The Formula for Hosting the Least Stressful Dinner Party Ever
Jeremiah's Tips for a Cozy Dinner Party
"I like people to walk into a memorable experience, starting with cocktails in the living room. You'd be surprised how much more comfortable people feel—especially if they don't know one another well—when they have 45 minutes to mingle before dinner."
"My favorite thing in the world is a kids' table. I recently made one using old linen for the tablecloth and napkins; the kids could draw and color on everything and then take their napkins home. As a bonus, they were too busy creating to notice that there were no electronic devices in sight!"
"Entertaining is all about atmosphere, and a signature scent is a crucial touch. I happen to love a woodsy potpourri, but to each his own."
"I went to a dinner party not long ago, and instead of place cards, the host had had a friend sketch little portraits of the guests to put on each plate. If you don't have an artist friend, lots of great apps, like Enlight, turn photos into sketches or cartoons, or you can just use your favorite snapshots."
"Nothing on the table needs to look perfect, because perfection doesn't feel real. I love to layer textiles and use unusual materials for tablecloths or runners, like beautiful Peruvian potato sacks and textured drapery."
"My trick for dessert: Have everything bite-size so it can be grabbed with one hand. It's easy, and you're not walking around with a plate."
Justina's Tips for a Casual Buffet
"My family does holidays at my mom's house, and as everyone is arriving, she always hands out mugs of soup. You can also pass around finger-foody things, like portobello fries or mini latkes, in paper cones while everyone is doing the initial 'Hey!' and 'How's it going?'"
"I like a U-shaped table to maximize seating. If I need more, I'll go for a Moroccan-style setup, with lots of pillows on the floor."
"Instead of one large centerpiece, I love to create little wild floral arrangements using jars or wine bottles that I scatter around. When the party's over, guests can keep them."
"My best friends' mom writes guests' names on tiny manila hangtags and ties them onto wineglass stems—it's a place card and a wineglass charm in one."
"Creating different levels on your buffet is key. Putting dishes on cake stands not only makes the spread look better, it also makes it easier for guests to reach platters. If you don't have stands, you can do something as simple as wrapping a box in pretty fabric or paper."
"It's nice to have cakes or pies already sliced and plated because people tend to make a big mess when cutting. Do it ahead of time, and everything looks just a little more elegant."
Jeremiah Brent is an interior designer and host of OWN's Home Made Simple.
Justina Blakeney writes the Jungalow blog and is the author of The New Bohemians.