Your friends are coming over for dinner, and you’re dying to impress them. Have no shame—inflicting jealousy is a normal desire for most hosts. But where to start? Crafting the perfect menu helps, but setting the mood has an even bigger impact. Have you ever tried eating a Michelin-starred meal while sitting on a plastic chair under fluorescent lights? We didn’t think so. The right lighting, beautiful tableware, and expertly arranged centerpieces are all part of the ceremonies of dining, especially when your inspiration photos were ripped straight out of a glossy magazine.
Shock and awe your guests by following these dinner party ideas and setting one epic table.
Break Out Your Fine China
If a magazine-worthy dinner party isn’t the time to boast your finest china, earthenware, or vintage champagne coupes, when is? If you’re worried about items breaking, have no fear; guests will be on their best behavior when your table looks its best.
Ban Plastic Containers
Do you ever see a soda bottle, Saran-wrapped dish, or paper towel on Martha Stewart’s dinner party tables? That was a rhetorical question. Forego the disposables on your table by pouring drinks into glasses and plating food in the kitchen.
Multiply Your Flower Arrangements
An underwhelming flower arrangement is a red flag for a non-editorial dinner party. Instead of one small arrangement in the center of the table, fill the space with multiple arrangements, a long garland, or dozens of bud vases. That way every guest will see some foliage.
Have Multiple Light Sources
Guests naturally want to linger in well-lit areas. Ensure the dining room is by layering various sources of soft lighting from different angles. The room (and your guests’ faces) will glow when you dim the chandelier, light candlesticks, and place votives all around the room.
Layer Your Linens
When you’re incorporating linens into your tablescape, success is found in layering. A simple tablecloth works fine on its own, but layering linens on top will add a luxe feel. Roll out a runner, use a napkin under the centerpiece, or even break out Grandma’s lace doilies for added drama.
Keep the Conversation Going
Because a dinner party is only as successful as the conversation, place a conversation piece or two on the table. This could be a sculptural item like a Kelly Wearstler objet d’art, or a natural element like a geode or a collection of seashells. Gatsby knew parties are all about impracticality.
Next up: This is how Aerin Lauder throws a dinner party to remember.
This story was originally published on June 18, 2016, and has since been updated.