Would you agree there is something magical about gathering around a table for the evening? I'm not sure what it is, but feeding people encourages vulnerability and truth telling. In a world that is so busy and on-the-go at every moment, the table offers a respite from chaos. It invites an atmosphere of slow, steady and important conversation that lifts up, encourages and challenges.
How can we cultivate our tables?
I feel the key to a good table is in creating a relaxed environment for guests to fellowship, open up and simply be themselves. We are not creating a fast food atmosphere, but instead a place to linger until all of the candles have burnt out and the drinks and dessert have all been eaten up.
For some reason I have always loved tablescapes. Maybe it's the interior designer in me, maybe it's longing for all of my mother's dishes, but I have always loved to set the table for a party. (Notice I said for a party - I didn't ever love setting the table as a child!)
But even when we started Sunday Night Dinner (which doesn't tend to happen during campaign + football season), I tried to do a nice table setting as well.
Because I found it makes people feel special. As if we've been awaiting their presence for quite some time. And as much as I've been talking about the spontaneous opening of our homes (also important), we should also have times of planning and preparation!
So - what makes a great table?
First, we need enough room to eat and spread your arms out. You want it to be cozy but not crowded. I mean, remember those movies where the parents are on two opposite ends of a too-big table? We definitely don't want that. So sit down, try it out. See author note at bottom for resources.
Next, layer, layer, layer! This does not have to be expensive. One of my favorite things to lay down as a "tablecloth" is rolls of brown kraft paper! It creates a fabulous neutral background for whatever color you want to put on top of it. Invest in catering dishes, napkins and glasses over the years - but do not be afraid to put cute paper salad plates on top of plain white dishes. See author note at bottom for resources.
Last, create a low and full centerpiece that sparkles! There is something super special about candles and twinkle lights mixed in to something floral. My best tip here is to get big blooms from a cheap place like Trader Joe's and then fill in with greenery clippings from your yard! The last thing you want to do is to put big floral arrangements that hinder conversation from one side to the other, so sit down and test out whether or not you can comfortably talk with someone across the table. See author note at bottom for resources.
Now you can set the table. One of the things I have loved most about our friendsgiving dinner every year is giving a small favor to each person at the table. This doesn't have to be a big deal, it can be as simple as a hand written note of appreciate or a scripture. It can be a downloaded print you've bought on Etsy that they can take home and frame. These monogrammed coffee cups are from Target, but I've painted signs and handmade other items throughout the years.
Keep a larger bottles of water on your table so that it's easy to get more throughout the evening. Add springs of rosemary or fresh herbs to the napkins. And you don't need fancy napkin rings, although those are super lovely! You can use twine, raffia or ribbon to tie those napkins and add an extra something special. You can tie napkins in a not, fold them fancy or just leave them wrapped around the dinner plate as an added layer of pattern.
Author Resources :
For our friendsgiving this year we pushed together two picnic tables from lowe's and it worked perfect. We have also layered 4'x8' pieces of plywood on top of our existing table to create more room.
I've started asking for a box of basic catering glasses or plates each year for Christmas. I keep them in the box at the top of our kitchen cabinets and pull them out for parties only. Because I don't know about you, but we always have glasses break throughout the year. This keeps them safe and sound for the next party. Here are a few catering options.
Also - don't underestimate the dollar tree for cups, bowls, dishes and glasses!