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Planning an intimate rooftop party? Samantha shares her tips on everything from handwriting invites, to florals, to pairing the perfect music (plus how to manage without possessing Masterchef-level culinary skills).
You know when you are so truly excited for someone, that when they tell you good news, you feel like it is actually happening to you? Last week, one of my very best friends in the entire world, Freya, called me to tell me she had just been promoted at work. She couldn't see the size of my smile, or how my heart started beating a little faster when she told me, and I could not have been happier or prouder of her.
I wanted to celebrate Freya & her success, so I looked at a few restaurants where we could host a gathering to bring our group together, to raise a glass to our dear friend – but in the end, I decided to host a little summer soiree at my home, so that we could celebrate by watching the sunset over champagne, have some dinner, and continue the celebration into the evening.
I love entertaining (I’m much better at pouring wine than cooking) so I use the term ‘entertaining’ to describe ordering food in & styling the table to make it look like I have been in the kitchen all day. This blog post is a quick snap shot of how to entertain when you are rubbish in the kitchen (me), some suggestions on easy ways to style your table and little touches to create beautiful moments & memories for your guests.
For this dinner, I made an invite that had the titles in my handwriting, and the details typed. I scanned my handwriting in & then overlaid the text while adding in black outlines of peonies as a bordered print. I then sent the finished art out in a group text.
Putting this little extra effort in rather than just sending the details in a text, sets the scene & feel of the event.
Even if you are not a wiz on graphic programs, there are easy ways to create a beautiful invite. Even just typing something in a word.doc in a beautiful font & adding a print or graphic to the page, which also allows you to use the print or graphic through other elements of your styling.
I put a dress code on this event ‘Summer Chic’ – (obviously this is not needed!) but I wanted guests to know that it was not just take-out on the roof (which we often do sometimes). Also, adding a dress code inadvertently states that the event is slightly more formal, and I think it is polite to let guests know this.
REMINDER & HOST REQUESTS
Sending the invite out on a group text becomes handy as you can use the thread for your reminder, plus it is a great way to keep the group who is attending in touch! (Plus, for everyone sharing photos after the event.)
Don’t be afraid to request your guests bring something. People like to help and find it very helpful if you are specific in what they can bring. For this event, I was catering the food, and I asked if each guest could kindly bring a bottle of bubbles or rosé for the table.
My favorite part of hosting a dinner!
If you are serving family style (where the dinner is placed in the middle of the table & everyone serves themselves) - like this event was, try to create a centrepiece that is easily moveable to allow for the dishes.
I got up early to get these stunning David Austin roses from the New York flower market. If you are lucky enough to live near a wholesale flower market (Flemington Market is amazing if you are in Sydney), then getting fresh blooms the morning of your event if ideal. If you are not near a wholesale market, flowers can become expensive from a florist. I suggest keeping an eye on what your local supermarket has; Coles & Woolies (in Australia) or Wholefood market (in USA) often have bunches of blooms you can scoop up for $15 a bunch.
Keep your flowers at a height that guests can see over so that they don’t hinder conversation.
(If you have enough flowers, carry the same blooms into the bathroom guests will be using. This may sound unnecessary (and it possibly is!) but it's a little extra detail that adds a touch of luxe to your guest's experience.)
For this event, I got a simple white linen tablecloth, and also purchased some light grey linen napkins. Ideally, you want to add layers of texture to your table. I used two napkins per setting; placing one under the plate to hang down off the table, and then one bunched & tied with black grosgrain ribbon.
The plates were specific sushi plates, but if you are not serving sushi, try to have two different coloured or textured plates on top of each other (a bread plate & dinner plate). This adds depth to the setting. This can be done very inexpensively, IKEA has some great matte plates, in dusty pink, white & black.
If you have more of a budget, check out Melbourne pottery brand, Robert Gordon for truly stunning crockery in marbled & natural finishes.
I created place settings in the same artwork & writing as the invite, and ripped them with a ruler to give them raw/organic edge instead of a straight scissor cut.
I then saved a few flowers from the centre piece & placed them on top of the place cards.
Often people use plastic stemware when dining outside. However, if you are able, using more formal glassware (wine, flute & water glass) adds a understated polish, and is also much nicer to drink from! Having the glassware on the table adds opulence to the setting, but if you don’t have the room, is something that can reside near the ice bucket/drink station.
To finish off the table, I added two more things. The first was little LED flickering candles – as we were on a rooftop, trying to keep real flames alight would have been impossible (plus messy!). The candles were on while the sun was still up, and as the sun started to set, the table organically came alive. These are very easy to find, and are about $8 for a pack of 12. The last thing was giant sparklers! I labelled them ‘For Apré Soliel’ (after sun), and we lit them as we toasted the guest of honor.
Spotify has playlists for every occasion, and for this dinner, we had a portable speaker streaming a playlist called ‘Chilled Hits’ which was perfect background music full of acoustic covers.
For outdoor dining, I prefer to just fill up big ice buckets, and let people serve themselves.
We served Champagne & rosé, & I alluded to this on the invite by listing dinner as ‘Sushi & Champagne’ & dessert being ‘Chocolate dipped strawberries & rosé’.
SO - let me state for the RECORD, I am a terrible cook. Actually, that implies I can cook, but am not great at it. I simply cannot cook. For this event, I wanted something simple that could be served family style, as it was happening on the rooftop & it had to be something that didn’t need heating. I ordered sushi platters from DEAN & DELUCA, who also catered the dessert.
I re-plated the sushi onto serving platters. (Don't overlook these details!)
Chocolate-dipped strawberries & rosé. I wanted to keep the dessert very simple, so the strawberries were just stacked on a matching platter and placed in the centre of the table as the conversation (and rosé) continued to flow!
The sparklers were a hit, and made for great photos! It was also a very special way to toast the guest of honor!
Anyone who knows me, knows I love to document everything with photography! I think it's really special to capture candid moments with your friends, and this event was no exception. I took photos on my phone, but also placed a Polaroid camera on the table for guests to snap away with. This one is the FujiFilm Insta70, and is super easy to load & use. I quickly snapped each of the polaroids on my photo, then guests took home the ones they wanted.
I always like to follow up the following day, usually by sending an edit of the photos from the night. I find this also starts to trigger funny stories or moments that happened the night before, and part of the fun of the event is reliving all the best bits.
I hope this blog post inspires you to host a little (or big!) soirée of your own. Having all your best friends around a table, sharing wine, food, conversation & laughter, is one of life’s most beautiful experiences; Sombremesa!
Bon Appetite! – SWx
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