I don’t know about you, but I am craving something different for my dining experience these
days. Maybe it’s because I miss working on weddings and setting dining tables. Or that I miss
going out to dinner at a nice restaurant. It’s time for a change. Whether you’re planning a
dinner for a few friends or just your own family, your table sets the mood for the dining
experience. Take advantage of our beautiful summer weather and bring the dining experience
outside, al fresco style.
Here are a few tips on how you can do this in your own yard:
Use tablecloths or runners – I don’t have a nice outdoor dining table, just a plastic folding table.
So, I cover the table with a 90×132” linen tablecloth, which drapes to the ground and covers the
legs. If I had a wooden table, I would just use a table runner and let it drape over the ends.
Cloth napkins, not paper – Please don’t use paper napkins, those are for children’s birthday
parties. Use cloth napkins. They can match your other linens or can be a brighter color. I prefer
linen fabric, as it is soft and drapes nicely when I place it on each place setting. Polyester fabrics
are too stiff, in my opinion, though you might find they work good for you.
Napkin folding – If you have ever looked at inspiration images for how to set your dining table, I
am sure you have seen tons of ways to style the napkins. They can be folded in intricate
patterns, bound with rings, etc. My personal preference is to either press them in a long
rectangle, so they drape them over the edge of the table, a finer dining look. Or to tie them in a
loose knot and place on the edge of the plate, a more casual look. I also like to place a sprig of
rosemary on each napkin. When the napkins are moved off for dinner, the rosemary emits a
Plates and silverware, nothing fancy – You don’t need to bring out the fine china and silver.
Your everyday plates will do. Or, you can have other sets you use for this purpose. It’s totally up
to you! I use my everyday plates, which are white stoneware. They go with everything and
make the food the star.
My everyday silverware works just fine as well. I do like to place them more formally, though.
Sometimes they are set on the plate, with a napkin underneath them. Or, I set them on either
side of the plate, with the fork on the left and knife and spoon on the right. Line the bottom of the
silverware up with the bottom of the plate, for a uniform look.
Colored glassware – Here is where you can have some fun. Bring out the wine glasses and
colored water goblets! Personally, I love anything with a stem. I like that the glass is elevated
off the table a bit, giving it a visual breathing room. There are so many fun glassware options out
there: colored water goblets and cut glass. Buy just a few for your outdoor dining this summer.
Flowers and herbs – As a florist and gardener, I love bringing flowers to the dining table. They
add color and soft fragrance, bringing the garden to the table. You don’t need to create
something elaborate, though. Greenery and herbs work just as well. Look around your garden
for items you can clip.
Make sure the arrangement is no taller than 12”, so your guests can see each other over the
diner table. And don’t make it too wide, or the flowers will be in your dinner plate! The best
way to avoid these problems is to use a collection of small vases. Some might only hold a few
stems of flowers, some a handful of herbs. Place them down the center of the table, leaving
space between each for other items like candles.
Candlelight dinner – No need to rush your dinner, extend it into the evening with candlelight.
Plus, everyone looks better by candlelight! Use candles of various heights, from tea lights to
pillars. Just make sure they are in glass cups, so they don’t blow out in the wind or spill wax on
I adore candle cups, just ask my husband. There are boxes and boxes of them out in our barn!
Some of my favorites are mercury glass, in both silver and gold. And anything in cut glass, as I
like how the light is reflected through the patterns. Some colored glass I use for the holidays,
like red and orange. Glass cups are usually inexpensive and can be stored easily in boxes when
not in use.
Neutral tones – I’ve mentioned several areas you can add color to your dining table. Consider
when you do this to keep the colors neutral – cream, tan, grey, greens. They tend to blend
better with your garden and are more versatile. Plus, they let the food be the star. But you can
definitely go brighter if that makes you happy!
Chairs – Now I am getting a bit of picking. You can use any chairs that you have. Personally, I like
the chairs for all match. Probably goes back to my wedding industry background. Many people
buy a table and chair set when purchasing outdoor furniture. I use folding wooden chairs I
found at Ikea. Just like my table, they fold up and store nicely in my barn until I need them
I hope this inspires you to bring your next dinner outside. With a little bit of effort, your dining
experience will be transformed. As will your mood!
Wedding and Floral Designer
Flowers have been my passion since I was young. Raised in a family of gardeners, I remember choosing seed packets from the farm store each spring. The anticipation of the flowers blooming, all that color and fragrance in the garden, was so thrilling to me! Nature still provides me with constant inspiration, the way a branch is shaped or a flower is bobbing in the breeze. I strive to translate that feeling into my designs, creating florals that look as though they were just picked from the garden.
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