How to Throw a Party the Martha Way—From Planning a Curated Menu to Designing a Beautiful Tablescape

Channel your inner Martha by implementing some of her must-know entertaining tips at your next party.

Martha Stewart with cocktails.
Photo: Marcus Nilsson

If you want help planning your next party, there is only one person you need to turn to: our founder. Martha has been hosting impressive soirées for decades, from intimate dinner parties to holiday brunches with hundreds of guests. Whether you need advice on curating a seasonally inspired menu or designing a beautiful tablescape, Martha knows exactly what it takes to host an incredible get-together. She's provided plenty of coveted entertaining tips and tricks over the years, giving you everything you need to plan a party the Martha way.

martha holding cocktails by table of seafood
Thomas Loof

Offer a Seafood Buffet

To curate a refined menu that takes the pressure off of you but is still impressive to your guests, opt for a buffet-style grazing station. "One of my favorites, which I serve at my annual open house in Bedford, is a delicious fresh-seafood buffet of oysters and shrimp," Martha has said of past gatherings. When preparing this type of spread, Martha only uses the highest-quality seafood that's sourced from a reputable fishmonger.

Cut Above Soft Palette flower arrangement
Thomas Loof

Decorate With Fresh Flowers

Welcome visitors into your home by displaying arrangements of fresh flowers. Martha likes to use cut flowers from her expansive garden to make stunning bouquets that add beauty and a fresh scent to her space. To make your arrangements last, she recommends using fresh water, removing wilted or discolored blooms daily, and keeping your bouquets away from heat sources.

martha stewart holding tortilla espanola on patio
Noe Dewitt

Plan a Menu With Seasonal Ingredients

Think about what's in season when planning the menu for your party. At this intimate summer gathering, Martha let her garden's fresh produce inspire her courses. From three starter salads to a side dish of ripe, juicy garden tomatoes dressed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh basil, everything on her table was created with the flavors of June in mind.

baked potatoes with crème fraîche and caviar
Dana Gallagher

Serve Caviar

A menu staple at any party thrown by Martha, caviar can be used to elevate everything from baked potatoes to pasta. If you want to serve it as an appetizer, provide a spread of sliced, toasted brioche and invite guests to pile it high with a dollop crème fraîche and a spoonful of caviar. No matter how you serve the delicacy, Martha says to make sure you use the best quality, tastiest caviar you can find.

fall centerpiece
Roland Bello

Line Your Tablescape With Houseplants

Houseplants look beautiful no matter where they're displayed, but their impact as a centerpiece is not to be underestimated. Martha uses her collection of container plants, which range from ferns and begonias to succulents and money plants, to line her tablescapes for a naturalistic look.

floral green holiday tablescape

Make Place Cards

Place cards blend form and function—they make for a nice design element on your tablescape and help guide guests to their seats. Martha likes to prepare place cards when hosting meals in her dining room as they make for a nice personal detail. "I write each guest's name on a card and place them by each guest's place setting shortly before everyone arrives," Martha said in a blog post.

martha with cocktails
Noe Dewitt

Have a Beverage Station

Managing the flow of guests is an important element of any party. One way Martha does this is by setting up a beverage station separate from food and drinks. "I always prepare a bar on the counter of my servery—designating a separate spot for drinks helps to direct guests out of the way of the kitchen, where food is being prepared," she said in a blog post.

John Kernick

Make It a Brunch

If you like the idea of hosting brunch over a formal dinner, you're already well on your way to entertaining like Martha. She loves the inclusive atmosphere of this entertaining style, and hosts an annual brunch at her estate in Bedford, N.Y. "Neighbors and friends stop by, and children can accompany their parents. I have a true open house, in that guests can go wherever they want on the farm," Martha has said.

elegant citrus table setting
Bryan Gardner

Curate Beautiful Place Settings

Beautiful food deserves place settings that are equally as eye-catching. As a general rule, each guest should receive silverware, a napkin, drinkware, and dishes to eat off of. The number of dishes you need will vary depending on your menu—if you're serving soup as a starter, for example, a bowl will also be necessary. In addition to the necessities, Martha likes to include a menu at every place setting, so guests know what to expect from the night ahead.

seafood oyster bar
John Dolan

Serve Oysters

Like caviar, you will also find fresh oysters at Martha's gatherings. She always tries to find an expert to shuck the oysters on site, but it's easy enough to do ahead on your own if needed. Don't forget a few toppings—Martha likes to provide homemade jalapeño mignonette. Plan for each person on your guest list to have three to four oysters.

martha stewart playing croquet in backyard
John Huba

Provide Games

Keep guests entertained by setting up a few games for them to enjoy in between mingling. One game you're sure to find at a party thrown by Martha is croquet. At her Westchester County, N.Y. residence, she had a space of land reserved to play the English-born game, as well as bocce ball, badminton, and horseshoes.

Ditte Issager

Set Up a Dessert Table

No meal is complete without dessert—a rule Martha knows well. While you can certainly serve one showstopping dessert to round out your menu, Martha also likes to provide a variety of delicious options for guests. Set up a buffet-style dessert table with a few selections to ensure there's something everyone can enjoy.

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