Every hostess knows that the table is at the center of any well-planned party. It’s what sets the tone for the event. Figuring out where to start is often the trickiest part so having a theme makes it a little easier – a blank slate that isn’t quite so blank. In this case, Fourth of July makes for a strong – and fairly obvious – theme and provides all the direction one needs. While I’m all about a more-is-more vibe – especially for the Fourth! – when setting the table, I think there’s a way to go big without the kitsch.
Below, tips and tricks from yours truly – plus a shopping list at the very end with all. the. things.
Start with a tablecloth
A tablecloth is an impactful first layer for what’s to come – not to mention, it’s the quickest way to cover a lot of surface area. The key to selecting the right one is to steer clear of the ones that scream Fourth of July – read: no tablecloths covered in American flag icons. Instead, opt for one that features two out of three of the colors of the day (blue + white, red + white, you get the idea) in an interesting print or a classic pattern (think: gingham or stripes). This way you’ll be able to use this tablecloth for lots of different parties rather than limiting yourself to this holiday only.
String lights can totally transform any space. They provide that perfect soft lighting and give any outdoor space a magical glow.
Now, light up the rest of the night.
Once you’ve strung up the twinkle lights, focus on the smaller spaces. Start with votives. They’re a quick trick to add a little ambience to a party. Use them on various tables throughout the space (the entry console, the small cocktail table on the patio) and disperse them along the main dining table, in between serving dishes and/or flowers. If it’s a seated dinner, opt for small table lamps or, even better, festive wax tapers. After all, everyone looks better in candlelight.
Serve casual food, but make it fancy.
Holidays make people feel nostalgic. As guest, it’s comforting to know what to expect from the day – and that includes the menu. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Stick with the classics (BBQ, corn on the cob, cherry pie…), but elevate the whole thing by simply focusing on presentation. Pull out the good stuff! Serve backyard burgers on silver platters.
It’s all about the presentation.
Layer it up with linens.
While I’m all about keeping it classic and not too theme-y with the tablecloth, I think the napkins are where you can really go for it. Let your tablecloth provide the color direction and from there, go bold by mixing and matching different patterns or, if you’d prefer a classic white linen, then add an on-theme touch with an embroidered detail such an American flag or a monogram in red-white-and-blue thread.
Great glassware goes a long way.
When it comes to bang for your buck, glassware is usually the way to go. (After all, you don’t need a formal dinner to use great glassware, all you need is a cocktail hour.) I think anyone who loves to entertain should have at least (!) one set of unique glassware. It’s the quickest way to add a little punch to the scene.
Don’t let dessert be an afterthought.
Everybody knows dessert is the best part! Don’t let the presentation be an afterthought. Dessert is meant to be happy so serve it accordingly. This is a great place to inject color and a little whimsy. La Double J’s mix-and-match dishes are just about perfect.
Six or more? You need place cards.
Whether the party is super casual or really fancy, if you’re serving a meal for six or more guests, use place cards. Nobody likes that middle-school-cafeteria feeling of standing around with a plate of food, wondering where to sit. Guests like to be told, and the majority of them follow directions well.
Make the little things, the big things
Fireworks! Sparklers! There’s nothing subtle about this holiday. A hostess should embrace the theme but rather than doing so in the big moments, focus on the little details – think: add in a couple of vintage Fourth of July elements (S&P shakers or barware), forgo the usual place cards and instead tie name tags on sparklers and place at each place setting. You get the idea.