What makes a dinner party go from average to amazing? I promise you, it’s not caviar and French bubbles, Hermes china and or even your grandmother’s silver. It’s the atmosphere you create. When you entertain, you’re opening your home, and guests will know when you’ve put thought into their evening. You want them to feel welcomed and loved – and that feeling is what they’ll remember. And no matter what happens, don’t forget to laugh. There’s always pizza delivery and more wine…

In the meantime, here are our top five dinner party tips!

Employing a theme for your dinner party can be as straightforward as a color palette. You may want to up the ante with more specific schemes, but make sure that you don’t go so over the top that guests feel crowded or your table looks forced. Think outside the box and simplify your vision.

Luxury Linens
Textiles are the foundation of your table. Everything you set on your table will go over the cloth, and the napkin will be in your guests’ hands the entire evening. Resist the temptation to go with basic white linens or paper (eek!) napkins.

Guests eat with their eyes as much as their mouths, so give them something to take in by staggering heights on the table. Candles are the easiest way to vary height, because you can use votives and tapers to create light from inches to feet off the table. Rather than plain glass votives, use small vintage cups or julep glasses.

The Unexpected
Challenge yourself to make your table festive, elegant, and slightly unexpected. The best way to do this is to look around your house for beautiful objects and use them on your table. Agate, bronze stars, topiaries – whatever you decorate your home with doubles as tablescape fodder.

Setting the tone for the evening is just as important as your décor and menu. If you don’t want guests dancing on the table, skip EDM tracks in favor of a classic crooner like Otis Redding. And don’t forget to plan an ice breaker, especially if not everyone is familiar with one another. My go-to is “Two Truths, One Lie,” which is a quick way to get the party started.

>Written by Liz Curtis of Table + Teaspoon