabulous :)

    CHRISTmas Blessings!

  3. Yvonne, you need to write a book, start your own magazine, something! Mikasa needs to put you on their payroll, too ;-). A true natural you are. Martha can definitely retire, Alexis can raise her baby and you can take over the reigns. No kidding! xo

  4. Great tips and ideas. I have trouble with a oval table for six having so much space in the middle. I'd love tips on that.
    I am having a give away of a great new coffee table book. It is by James Farmer. He has recently been in Southern Living and on the Today Show. He has a great blog too.

  5. Yvonne- What a great post. I LOVE hosting dinner parties. I used to do it a lot more than I do now...but now that I have taken early retirement I plan to start doing them again. I love to create an atmosphere that welcomes people and spoils them. I LOVE the napkin rolled like a rose and you can bet that I AM going to steal that idea! However, I DO promise to give credit back to you~ xo Diana

  6. great tips, and your table looks beautiful! We're hosting 40 people this Saturday for a Christmas/housewarming party. We aren't doing a sit down dinner, however. I have planned yummy but prepare ahead appies and a pork loin in a balsamic glaze for something a little hardier (done in the slow cooker ahead). While I won't 'set' a table, I look forward to having fun presenting all those scrumptious appies!

  7. YOur napkin/placmats match the tablecloth that we both have! I have been planning a table using it soon! Also a VERY similiar centerpiece....great minds???? I use ALL of your tips when entertaining, except the soaking dishes in dish pans. I need to do that and make my life EASIER!!!! Talk to you later. I have NO table for tonight:(:( BUT, I am DONE decorating my house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHOO HOO!!!!!!!! XO, Pinky

  8. YOur napkin/placmats match the tablecloth that we both have! I have been planning a table using it soon! Also a VERY similiar centerpiece....great minds???? I use ALL of your tips when entertaining, except the soaking dishes in dish pans. I need to do that and make my life EASIER!!!! Talk to you later. I have NO table for tonight:(:( BUT, I am DONE decorating my house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHOO HOO!!!!!!!! XO, Pinky

  9. Yvonne this is a really helpful post. I am all about planning ahead too. One thing I always do is get out all serving dishes and utensils an put a post it note on each which food will be in what dish. I put them on a chair seat and tuck it under the table until it is time to put the food in the dish and that way they are out of site and not on my counter taking valuable space while cooking other dishes!!

  10. Great tips Yvonne. I host a lot of dinner parties and you were spot on. I cannot stress enough the importance of planning ahead. I also like to cook and prepare as much food as possible the day before. I always tell women who are reluctant to host a sit-down dinner party to have a nice buffet instead. This seems to not be as daunting to pull off. I always say - I have never been to a bad dinner party. Why? Because I don't have to cook and clean up. LOL Looking forward to the new website. Blessings, Barb

  11. Beautiful table, Yvonne. I'm looking forward to the Dinner Party feature tomorrow. ;-)

  12. My policy is make a FEW dishes (not a zillion) and make them killer! And whether it is fancy or casual, make it welcoming and relaxed for the guests. LOTS of candlelight!

  13. GREAT post, Yvonne! I love to see you promoting white dishes; it's all I have but I also use other things on the table to change the look; I am always ready to throw a dinner party, and this holiday I have about two each week planned. Mostly in conjunction with cooking lessons for all of my nieces, who now want to learn all the secrets! The tips are fantastic and the table looks amazing, Yvonne....

  14. You make everything look so easy, Yvonne! Thank you for the GREAT tips. I would host a dinner party every weekend if I didn't have to do the cooking. I need to find someone to team up with! ;0) Looking forward to Mikasa's site launch!

  15. Thanks for all the tips. Your tablescape is beautiful! Love all the touches of red. I found Christmas tree & wreath motif spreaders for favors this year. They not only look pretty on a package or on a table, but they are bigger than some of the smaller spreaders that have been around for many years.

  16. I am so happy you posted about the absolute necessity of planning waaaaay ahead. I have friends who love to cook, love to invite guests to dinner, but who have NO idea of a time schedule. Sometimes they begin preparing once you arrive, and by the time dinner is served, even if it is grilled, most guests are over-served or just plain tired. Also, it shows a huge amount of respect to those invited to be calm & prepared. Hostesses who spend the entire evening cooking are no fun and make everyone feel guilty. I'm like you. I plan everything. I'm proud to have you in my home and want to please you with my hospitality. And, see, everyone tells you to do a book!!
    Love you, dear....

  17. Beautiful, Yvonne. I like the rosette will be perfect for Valentine's Day, too.

  18. Absolutely Stunning!! You always do amazing job with the tables! I'm having a giveaway and would love to see you enter!!

  19. Perfect job in every area! Love the centerpice and the napkin idea for placemats. Most of all I enjoyed your tips for a successful dinner party. You raise a lot of good points and have wise ideas on how to handle things.

  20. Thanks for all your wonderful tips & inspiration, Yvonne!! Your guests must feel so special in your home. I look forward to seeing the recipes for the dinner party.

  21. You share some great tips here. Believe it or not, I'd rather host a dinner party than go to one. I'm a control freak, I like being in my own house and knowing where I'll sit, what I'll eat etc. I don't do it nearly as often as I used to, but I'm always so glad when I actually take the leap and invite people over. The table looks beautiful!

  22. Hi Yvonne~ I would be jumping up & down if I was attending one of YOUR dinner parties! You're the Hostess with the Mostest and your tips are as wonderful as your tables! I ADORE your cake pedestal centerpiece with all ornaments, roses & bits of greenery tucked in!

  23. Your tips are so very helpful, Yvonne! The table looks lovely as well as the centerpiece. You make giving dinner parties look like a breeze! I will remember your tips and plan on being calm and relaxed at my next party! Thanks so much!


  24. Great tips! Thanks! Your table is beautiful! Joann

  25. I love the red and white too, my table today is red and white, so festive and so easy. We entertain a lot, sometimes I do it all (that is fun because I get to plan everything) but lots of times with our regular dinner group people we each take a course, preparing what we want and then plating it and serving our course. It is really fun as we get to try everyone's special dish. These are by far the easiest and everyone loves these dinner parties the most - no one feels any stress. We also have often done just appetizers and desserts for the holidays and that is always a big hit.

  26. great tips!! We are having a dinner party in two weeks and everything is already planned and taken care of.. sad I know. Love your table.. Having good basics are the best tool to setting fun tables. your table this week is fun and refreshing.. love the balls as a centerpiece! xo marlis

  27. What a beautiful table. Your centerpiece is stunning.

  28. Stunning centerpiece in the tier, I love the way you arranged it! Everything is beautiful in the traditional colors, my fav, although for the first time I did something different in a tablescape just to party at Susan's TT. Lots of hugs,

  29. So beautiful...I have always been a fan of your blog and this table is beautiful and the photography beautiful...

  30. Well I absolutely love that rose napkin fold. I have to learn how to do it. The table looks fabulous. Pat

  31. Stunning table!! Love how festive it is and soo elegant!

  32. You know I love my red! I also love the tables that are holiday themed but don't scream the holidays. This is gorgeous! I love how it says Christmas and yet nothing is just limited to Christmas. Great job and wonderful tips! I am looking forward to a dining room in the next house. Already have my request in. I will definitely be putting these tips to use!

  33. Yvonne,
    I LOVE your thoughts on cleanup! I can't tell you how many dinner parties we have been to where the host is taking dishes off the table and starting to wash them before everyone is even done with coffee! By the time the guests are ready to leave, the dishes are all done and put away. How sad for the hosts that they missed out on some great conversation! In my opinion those dishes aren't going anywhere ... do them tomorrow when everyone has enjoyed the evening with YOU! Kathy Fritz

  34. Hi Yvonne,
    all looks gorgeous, as always. I love the napkins as roses. Everytime a hit.
    best greetings, Johanna

  35. Red always makes me happy and a cute napkin is always a wonderful touch on a table. Love those!

  36. Beautiful, beautiful table, Yvonne! I am really impressed with the centerpiece and the rosette napkins!!! I'm going to head over to the Great Dinner Party to see the new design. Have a great weekend!

  37. This is such a fun and festive table. I love red and white! Loved the center piece too.

  38. Yvonne, amazing as usual!! I must get a set of the Mikasa Countryside Dinnerware!

    I think that it is so important to set the table the day before!

    Please Come and enter the 1st of the Twelve Days of Holiday giveaways which is from Dovecote Decor! It is stunning!

    Art by Karena

  39. Just magnificent! Pictures and tips, what a beautiful party plan!!

  40. I'm in love with those red and white accent plates!!!! When the whole world, it seems, has started painting their houses all white or gray, I decided to do not one, but TWO rooms in red! I'm crazy that way! I don't know if you had a chance to stop by and see this, but I wrote about you/gave you a blog award a couple of posts ago as you are AWESOME!

  41. Yvone, this is so beautiful! Love that napkin fold! Gorgeous centerpiece!