Votive candles

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Set Your Stage Properly
Lighting is key to making everyone look good and sexy. No overhead lighting. "Votives are best, because you can set out lots of them and not have your party look like a séance," says Serena Bass, a Manhattan event planner and the proprietor of New York's Serena Bar & Lounge. "I like three groups of four votives on a big table, and then sets of four everywhere else." As for the table, you don't have to have flowers. Colin Cowie, the author of Dinner After Dark (Clarkson Potter), likes big bowls of eggplants and oranges—or coconuts, limes and kiwis—as centerpieces. So does Nigella Lawson, though she favors a bowl of lemons solo. You can see over them, she points out, "and there's no scent to interfere with what you're eating."