Near the end of the summer every year, my great-aunt, Charlene, participates in the Table Setting fundraiser at our Synagogue. Companies, such as Z Gallerie, professionals, and congregation members who know how to host an impressive dinner party participate in decorating a single table setting from the linens to the centerpiece.
Charlene, or Bobbie as we call her, which is a childhood nickname derivative of the Yiddish word "Bubbe" (Bub-bee) meaning "grandmother", provides the dips, finger foods, and mini desserts for the fundraiser. She lines three to four tables with her infamous treats and appetizers for all to nosh.
The women in my family always put on our summer day florals to attend the event on the Sunday. While we are mostly there for our Bobbie's food and visiting with her and her daughters, who usually fly in from Atlanta to assist, we weave between the gorgeously decorated tables completely enthralled between bites.
The tables are each designed in their own concept determined by their decorator; some use contemporary motifs, some include china passed down through generations, and some detail a specific theme.
Picking a favorite proves difficult, but I usually go for one that executes a theme well without being too cheesy or a sleek, modern looking table setting. Last year an Alice in Wonderland table caught my eye, designed by a professional in the Jewish community. This year, I actually favored a vendor's setting, which I immediately logged on to Crate & Barrel's website to order pieces from for my formal dining ware after the event.
I understand the importance of serving Passover Seder or significant milestone and celebratory family dinners on proper China. But I also side with the women who hosted fancy meals for decades, like my great-aunt and grandmother, who realize that not every meal or family gathering or party requires such grandeur or hand washing effort anymore. Once in a while, you whip out the attractive but contemporary dishes that you can stick in the dishwasher later or, dare I say, the plastic plates.
I agree that the steep decline in people dressing up for events or hosting cocktail and dinner parties at their homes is extremely saddening. But, as one of the few in my circle of friends who does still carry on these traditions, I find it quite snobbish to turn one's nose up at plate ware on certain occasions. I'm simply thankful that I'm being invited to dinner in any case. Be realistic, chill out, and don't put such unnecessarily high expectations on your younger family, please.
I'm fortunate that my Jewish family knows how to host exceptional parties and passes that etiquette knowledge down through the generations. But, we also know when to pull out the paper plates and enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers and simply soak up each other's presence, not focus on high brow "expectations". Everything has its time and proper place and you must enjoy all sides of life.
At special events, I adore vintage and ornate place settings and decor. Take me to the early 1900s, please. I'll happily arrive in a dress with lace and heels. But, not everyone feels that way, and I like to think of the guests that I'm hosting.
In my own home, I prefer to take elements from those designs and simplify them for a cleaner, cozier look and feel. Or, including one vintage piece, such as teacups. There's no sense in making your guests feel stuffy or awkward in these times for a casual sit down dinner amongst friends or close relatives.
So to that, I cheers my cheap IKEA red wine glass to you. I find the contemporary, minimalistic styles more welcoming and chic for the "modern" home. Clean lines, cool colors, and an element of the outdoors. Fancy doesn't have to mean an insane price tag or elaborate designs in my book. It's all about the presentation and making your guests feel at home.
In my generation, Crate & Barrel is seen as quality products for the home. Why? Because they are semi-affordable without being cheap. Most people my age can't simply walk in a purchase a couch their on a whim. (Zach and I went to Ashley Furniture for ours instead, even though it's a bit smaller and less comfy than the one we wanted at C & B, because it was much more affordable.) But, their style appeals to us. A mix of classic and modern with pieces that will last. We want chic, simple, and comfy all in one.
Naturally, when I saw the Crate & Barrel table setting at the Synagogue's fundraiser, my eye was drawn to it before I even knew who was responsible for the decor. (Not that I found myself surprised when I found out.)
The geometrical glassware appears high end and reminiscent of mid-century modern styles without creating a fear that a strong hand could break it like a dainty crystal glass. The white, minimal plates set up a successful presentation for whatever food you're about to taste on them. The cross between a moss and forest green table cloth and napkins provides a subtle texture to the overall design for a more sophisticated look with olive branch napkin rings. The greenery, candles, and black stones of the centerpiece forms a relaxing, homey atmosphere with a clear effort shown to make your guests take notice of your style.
Our kitchen is designed after the French style cafe, Petite Chou, with grey, white, and black colors and a mix of French countryside wood furniture and fancier details such as a silver candelabra. Stylish yet welcoming. I thought the green and natural elements of the Crate & Barrel table setting would fit well into our current setting for a formal dinner evening. Click, click, buy.
I've honestly never went on to purchase pieces from the table settings at the fundraiser before. Maybe it's because I was recently married or maybe it's because I simply adore Crate & Barrel, but I crossed that first off my list.
Attending events such as this, aside from supporting my great-aunt's delicious cooking, always prove to be of value to learn something new, be exposed to new styles, and be part of the norms of another generation.
As we mingled with my grandma's and great-aunt's long time Jewish friends, I kept hearing advice (often much too loudly) about the dos and don'ts of the tables. I suppose it's all about the balance between cluttered and boring.
Table Setting Details to Think About:
- Color scheme
- Theme or vibe
- Table cloth and matching or complementary napkins (linens)
- Napkin holder/ring
- Dishes (style and what kinds; ex: plate(s) and bowl)
- Utensils style and metal color
- Chargers or placemats
- Florals or greenery (live or fake)
- Centerpieces (candles? figurines? props?)
- Seating style and material (cushions? drapery on chairs?)
- Glassware (cups, mugs, wine glass, cocktail glass, etc.)
- Placing all the dining ware in the appropriate spots
My aunt suggested that we make a table with my great-grandmother's China from Germany next year. Apparently renting the linens and decor is simple if we can cover the flowers and place settings. So, we are already toying around with ideas for next years table setting fundraiser. Come visit!