The people sitting around the table are the secret to any great party, (preferably a glorious mix of glamorous, funny, cosy, powerful, kind, clever folk). Then it’s all about atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. Music is also essential and lighting is key.
We are not here to lambast the dinner table. Or the lunch table or the afternoon tea table. We love tables, and are the first to document our tablesettings on instagram with the aim of reminding people to keep it simple, a party should be fun, not hard work.
Let’s all just violently agree that tables are brilliant. But, it is the preternatural growth and monstrous ego of the table setting that Tatler magazine wishes to discuss, and says is ruining parties. “It’s getting in the way of laughter and silliness, discussion and edification, flirting and connection, friendship and memory-making, all for the sake of photos.”
“Yes, it might be a mini-trellis on the table with roses gently clambering all over it (which will be dead by morning), or a barricade built of vases that may be low-lying, so you can crane your neck over the top, or soaring rainforest-type explosions that are at best antisocial and, at worst, extremely claustrophobic. It could be a hedge-like fortification with fake butterflies clipped to it (‘Oooooh, will anyone mind if I clip one in my hair so I can Instagram THAT?’). But, frankly, we should be grateful for fake butterflies, because there is a disturbing trend for live animals. Bowls of goldfish at pudding; jars of live butterflies flickering against the glass of a display cloche (they only live for a day, give them a break); and baskets of doves that will, at some crucial moment, be released in a gesture intended to celebrate love but more reminiscent of a horror film where eyes get pecked out.”
“And candles, so many candles. Rooms entirely lit by candles so that the person opposite you is obscured in a terrifying, heat-hazy glow. Candles on the hottest days of the year. Candles at ‘destination’ weddings in scorching places. Candles that make mascara run down faces. Candles that set hair on fire. Candles of all different heights and widths; positively threatening in their sheer numbers. And scented, so scented. Does anyone have a couple of Nurofen, please?”
Similarly, flowers are scented, gorgeous and luxe-y and, of course, now read as a statement of ‘good taste’ and ‘money’. The more flowers, the bigger the spend. But they seem to be used on tables almost to keep us out of the party rather than to welcome us in. They are placed with such uncompromising aggression that one feels that, should the hosts be forced to choose between their table flowers and their guests, they might choose the blooms. That’s depressing.
If the most interesting and beautiful thing about a lunch or dinner party is the setting, then we have failed. As hosts. As guests. Sure, make it pretty, (that’s part of welcoming people to your party), but let us talk. Let us be more than placeholders to frame ‘tablescape’ (that word is becoming a thing, heaven help us).
What is the better outcome of a party: a good photograph and everyone in bed by midnight? Or people having inclusive conversations, forging new friendships, thinking about working together, howling with laughter and maybe, in this age of virtual connection, having actual human being practise?
Do you want your wedding/birthday to be remembered for the amazing table settings (by the way, as a final point, chill with the personalised napkins and objets – common) or for the fact that loads of people copped off, cried with giggles and made some memories? I’m afraid you do have to choose.