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Party Planning

Welcome to the 116th Tablescape Thursday!

Party Planning Week:
It’s Party Planning Week here at BNOTP. So far this week: Monday we talked about the many ways available for sending out your party invitations . Tuesday was all about preparing and readying our home for the big day. And on Wednesday, I shared a fun gift-exchange game guests always love. Today is all about centerpieces and how to arrange the food and desserts.

Tablescape Thursday:
Often I get emails from folks who are request assistance with planning an event or a party. Another sweet reader recently asked for advice on how to set up a buffet. For this Tablescape Thursday, I’ll take you through the way I set up my dining room when I’m having a party. I’ll also share how I serve desserts and beverages. Because your dining room and kitchen layout is most likely not the same as mine, you will probably need to do some things a little differently. As I mentioned in the other party posts, just take from these posts what you can use and discard the rest. :)

Unfortunately, though I’ve had quite a few parties over the years, I’ve never taken pics of the dining room table with the food in place. But I do have some pics to share…and I’ll describe the rest for you in hopes this will help when you plan your next party.

When I have a Christmas party and invite 20+ folks, I don’t have a sit down “dinner” affair. Instead, it’s always a buffet and I serve “finger foods” along with desserts and beverages. This also helps with Top Reason #3…not having anywhere to sit. With a buffet type party, mostly folks stand. I always end up moving most of the dining room chairs to the living room and family room. So if folks do want to sit…there is usually plenty of seating in those rooms, as well as in the kitchen. So, there’s no issue of having to worry about actually seating 20 guests for dinner.

Over the years, I usually put the food in my dining room and use the breakfast room table for other things. Because there is so much food, it always requires that I add the center leaf to the table. I prefer to use a tablecloth for these occasions, too…just makes it feel that much more special.

A few years ago, I went on an historic home tour and saw a table set with Lenox, Winter Greetings, china…it was love at first sight. I was thrilled to find they make an “accent plate” for this pattern. It is the perfect size for a party buffet because it’s bigger than a salad plate, yet smaller than a dinner plate. It’s probably pretty close to a luncheon size plate.

Quite a while back, I created a post about this china and the woman who designed it, Catherine McClung. She is an amazing artist and was featured on HGTV in a special called, Modern Masters: White House Artisans. In that post, I showed all the accent plates in more detail. You’ll find that post, HERE if you’d like to learn more about this china. Then you can become addicted to Lenox, Winter Greetings, too. Ha! :)

I usually place the plates at one end of the table. You will want to locate your plates at an end where once folks move around the table, they will finish at a point where they will be able to move from the table to where the drinks are located without bumping into folks who are waiting. That location will be a little different in each person’s dining room…so just think that process through and you’ll know where to start your buffet line.

In the past when I hosted a party, since I was working full-time I spent my time in the evenings cleaning and decorating for the party. Unfortunately, that never left me much time for cooking. For parties I usually make 3-4 dishes myself, along with and 2-3 desserts. Then, I supplement with party platters from Publix, a local supermarket. I usually pick up a few things from Costco, too. I have a very bad habit of buying and making way too much food for parties. So, I always have lots left over. I will tell you how I overcame that problem a bit later…it will be in our last post.

I place the platters all around the table, along with the dishes I have prepared on serving pieces or on the dinner plates that match my china. Dinner plates make great serving pieces when they aren’t needed for the actual meal.

It’s best to have some logical order to your table regarding where you place the foods you are serving. I find it works well to start with the plates, next up the meats and bread/biscuits if folks or making little ham/turkey sandwiches, along with mayo/mustard/relish, etc… Then follow-up with the other finger foods. It’s nice to end with the napkins…and silverware, if it’s needed. You could put the drinks at the end, too, but I don’t really like doing it that way. I have found it creates way too much congestion and slows the whole line down. I prefer to put my drinks somewhere else all together…more on that in a bit.

Tip: To make your table look more interesting, it’s great if you mix in some taller serving pieces so everything doesn’t end up on one level.

Cakes stands like these would be perfect for displaying finger foods/desserts for a party.

One year, I came across these napkins on sale at Kohl’s and bought a bunch to use for parties. I usually group them in a big silver bowl so folks can just grab one as they go by.

About a year ago I found these crystal flatware holders online at Neiman Marcus…they were on sale for $25 for all three…not a bad deal. I looked last night to get the link and didn’t see them on NM this year.   You can pretty much find them anytime  on eBay by searching for “crystal flatware caddy” or “cystal flatware.”

I don’t plan to use the caddies on the main table because I always serve appetizers/finger foods for my parties. But I will use them on the buffet where I serve the desserts. One will be used for the spoons at my “coffee station.”

Coffee Station:
My kitchen is quite small and there’s not a lot of counter space. I normally set up a little coffee area on my desk. I don’t drink coffee so the first year I had a party, I was not a very good hostess. When folks started asking for coffee to go with their dessert, I didn’t have any. The next year I thought to have coffee on hand, but it wasn’t Decaf and that’s what everyone wanted.  They also asked for artificial sweetener, which I don’t use. Next year I was ready!  Now, I always have decaf coffee for evening parties and I always put out several types of artificial sweeteners, in addition to good ole sugar.

I recreated this for you but it’s missing a few things. I normally have a candle burning and some type of greenery with berries to dress up this area but I think you get the idea.  This is a great place to use one of the flatware caddies to hold the spoons.

This style caddy will hold 24-30 spoons with ease if you just face them in opposite directions.

Neiman Marcus carries these linen cocktail napkins and periodically they will put them on sale and offer free monogramming and shipping. Watch for their sales…you can get some good deals.

On to the good stuff…the Desserts!

If you want to Wow your guests with a dessert that looks fancy but is actually super easy to make, serve a trifle.  You’ll find several yummy trifle recipes under the category “Good Eats” at the top of BNOTP.  The buffet seems to work well for serving the desserts. I usually have a cake of some type, a trifle and maybe one other dessert. Salad plates are great to use for dessert plates. I like to stack them at either end of the buffet.  Remember the other two flatware caddies, this is where they’ll come in handy. In the past I just placed the forks on the buffet, (see pic below) which was fine…but I think the caddies will be a lot nicer and take up less space.

In the past, I’ve made a coconut cake for dessert. The one above is one brought by a neighbor for a previous cookie party…love how festive it looked!  The one below is one I made from an old family recipe. You’ll find the recipe here: Coconut Cake Recipe.

I love this champagne punch and it is always a huge hit. The first year I served it, I also had wine on hand. At the end of the night, not a single bottle of wine had ever been opened. Everyone was enjoying the champagne punch too much to drink any wine. I usually make 4 batches for 20-25 people and it’s always all gone by the end of the party.  You’ll find the recipe under the category “Good Eats” at the top of BNOTP.

In the past, I served the punch from a pitcher instead of a punch bowl. It was tricky ladling the punch into the tiny opening of the champagne glass. But I finally found a better solution. Do you see the beverage server on the left of the sideboard?

Last year I found this one in an antique shop. I’d been drooling over them on NM for some time so I was thrilled to find one at about a third the price. I think it will be perfect for serving this champagne punch and guest will easily be able to help themselves to more, at least that’s the plan.

Recently, while out antiquing, I came across this little silverplate wine server for only $15. I couldn’t resist it and I think it will be perfect for a future dinner party.

Normally, I serve the other beverages (like tea, water, soda) from the breakfast table, but…

When I have a cookie party…this is where the cookies everyone brings usually end up.

Last time, the table on the porch came in handy, too. If you’re planning a cookie party, you may want to flip-flop things and place the cookies on the dining room table and the food on the breakfast table…or maybe on a kitchen island if you have one.

Do you need fancy china for a party…heck, no. But it sure is fun to put on our party clothes once in a while and play grown up. :) Before I’d collected the things I use, it was paper plates and plastic cups and that worked just fine. But I do love using real china and for a party of 20-25, it’s doable. If it were a lot larger, I might reconsider.

Centerpieces:

I have two favorite fresh-greenery centerpieces I often use on my tables for a holiday party. The breakfast table normally gets an arrangement of magnolia branches tucked down inside a tall vase filled with water and real lemons.

And the dining room table gets a Colonial Williamsburg style apple tree.

I place two (real) pineapple candle holders on either side. You can find the forms to make these trees for sale at the Williamsburg Marketplacewebsite. I’ll be doing a tutorial on how to make one very soon. It isn’t hard but I’ll share some tips that make it go a lot smoother. The apple tree can be made 2-3 days in advance of a party. I bought the thingies I used to make the pineapple candle holders on a home tour years ago.

Well, that’s about it! Hope this proves helpful when you have your next party! :)

Looking forward to viewing your beautiful tablescapes!

Please Read:
If you are participating in Tablescape Thursday, please be sure to add your permalink below, and not your general blog address. To get your permalink, click on your post name. Then just copy and paste the address that shows up in the address bar at the top, into the “url” box for the picture linky. You’ll also need to put your e-mail address in, but don’t worry, it will not be visible to anyone.

You may see a red X once you enter your link. No one else can see the red X, it’s just there in case you make a little mistake and need to delete your link and re-enter it.

I’d love for you to use the Tablescape Thursday logo button in your post. To do that, just copy and paste it to your computer and upload it to your post as you would any photo. Or, just grab the html code posted on the sidebar under the TT button.

Please, link back to the host blog, Between Naps on the Porch. This is important because it helps those who are visiting your blog, find the other wonderful tablescapes posted for this Tablescape Thursday, thus increasing visits for all participants.

Please, do not add your link below, until your tablescape post is actually published to your blog.

Please, don’t add your post name/blog name in ALL CAPS…it tends to create big spaces between the rows of links. Thanks!





Comments

  1. Great party planning tips! Thanks for them.
    Sherry

  2. shannon i olson says:

    Beautiful and great inspiration!

  3. Some beautiful photos and amazing tips. Thanks so much, Susan.
    Thanks for hosting..:)

  4. Tricia@The Dull and the Dutiful says:

    Great post, Susan! I have been enjoying all your posts with party tips. Love the centerpiece ideas, especially!

  5. oh, your tablescapes and tips are the best! Thanks for hosting a great party, too! Lezlee

  6. Donna@Conghaile Cottage says:

    Your Lenox dishes are "ALMOST" to beautiful to cover with food… OH BUT I've seen your food and it's a work of art too… The silverware dishes are a surprise to me. I have very old ones that I always thought were relish, etc, dishes. I always put cranberry sauce, and other relishes in them, Hmmmm, thank you for the lesson. ALTHOUGH I still like them for what I DO use them for. Thank you for all your beautiful tips, LOVE IT ALL!
    Hugs, Donna

  7. I don't have anything to link up, but I just had to say how wonderful this Party Planning series is. I am NOT an entertainer, but my husband is (or would like to be again) and this series helps me wrap my brain around everything. Very cool. I've been reading you in my RSS reader for ages, but had to come out of "hiding" for this. Thank you.

  8. Jacqueline says:

    Just reading your party planning ideas makes me remember so many parties, and so many ways I have set up and served and they all have worked. How fun. It sure gets me excited for some parties. Happy Holidays.

  9. Great tips. I am determined to be ready and then to enjoy my holidays this year…I need all the tips I can find!

  10. Great party tips and beautiful photos, Susan!..Christine

  11. Susan, Thanks for all the GREAT party tips! I'm lovin' these party posts!
    The Williamsburg apple cone is such a classic,and I love it, but for some strange reason I've never made it. I definitely am going to do it this year.. guess I'd better hurry and order the form.

  12. Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) says:

    Hi Susan, I do remember looking back over that Lenox china post and every time I see that china I think of you! It is beautiful. I am enjoying your tips and party photos. Your house must be perfect for parties, with the warm colors and so many areas to gather! Linda

  13. Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) says:

    Oh Susan, I forgot to mention that I would love to see the recipe for the champagne punch! Linda

  14. Susan, thanks for all these wonderful ideas. I have a small house but like to entertain. Some of your ideas have given me some new ideas to try. Thank you!

  15. Estela @ Weekly Bite says:

    These table scapes are amazing!! This is my first time visiting your blog and I've gotten so many great ideas :)

  16. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    Stephanie…thanks so much for commenting! :) I'm enjoying creating these…it's helping me remember lots of things. No time for a party this year but maybe a New Years would be fun. :)

  17. Yet more great entertaining tips! I really liked everything that you showed, especially the dining room table.

    My favorite part of all is the pineapple and apple centerpiece.

    Thanks for hosting THIS party every week as well.

  18. lulumusing says:

    So many lovely things to work with….I'm beginning to wonder where you store them all!

  19. Oh Lordy, I'm in LOVE! That beverage server is wonderful. Instead of looking like a big ole water cooler (the way some of them do), this is the epitome of classy-looking serving pieces! I bet it is gorgeous filled with your Champagne Punch.

    If it ever goes missing, it probably means I've found out where you live and have liberated it! LOL!

  20. laurie @ bargain hunting says:

    Susan, this was fun seeing some of my old favorites and some new things too. I remember when you got that gorgeous china, and I instantly fell in love with it too. I'm curious about the beverage server, because I saw on in an antique store recently also. I was afraid it had a hidden crack and would leak when I filled it. Yours is gorgeous. Were you able to test it out before purchasing it? Thanks again for all of the great tips and for hosting TT. laurie

  21. bunny, The Paris House says:

    Hi Susan,
    I love this post, your photos and tips are wonderful! I love using pineapples as centerpieces during the holidays. When the historic society comes to our home the garden club always puts them out, so welcoming! Your tips are incredibly helpful…thank you for hosting
    xx
    Bunny

  22. These are great tips, perfect timing! Your pictures are perfect, too, as always. Susan you are the hostess with the mostess – thanks for sharing your secrets with us, and for TT.
    xo
    Heidi – Heart and Home

  23. Wonderful tips Susan! I finally bought a beautiful 40-cup coffee server after having to make coffee in a regular over and over, which really helped a lot!

  24. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    Laurie, You and I think alike! The shop owner filled it with water so I could test it before I bought it. :)

  25. I am sure a party at your house would be very special indeed! You don't miss a detail!
    I remember those days before the parties cleaning and cooking, and going to work. So many hours burning the midnight oil! It makes me tired to think about it now. :)
    Thanks for hosting!

  26. Dana and Daisy says:

    Thank you for hosting Susan. It has been a long time since I've participated. Fall gets me cooking and planning and decorating! I would love your recipe for the champagne punch, It looks very refreshing!

    Kindest regards:
    Dana (and Daisy too)

  27. I have so enjoyed dropping in this week for all your tips. There is always something to learn and your generous spirit is a blessing for us.

  28. Well Susan I couldn't get my stuff together today and join in the fun of Tablescape Thursday but I will enjoy all the others including your beautiful Winter Greetings. I have the same Holiday china, I was actually looking at it today coming up with ideas as to my Christmas tablescape for December. You have great taste LOL. I also love the Williamsburg look, I never get sick of it. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful tips for the holidays and your beautiful table.

  29. Brushed By An Angel says:

    Great post with lots of useful info. I love your beverage server. I have one similar that I purchased several years ago at Home Goods. They have a simpler version in the wedding department at JoAnn's Fabrics. I would love to have your punch recipe, please post.
    Brenda

  30. First of all, yes, PLEASE share the recipe for the punch! It looks so good!!!! I love the idea of using a beverage server for it too!!!! I have been thinking about getting one but didn't know how I would use one, but we have an Open House every year so I will get one now! I would love to have enough china plates to use, it always looks so much nicer to me. I am loving all these tips and advice, thank you so much!!!!! XO, Pinky

  31. Hi Susan! This series of party planning posts have been wonderful. I've really enjoyed and learned some things too! I love seeing your gorgeous dining room all decked out for a party!
    I haven't played in TT in so long. We've been doing some remodeling but soon I hope to be able to play in my dishes again.
    May I have just one cookie? :)
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  32. Handy Man, Crafty Woman says:

    I don't have a tablescape to share…but I just love your red dining room!! Our previous house had a red dining room…I miss it so much, this house doesn't have a dining room…*sighhhh*

  33. Susan (My Place to Yours) says:

    Susan, you're offering great suggestions and encouragement for party planning. Anyone who has yet to be brave enough to host a party should be starting to feel courageous by now! :-) Good work!

  34. The Polka Dot Closet says:

    I would love your champagne punch recipe! Every year I do a ladies only champagne holiday brunch. I do a kind of Mimosa but, yours are much prettier! I would die for that punch server!

    Carol

  35. A lot of useful information! The beverage server is lovely, and I look forward to your punch recipe.

  36. Susan,
    As always, you have done a spectacular table!
    Blessings Girl!
    xx

  37. Alycia Nichols says:

    Just too beautiful for words! I love the look of Colonial Williamsburg on the table!!! The Lenox china is exquisite, too!!!!

  38. Nellie's Cozy place says:

    Hi Susan,
    This was a really great post, and I know it took you a lot of time to put it together. thanks for doing that!!
    and also thanks for hosting the Tablescape party each and every week.
    Hope you are enjoying being home now.
    Love love love your Christmas dishes,
    so very pretty.
    Blessings, Nellie

  39. Thanks so much for the review of how to give a great party! It has been a while for me, and we all need reminders. Your Winter Greetings is lovely, and it really makes a festive table.

  40. Farah Muzaffar says:

    Susan its a very helpful posts, sometime something slips from your mind while arranging parties, your this post is very good for those like me. Thanks a lot that you create it with lots of your time and effort, I will be one of my favourite…

    http://craftaworld.blogspot.com/

    Love
    Farah

  41. Great ideas for the big day. I always serve a candy cane punch at Christmas that my mom always made. Kathy

  42. Hi Susan,
    I love your table, as always. This table is so very festive with the classical white and silver. I love your flatware caddies, they look really sophisticated. And the bird plates with winter design border look really gorgeous. No doubt, that all makes a great Christmas table.
    Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Greetings, Johanna

  43. Thank you for all the wonderful tips for setting up a buffet. I have a small dining room that opens to the living room so like you I have several stations. My laundry room becomes the beverage room. I cover the washer and dryer with a Christmas tablecloth and use trays to cover the gap between the machines. The trays hold the beverage glasses and punch cups for a crockpot of wassail. This is the only time I appreciate having my laundry room off the kitchen!

    I would love the punch recipe!

    Thank you!
    Mary

  44. Carol at Serendipity says:

    Susan,
    These posts are wonderful – full of good ideas. I love the napkin folding tutorials as well.
    Carol

  45. I'm ready! Not here, but ready to come to your house. Great inspiration.

  46. Great party planning tips. Love the table and I for one would love the recipe for the Champagne Punch, to be posted.

  47. What FUN it must be to attend one of your parties! This was just fun reading and seeing all about it. Looking forward to the next verses. franki

  48. Dear Susan,

    Thank you for sharing so many helpful and inspiring suggestions for entertaining during the holidays (most would be great at any time of year!). I remember your beautiful Williamsburg-inspired centerpiece and still hope to try that sometime. The beverage server looks wonderful on your sideboard and, yes, we'd love to have your champagne punch recipe. The sugared rims you did look really festive!

    Thank you for hosting Tablescape Thursday and for inviting us into your beautiful home.

    Warmest regards,
    Bill

  49. ~ ~ Ahrisha ~ ~ says:

    Hi Susan~ ~
    I am very much enjoying your Party Planning Pointers. Its fun to see how others do it. I too have been giving large parties for many years and after a while its a piece of cake. I love having friends over to share the Holiday Spirit.
    ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  50. Susan, I love all your great tips! I'm having a baby shower for my niece in a couple of weeks, and you've inspired me! Would love to have your champagne punch recipe.

    Jane
    frugalfineliving.com

  51. nancydianne says:

    Would love that punch recipe! Thinking of using it for our Christmas Eve family dinner. Thanks for this party planner, Nancy

  52. Hi Susan,

    What great ideas! I love the silverware caddy idea and the coffee station. Your dining room is so beautiful and that mirror is to die for. I would love to be invited to one of your parties. Great post.
    Hugs,
    Carey

  53. Hi Susan,

    What great ideas! I love the silverware caddy idea and the coffee station. Your dining room is so beautiful and that mirror is to die for. I would love to be invited to one of your parties. Great post.
    Hugs,
    Carey

  54. I really appreciate your posts – it's just too easy to be so busy that we forget something! These days, I need tips…lots of tips! Thanks, too, for the links for the service goodies!

  55. Such a great party guide! It looks like you have many lovely gatherings in your home.!

  56. Wonderful post – just beautiful! Would love the recipie for the champagne punch!!!

  57. currentlychic.com says:

    Susan,
    Have gone over and over your post several times. Absolutely love it! I really enjoyed the peak into your dining room. Gorgeous! Would you mind giving us (or just me, if you don't want to publish) a little information about those beautiful silver lamps on your buffet/sideboard? They are spectacular! Also, yes, yes, yes! I want the recipe for the champagne! It's beautifully presented and it looks like it is delish!
    CC
    http://currentlychic.com

  58. Susan, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate all you do. Your blog is amazing! You are one of the most relevant bloggers I know! Every post is as informative as it is entertaining! Ultimate eye-candy too! Thanks for inspiring all of us new and old tablescapers and hostesses! YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!!

  59. Susan, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate all you do. Your blog is amazing! You are one of the most relevant bloggers I know! Every post is as informative as it is entertaining! Ultimate eye-candy too! Thanks for inspiring all of us new and old tablescapers and hostesses! YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!!

  60. Susan, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate all you do. Your blog is amazing! You are one of the most relevant bloggers I know! Every post is as informative as it is entertaining! Ultimate eye-candy too! Thanks for inspiring all of us new and old tablescapers and hostesses! YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!!

  61. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    Hi CC,
    Thanks so much for you sweet comment! Appreciate all the wonderful comments that have been left on this post! About your question, the lamps on my sideboard are silverplate and I bought them around 15 years ago from a store that was in business here locally. They used to have a warehouse sale from time to time.
    Susan

  62. Cass @ That Old House says:

    Oh Susan, you are tempting me with those Lenox Christmas dishes; I adore them!
    Loving your party tutorials; great info.
    Cass

  63. Love love love this post! I especially appreciate your sharing what sources you use to buy your party supplies (when they aren't antiques!) May I ask you about the gorgeous wreath on your mirror above the sideboard? All the silver, candles and glass are too beautiful.

  64. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    Hi Nancy,
    I found the wreath at Old Time Pottery around 3 years ago. I put it up one Christmas and liked it there so much, I just left it. So it stays up all year. The reindeer candle holders came from Hobby Lobby a few years back.
    Thanks so much! :)
    Susan

  65. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    Nancy…I just looked back and saw one pic showed another set of candle holders…silver base with glass globe. Those came from Marshalls last year.

  66. I'll be honest, I often find Christmas china to be hit or miss for me. And most often that's a miss. But that pattern is lovely! Thanks for all the great tips!

  67. great linkys! I have decided to invest in a large set of all white dishes for parties; that way I can use napkins and flowers (and the cool pineapple idea) as my color spots. love the idea of a cake table and a separate coffee station.

  68. one word….
    GOBSMACKED :) !!! **** !!!

  69. Hi Susan,
    I enjoyed reading all your great tips for entertaining-thank you and thanks also for hosting again.

    Carolyn

  70. I love all your tips ad the beauty of the room. The red walls, silver and crystals accents are so stunning. I am waiting for the champagne punch recipe! Sorry I'm not a table-scaper..but I do enjoy seeing everybody elses and of course yours!
    Maybe by Christmas I'll join in with a tablescape! My mother always took the time to put out her pretty china and decorated to the hilt for Christmas. I love seeing your home and your beautiful decorating! Looking forward to more!

  71. I enjoyed reading your post about party planning and seeing all of your wonderful ideas. I have been working on collecting things to set a beautiful table. I love the apple and pineapple centerpiece. I will have to come back and spend some time looking at the links in your post. Thanks for hosting Tablescape Thursday, there is so much to look at and I have seen a few but will look at as many more as I can.

  72. This cristal urn is adorable:) I am going to try out recepie for champagne very soon! Hava a good weekend! :)

  73. The recipe for the punch looks wonderful. I might just have to try this at our pre christmas get together.

    Thanks

    Kelly

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