20 Ways to Decorate for Your Next Dinner Party
Hosting a special evening? Invite your friends, plan a menu, and set the table with these decorations—centerpieces, floral arrangements, candles, and more ideas.
Of course, the meal is the star at any dinner party—with its burnished turkey, vegetarian casseroles, and abundant seasonal offerings—but you should still set a table that is as rich and memorable as the food itself.
Take, for instance, the set-up pictured here: Wow dinner guests with a bold color-blocked table. Instead of traditional fall colors, we chose soft pink, deep navy, and metallic gold to create a display that's equally elegant and in step with the season. But a beautiful table can be set with decorations all year-round—many of which can be crafted at home with ease. In floral arrangements, you can use any dried foliage including tallow and canella berries, wild lily pods, globe thistle, lemon leaves, mum flowers, and thistle. Set them into decorative vases for a mix-and-match foraged look. For a soft glow of ambience, try candleholders, lanterns, luminaries, and votives—use vessels in similar colors to the candles for a tonal effect. Overhead, hanging lanterns and balloons add to the dining room's decor. Go ahead and play up height, but keep anything tall thin so nobody's view is blocked.
Creativity aside, etiquette experts will tell you there is a formal way to set your table. Knowing where everything goes streamlines the process of serving dinner and also makes dining a breeze for guests, who will have the utensils they need at their fingertips. Table settings are arranged with napkins, place mats, flatware, and glassware. Place cards show the designated seat for each guest. And all of these details can be personalized to your hostess style. Feeling inspired? Scroll through the best of dinner party decorations.
Make something that works double-duty, such as a dinner party menu that doubles as a place card. It makes an elegant addition to the table, especially when paired with gilded greenery and a wrapped napkin.
Block-printed linens are costly to buy but surprisingly simple to make. With little more than textile paint, muslin fabric, and woodblock stamps, a personalized setting is close at hand. We went with a botanical motif, but choose whatever appeals to you. When block-printing napkins, mix colors and patterns to add to your table's eclectic vibe.
Sun-kissed terra-cotta tableware and neutral linens are a match made in dinner-party heaven. We bought the plates and tumblers, and painted stripes onto the decorative terra-cotta bowl. Salt and pepper cellars and napkin rings were sculpted from a few colors of no-bake, air-dry clay.
With a quick dip in tinted wax, even simple tapers turn into works of art. Just lower the ends into melted colored wax and let them dry. Then keep things interesting by placing them in an assortment of candlesticks: Some of these are vintage; others are from a crafts store.
Create a setting that abounds with bubbles. Decorate with candlesticks topped with glass orbs and buckets full of them. At each setting, tie a ribbon around a folded napkin as with a gift, and tie it to another piece of ribbon attached to a small helium balloon. Balloons overhead add to the celebratory feel.
As if out of thin air, candleholders appear where balloons used to be. The trick: Blow the balloons up, then brush on a glittery glue mixture. Once it dries, pop and discard the balloons—leaving behind shells you can paint on the inside. They make dazzling centerpieces, especially when clustered with glitter-dusted pillar candles (use a coat of transfer adhesive) and paired with silver dip-dyed linens.
Give glass bottles, tumblers, and vases one-of-a-kind graphic patterns in metallic tones. Conductive copper tape really shines when you take it out of the home-improvement aisle. The metallic find, originally intended for electrical jobs, comes in a wealth of different widths.
Choose the elegance of a velvet-accented setup. A striking wreath draws guests to the buffet. Start with a store-bought willow branch, and glue on hand-dyed pom-poms for berries. The wreath contrasts with the opulent purple and gold of velvet-covered trivets. To make the trivets, stretch velvet over wooden slabs of assorted sizes. You can easily re-cover the slabs to suit a new color scheme.
Soft leather coasters protect the table's surface and the glassware. Stripes and paint splatters bring out their playful side. Block off a pattern using masking tape in various widths, then brush the exposed sections with craft paint. Allow to dry completely before removing the tape. Spray with clear sealant, let cure for 24 hours, and use them at your next get-together. Create a color-block look by painting just half the circle or water down the craft paint before splattering.
Leaves aren't just for expanding the size of your dinner table. Take the kind piling up outdoors and make a one-of-a-kind runner. Start with a length of linen and fray the edges. Using a roller, coat fallen foliage one at a time in fabric paint and press it, paint-side down, onto the runner. Place a piece of paper on top and go over it with a brayer (available at crafts stores) to transfer all the little details. The result will be imprinted in your family's memories.
Here's a simple, summery way to celebrate: Set a handsome table using decanters, tumblers, and even an ice bucket or two, all filled with a dramatic mix of garden greenery and understated blooms.
Embrace a theme and have fun with it. The balmy climes inspired our tropical party décor. Flickering candles inside rattan lanterns set an alluring scene. Inexpensive cedar boat trays fit right in with the island motif. The small boats at each plate hold ramekins of dipping sauce and seasoning for make-your-own spring rolls. For lush centerpieces that will flower all summer, create these crepe-paper lotus blossoms in vibrant hues. Eye-catching and economical, they are simple to make—even for a busy host.
Sometimes, the most beautiful dinner table is eclectic in its design. Turn a stylist's eye onto the centerpiece by combining glass lamp chimneys with taper and pillar candles. Add assorted fruits of the season—grape clusters and Bosc pears.
Cake Stands and Pedestals
Turn the traditional purpose of a basket on its head by using it to create a footed dessert dish: Snip off the basket's handle, invert the basket, and add a plate. (Stick it on with removable putty.) We also wrapped the handle of a pitcher with seagrass trim for a subtle basket-like accent. Attach the end of the trim with hot glue to the base of the handle, wind it all the way around to the top, then glue the trim to secure.
Elements from nature bring life to any table. No flowers? Try seashells or even river rocks instead. Inspired by those glass-topped café and tea-shop tables under which menus and postcards are placed, we reimagined the concept. Here, we've placed a small sheet of clear polycarbonate over prints, ferns, and other natural ephemera. On top are stones, moss, and wisps of evergreens.
A centerpiece that's stylish, simple, and affordable? Check, check, and check. These baskets, filled with apples, pears, and walnuts, are reminiscent of an abundant cornucopia. You can use several to create a display that runs down the length of the table.
To fill your dining room with golden light, group leather-trimmed lanterns holding beeswax pillars. A trio of varied heights is handsome enough to stand in for a flower arrangement, and comes together in minutes from basic materials: leather strips, brass fasteners, and glass hurricanes.
A romantic table is set with cream and blush hues, layering brass candlesticks and white tapers, and crystal goblets. Wispy lengths of linens and ribbon in pretty pink and lavender hues make for lovely table runner and napkins. Overhead, the floral installation is crafted from ethereal elements: baby's breath, skeleton leaves, and ornamental pampas grass.
Pom-Poms and Luminarias
Joyous bursts of color dance above a table, imparting a cheerful radiance to a dinner party. The dahlia-like pom-poms appear to float in the air; in reality they are hung from the ceiling with monofilament. Below right: Echoing the vibrant hanging puffs, pom-pom napkin rings in citrus shades adorn each place setting. Square glass vessels in various sizes line tables. Covered in sunset-hued tissue (cut to size and secured with double-sided tape), they cast a soft glow.
Gilded Lanterns and Décor
Gold paper may gleam, but plain brown kraft paper that has been spray-painted looks pretty, too. This lavishly decorated table is set with paper lanterns, which have been embellished with craft punches and spray-painted to shine. Much of the glamour comes from nothing more than wallpaper, spray paint, and craft punches.