The Art of the Elegant Dinner

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The Art of the Elegant Dinner

Every homemaker, needs,  in their repertoire, the know how to put together an ‘elegant dinner’. Why? Well..first to celebrate special occasions like anniversaries, special birthdays  and holidays.  It’s also lovely to host an elegant dinner as a romantic treat for you and hubby when funds are tight and you can’t get out on a date.  I sometimes put together a special dinner just to treat visiting company. It is very important to know how to do this when you are dealing with weddings and other formal ocassions.  In the normal wedding, the mother or the mother-in-law or even friends of the bride may be called upon to host the bridal luncheon, shower luncheons, or rehearsal dinner etc. And the following 'elements' are all essential to a truly lovely 'tea' party. :o)


My daughter, who is now 20, wanted to ‘try her hand’ at a really elegant dinner for Valentine’s Day. She wanted to treat Tim and I and her brothers too.  She planned the whole dinner and tried out several new recipes.  And to tell you the truth, she really out did her mother! It’s never occurred to me to look up instructions on unique and lovely ways to fold napkins!
I have done dinners like this for years and even once held a very formal ‘luncheon’ for Rebekah and her friends on her 10th birthday.  So she has helped me prepare for elegant dinners many times in the past. How sweet it was for me to watch her do the whole thing, all by herself. She planned it  and prepared it from beginning to end! And it really was a lovely treat. :o) I told her that as far as I was concerned, she had officially graduated from my personal 'homemaking school'.

So what do you need to host an elegant dinner? Well, an elegant dinner has as more to do with atmosphere than cooking. Rebekah wanted to create the feel of an Italian restaurant.  It helps to choose a theme to simplify the decision making process about decor and recipes etc.

To create a romantic or elegant atmosphere, you need to first decide on proper lighting i.e. tapered candles, Christmas lights, floating candles, or even outdoor lighting. Do you know that it’s consider ed impolite to host a dinner even for one guest and not light the candles if the candles are sitting on the table? I didn’t, but a dear friend, (a MAN) told me that.  Candles say, “You’re welcome here.”

rebekah folds napkins



Then you need to set the table with your best white tablecloths, though even white sheets will do in a pinch! I’ve added lace and white organza (in a wedding rehearsal dinner) to add sparkle to a table.  The creamy satin tablecloth and napkins you see here were purchased for $5.00 on clearance --It had enough settings for eight people!  The sale was right after Christmas. That’s the perfect time to stock up on white linens. You can never have too many!  I also have some vintage lace and linen..but save them for VERY special occasions. :o)  Click for Napkin tutorial.


Before any special dinner, you need to pull out your linens, check them for stains, wash them if  need be, and then iron and press them.  Rebekah was smiling serenely to herself while doing this task early on the day of our Valentine’s dinner. It made me smile to see her so happy. :o)

table setting

China or Simple Dishes
Then break out your best china and silverware, if you have it.  But you don’t have to have fine china, you can use simple clear glass or white dishes and they will look perfect! Or start collecting mismatched china plates from your local thrift store. We use our china often. Our children ARE our special guests!  Every now and then, Rebekah and I decide to make an elegant dinner for no reason at all. :o)  It’s such a sweet way to bless your family!


We were blessed to inherit silver plated silverware from Tim’s grandmother and have used it with loving pride for many many years. And again, thrift stores abound with this sort of thing. But really, every day silver works just fine. Especially when tucked in a beautifully folded napkin! It feels so special to sit with my daughter an polish our silver in preparation for a special holiday dinner. It’s such an ageless task!  One of my favorite scenes in “Remains of the Day” with Anthony Hopkins, was of the entire household preparing elegant dinners for important guests. Polishing china and ironing linens were critical tasks and done to perfection in the movie by the butlers and maids. :o)


Flowers or a Centerpiece
Flowers add such a touch of elegance to the atmosphere of a dinner. And it needn’t cost an arm and a leg. We have often picked flowers from the yard, floated blossoms in a bowl of water, or just brought in some broken limbs with leaves still on it.  This week, we bought a small $5.00 bouquet of carnations from Wal-mart. Then we cut them down to half their length and arranged them in a short crystal bowl. This way we could see each other over the top of the bouquet.

Note: Remember to cut the stems when you get your flowers home, put them in cool water, but don't add the food just clogs the flower's arteries. And only put in a couple of inches of water, not enough to reach leaves, which causes them to spoil. You only need water at the cut part of the stems. They will last a long time this way!


I did this for the first time at the main table of our rehearsal dinner so the groom and bride, and parents from both sides could see each other and visit. (Andrew and Ebeth’s wedding.) Wildflowers, pinecones, leaves…anything from a simple walk can work. Fruit works well too!
Dinner is served
Glasses and Sparkly
This is the time to make something special to drink like fruit juice spritzers, dessert coffees, wine, champagne, or sparkling juice.  Soda water can add sparkle to any fruit juice for a beautiful beverage.  A friend added slices of cucumber to pitchers of ice water and it not only looked lovely but tasted heavenly!  A little research online can give you a whole smorgasbord of ideas!

Floating fruit slices or mint leaves can make a drink look especially nice.  Be sure to set up the coffee pot ahead of time too with a coffee center all arranged for after dinner coffee. Many guests will enjoy coffee after dinner or with dessert.  I have a friend who was the queen of hostesses and even though she never drank coffee..she had a pot just for the sake of guests. Now that’s hospitality!

Linking with Natasha's Sunday Song. :o)
Music is one of the easiest ways to add atmosphere to a dinner.  We play old ballroom music for our special dinners, but Hawaiian music, Mexican music, or jazz can all add the feel of a special ‘somewhere else faraway’ kind of feeling.

Seating Arrangements and Placecards
You don’t have to plan ahead or make namecards, but really, they look so pretty and also help make guests feel more comfortable by deciding ahead of time who would most enjoy sitting next to whom. At home, this is just a special ‘extra’ touch, but at a large formal dinner, this is a CRITICAL courtesy.  Mix up people who know each other with those who don’t so everyone will have someone to talk to that they are familiar with..and will get the chance to meet new people they aren’t. 

bruschetta close     oranges

 table setting
Appetizers add an extra special touch to any dinner occasion. Really, they give your guests something yummy to snack on while they are waiting for you to make last minute dinner arrangements.  Fruit arranged on a tray and sprinkled with powdered sugar, frozen grapes rolled in sugar, bite-size quiches, crackers with cheese and sausage, even chips and salsa or guacamole are all good choices.

The Menu
Sometimes the best menus are family favorites like roast beef, turkey, grilled steaks, and other meats we normally don’t buy.  But in a pinch a good casserole with extra special ingredients can work just as well. Rebekah made this Italian baked ziti casserole with four different cheeses! Working with a truly special recipe can up something average to..elegant…very easily. 

A friend who was a cook simply added sour cream and mashed leeks to his mashed potatoes and it was just heavenly!  Take extra pains to make a very simple dishes extra special..and don't forget dessert! Rebekah made a fabulous one called 'Chocolate pots'. Oh was divine!

Our Family Valentine's Dinner
One of our favorite treats is to use all of these things to make an ‘elegant’ breakfast.  You don’t have to have a special occasion to make an elegant meal....surprise your family … tonight!

Linking with Raising Homemakers Homemaking Link Up 

 Between Naps on the Porch's Tablescape Thursdayssignature


Anonymous said...

Yeah Really very nice your elegant dinner, nice location and lovely recipe . your all photo's very best and nice details shared in the post. amazing this post and interesting. i loved that and thanks for nice sharing

Romantic Dinner Bruges

Trudy said...

Beautiful table. What a blessing.

claudia b said...

Love it!!! I love entertaining and putting my best stuff out for my guests, I think it's such a lost art these days!!!

Jill said...

Everything looks beautiful!

We are big entertainers here too, a blessing from my Mom. :-)

Have a great day!!


Kerrie said...

So Lovely and such fun!

Natasha in Oz said...

This is a brilliant post! I love elegant dinner parties and this looks like it would be one of the most prettiest and stylish dinners I have ever seen! You have even folded your napkins so beautifully! WOW!! I think your choice in music is just perfect too! You should link this post to Tablescape Thursday at Susan's!

Thanks for linking this to Sunday Song. I love it!

Best wishes,

GlorV1 said...

Nice table. I love the lights and of course candles really ensure a warm atmosphere. Thank you for sharing this. I think your daughter did a great table. Have a wonderful week.

'LUSH' said...

Such a beautiful gesture for the family to share in a meal celebrating Valentine's Day! Like you, I've taught my boys how to enjoy a special dinner! They love it!

Faith Hope and Cherrytea said...

ConGrats to both of you!
well done & beautifully posted ")

Splenderosa said...

So good to visit you today, I'm coming over from BNOTP. Nice to meet you, ladybug...xx's Marsha

Alycia Nichols said...

So nice that your daughter got in on the action! It's wonderful when the young people develop an interest for this sort of thing! She did a magnificent job!

Marigene said...

Your daughter sets a beautiful table...the food looks delicious, too!

Entertaining Women said...

Not only is your precious daughter ahead of the gracious entertaining game...I'll bet that those brothers will have higher standards when the time comes to choose their brides because of moments like this. Way to go, Mom! A beautiful tablescape and important information shared. Thank you for sharing your lovely design. Cherry Kay

Marcie @ DWYH said...

Looks wonderful! I would love for you to link this up at my Unwasted Homemaking Party :).

Anonymous said...

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