The heat is on! Having been selected one of ” The Salonniere 100: The Nation’s 100 Best Party Hosts in the Country” (oh, my…) I’m often asked to describe my favorite party in recent years. The nod certainly goes to a valentine gathering just last winter in Newport that my husband and I hosted in the midst of a jaw dropping blizzard.
Why that special holiday?A group of dear friends from out of town provided a good excuse to celebrate this “love-ly” night which coincidentally fell on a Saturday. And appreciating that few are immune to cupid’s arrow, I was further inspired by the fact that there is always a light-hearted spirit when anticipating a party devoted to matters of the heart. By choice, our planning, details and execution took on the feel of a tongue-in-cheek senior prom effort – friends came by to help (everything from swagging the red parachute silk across the salon ceiling to remembering to tape up the “XOXO” on the powder room door), soup was served and we laughed the afternoon away. No need for floral designers or party planners this time, which made it less a serious party with the focus sharply on creativity and wit. We’re not talking fusty or stuffy here! Even the menu was decidedly low key; comfort food for sure….short ribs over creamy, parmesan-laced polenta and tarte tatin for dessert.
Here we go…14 steps for hosting a valentine party that’s long on sizzle and short on cost
Consider a red carpet– it’s both a “star” touch as well as a gracious safety gesture given the snow conditions ( thank goodness for Home Depot.)
Add a sense of anticipation for what lies ahead, giving guests a series of subtle stages to their entrance…the front steps, entry hall, salon!
One of my favorite “go to” décor pieces, lanterns always provide a touch of sophistication, and especially here, a romantic mood.
Bring in those cherubs (holdovers from our Christmas décor). It’s Valentine’s!
Use wit and whimsy to eye-popping effect—tent the ceiling…
feathered hearts, anyone??
Don’t forget a light-hearted banner, proclaiming the event (strung from fat and full red brocade bows, again, part of our earlier Christmas décor.)
Think outside the box—it doesn’t always have to be about flowers (sounds pretty funny coming from this garden aficionado, but flower prices do skyrocket around Valentine’s Day.) I chose beech tree prunings, sprayed red, of course!
Hang glass votives from the branches to add an elegant source of subtle candlelight that will be out of guests’ eyes.
Keep table settings simple on a long narrow table that runs the length of the room; with the focus on the ceiling, backs of chairs and sprays of beech branches, simple red pillar candles in different heights were just what the scene called for.
Don’t forget that place cards are always an opportunity for playful creativity (straight- from-the-dime-store foam hearts with bamboo skewers glued to the back, and propped in a water glass.)
Dress up the backs of chairs when they will be lined up and getting so much attention at a long table (we had fun creating this design, tied to look like a lady’s “shrug”).
Designate the loo with theme-appropriate décor.
Finished, and waiting for guests to arrive.
Light the candles and let the festivities begin…