Summer is finally here, and it’s time to get outside...and throw a dinner party! If you haven’t hosted in a while or just need advice on how to get started, we’ve got you covered. Lisa Vorce, a party planner extraordinaire who has helped Chrissy throw some of her most memorable soirees, walked us through how to build out a dreamy outdoor tablescape using our new Daily tabletop collection.
“Chrissy’s entertaining style is wonderfully informal, plentiful—you’ll never leave hungry—and creatively fun," Lisa explains. "It’s also full of fresh elements, natural tones, and personal touches that make everyone feel special."
This tablescape will wow your guests but won’t exhaust you before the party even starts. The key is following her three "pillars”: function (for making the layout flow and work for a dinner party), design (aesthetically pleasing), and soul (little personal touches). This trio creates a beautiful atmosphere that you’ll want to enjoy long after the meal has ended.
Check out some of her key tips below!
PART ONE: FUNCTION
1. GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR TABLE SPACE
Most of us don’t have a table that can seat 8–12 people (and if you do, well, that’s pretty impressive). Instead, bring tables used indoors to your backyard—or build one after a quick trip to a home improvement store! Just place 4–6 recycled milk crates on the ground (the four corners of the table and one or two in the middle for stability) and top with a large piece of plywood.
For seating, use indoor chairs or benches for higher tables. For tables lower to the ground, throw comfy floor pillows or cushions across a blanket to create the ultimate cozy atmosphere and effortless look.
When plotting out table settings, account for two feet per person at the table for breathing room, if possible.
2. SPACE OUT THE FOOD
Your guests will be hungry when they arrive, so you should have grazing snacks like a charcuterie board, crudités and dip, or delightful deviled eggs on the table. But these are for more than just preventing hangry guests—the platters will act as placeholders on the table and create pre-set “pockets” for the next courses to go into once the meal kicks off. (Where the cheese board was, a platter of steak and grilled vegetables can go.)
Plan your dinner in waves, starting with appetizers, mains and sides to follow, and ending with dessert. This avoids crowding the table with all the dishes at once.
3. SET THE TABLE
Stack plates and bowls at table settings to minimize clutter and maximize table space. Dinner plates should go at the bottom for the main course, followed by a low bowl (like our All-Day Bowl) or side plate for salads or pastas, and topped with a smaller bowl that could work for either soup or ice cream!
Place two glasses per setting: one for water and the other for your beverage of choice, whether that’s wine, beer, or soda. Using two heights of glasses is appealing to the eye, not to mention an easy way to differentiate which glass is which. Pro-tip: Pre-fill the water glasses a few minutes before guest arrival so the water stays cold.
For flatware, you’ve got two chic options: Wrap into a napkin and tie together with twine or string, or use something fun like a scarf to add a pop of color. For either, you can add a bundle of fresh herbs or flowers and a place card or hand-written menu for extra personality. (This tip actually combines function, design, AND soul all in one!)
PART TWO: DESIGN
1. DECORATING IS AS EASY AS 1, 2, 3!
Stick to this formula for stunning results in no time:
You’ll have to use your imagination here to divide your table into five equal sections horizontally. Sections 1, 3, and 5 are where all of your decorative pieces will sit, while your serveware will go in sections 2 and 4.
Start with section 3, aka your one central piece. Here you can use fresh flowers, greens, or produce to dress up the table and add natural pops of color. Then, work your way out to decorate the two supporting satellite pieces in sections 1 and 5.
Once you’ve completed each section, fill in any open pockets with filler items, such as clusters of candles, bowls of fresh fruit, wine bottles or water pitchers for guests to self-serve, or even potted plants and herbs!
2. HAVE FUN WITH MIX-AND-MATCH TEXTILES
Textiles are an easy way to give your tabletop major personality. If you're going for a rustic vibe, skip the table linens and leave your table or plywood uncovered.
Otherwise, this is your chance to get crafty! You can use traditional tablecloths and runners, or try butcher paper (which you can write on for place cards or to label what different dishes are), throw blankets, towels, or other fabrics.
An easy way to set the initial vibe of the tablescape is to choose whether you want to go neutral or colorful with a runner, then build other colors and textures around that. Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns, especially for napkins. This is also a great way for guests to keep track of whose napkin is whose.
PART THREE: SOUL
1. SET THE MOOD
Rule of thumb in life: You can never have too much candlelight. Combine low tea lights with chunky pillar candles for height.
String lighting also works beautifully to create a warm glow after the sun sets.
Create a playlist that caters to your specific friend groups or memories, or make a collaborative playlist that people can add to.
2. ADD PERSONAL TOUCHES
Think about what is unique and special about you, your home, and your guests that you can add to the table for ambiance. It can be a random tchotchke from a group trip or an empty bottle of the wine you always drink together that is upcycled as a vase.
Bonus: Send your guests home with fruit and flowers from the table, repurposed as party favors.
Welcome your guests not only with food, but also with comfort. Use a basket on the side to store essentials like flip flops, bug spray, or blankets to encourage people to stay awhile.