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What started as a side hustle for two creative, driven sisters has now become one of the Midwest’s premier event planning and design firms. At Elevate, we find pure, unbridled joy in celebrating all aspects of life - big moments, small gatherings and anything in between.

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A Touch of Style with Meredith: Hosting a Dinner Party

Much of what Meredith helps with in our day-to-day operations involves a more behind-the-scenes approach (she’s our rock-star inquiry organizer, client onboarder, and all-around project creator and manager). Once we were invited to her home and bore witness to her hostess-with-the-mostess capabilities and Martha Stewart-level styling, we simply KNEW that these talents had to be brought to the forefront! And since intimate parties are quickly becoming the new norm in our world, we asked Meredith to tell all in the first of a hopefully long series we’re titling: A Touch of Style. Enjoy today’s theme, diving into one of Meredith’s SERIOUS specialties: Dinner Parties!

Theme & Style

Hosting a dinner party may feel like an overwhelming task, but with the right focus and commitment to planning, you can create a beautiful and memorable evening for your friends and family.  To style a party you love, find a theme or inspiration that excites you!  Spring is one of my favorite times of year, so I chose a pale peach and ivory palette, incorporating lots of bright, citrusy florals and a menu highlighting produce that is currently in season. 

Planning

Plan ahead!  Once you have a vision, decide on your menu a week or two in advance.  When it comes to your guest list, invite the number of guests with which you are comfortable. Consider the number that can be seated at your table and the number of guests you have previously hosted. For example, if you have never cooked for ten people, start with a smaller group first, and work your way up. 

Your Menu

If you choose to serve a dish you have never made before, I highly recommend making it in advance of your party! This ensures that you fully understand what goes into making the dish and how long it will take to make. And if it doesn’t work out as you imagined, you have then given yourself the time to change it!

My Spring Dinner Party Menu:

Spring greens salad

Pasta primavera with peas and asparagus

Lemon chicken with asparagus

A dessert is a simple and effective way to impress your guests and put the (perhaps literal) icing on your proverbial cake of a party! Choose a dessert that can be made that morning, or even the night before.  I chose to bake a three layer lemon cake with lemon whipped cream and berries, in part because layer cakes are so beautiful and present well. When you’re styling a party, presentation is key after all!

Assemble as much of your menu in advance as possible.  When guests arrive at your party, you’ll want to be able to enjoy the evening with them and not be tucked away in the kitchen.  

Appetizers can be as simple as a cheese board.  I love picking two or three cheeses and arranging them with crackers, nuts and jam, or honey on a small cutting board.  Alternatively, this can be a fun way to get your guests involved.  Let them know the theme of your party and have them bring an appetizer of their choosing. 

Your drink menu can be kept very simple, serving only wine and beer, or it can include a fun signature cocktail! This is a great task to assign to your significant other or another guest whom you trust. Always greet your guests as soon as they arrive and make them feel welcome with a drink of their choosing (and don’t forget tasty non-alcoholic options, too)! 

Style Details

Tablescapes are my personal favorite aspect of a dinner party, and I always set mine out the night before. In the weeks before your party, browse a few thrift shops, your favorite local rental company or Etsy for décor that matches your party’s style.  Items to consider include a beautiful tablecloth or table runner (remember that you’ll want to fit it to exactly the table you will be using!), chargers, dinnerware and servingware, linen napkins, florals, and candles.  It’s amazing how using a few key items such as gold or bronze flatware can completely elevate the look of your table.  Simple white plates are always a good choice, or a pretty china pattern, which I used at my spring party! 

Order a small floral centerpiece from your local florist or, if you’re feeling crafty, arrange the flowers yourself the day before your party. Trader Joe’s has an affordable selection of flowers, or you can pick them out from your favorite farmer’s market vendor!  If you’re doing it yourself, remember that a little goes a long way – you can never go wrong with a few small bud vases filled with one or two beautiful blooms scattered along your table. 

Your Guests

When it comes to seating, place guests around your table in a thoughtful pattern. Part of the fun of hosting a dinner party is getting to talk to people you may not otherwise talk to. Assign seats with place cards and keep couples close, but not right next to each other.

Don’t forget about the lighting in your home!  Dimmed lights and candles throughout your home ensures an inviting and cozy setting in which your guests can feel comfortable and relax. And don’t forget the perfect Spotify playlist for a little background music!

For the most successful and fun dinner party, focus on what is most important to YOU.  Is it important for you to make the entire dinner yourself, or would you feel less stressed enlisting help from others?  Is an impressive, elaborate tablescape what you’d like to focus on, or do you prefer a simple, clean look?  Highlight the areas that excite you most and be creative!  Your guests will absolutely notice and be sure to tell all their friends. Above all, make sure you plan moments where YOU can relax, and enjoy it!

Photography: Raconteur Imagery | Flowers: Whole Foods | Groceries: Willy Street Co-op | Tablecloth: Amazon | China Plates: St. Vinny’s