19 July 2011, East Hampton–One of the joys of giving a dinner party is doing up the table; and one of the drags is not having time to do it. Of course you tell yourself it doesn’t matter because what’s important is getting your friends together, and the gracious setting of your home or garden is atmosphere enough. And you’re absolutely right. You needn’t convulse with anxiety over creating a spectacular table when the merely pretty will do. Besides, summer entertaining should be easy-breezy. Here are two versions of the same table, merely pretty, done for back-to-back dinners at Bee Cottage last weekend, plus Sunday lunch.
And here’s a secret: In lieu of acquiring vast inventories of linen and china, and if you don’t live next door to the fabulously inventoried (and fabulous) Carolyne Roehm, look into renting from a local party supply company. You have a big selection, and it may be easier and cheaper than you think. This past weekend I rented two lavender banquet cloths for Friday and Saturday nights ($30 total), and a dozen lovely coral napkins ($30) for Sunday lunch. Hell it’s worth 60 bucks not to have to wash and iron the dern things.
As for flowers, you needn’t be tied to conventional arrangements. If you don’t have a cutting garden, pick up a few bunches of something that will hold its shape out of water (for a while, anyway), and strew along the center of your table, or across your napkins, by the place cards, or stuck in the simplest glass vases or hurricane lanterns.
My dining room only seats eight, but I can accommodate more in the garden. Unlike linens and china, tables and chairs don’t need much washing and ironing. So rather than rent those I invested in two 6-foot folding tables and un-offensive neutral colored folding chairs. Because they are plastic (but sturdy), they are light enough for me to tote around myself if I have to, and they survive the winter in the garden shed.
The tale of two tables ends Saturday night. For Sunday lunch we are under the awning on the porch because it’s too dang hot in the sun. Again, the merely pretty will do. These coral napkins were just the thing to jazz up tin picnic plates, and that was that. Sunday lunch should be about relaxing, your décor along with it.