Set The Scene; Create The Mood!

So you’ve decided to create that Big Night In, that special occasion, a delightful dinner at home, but whilst some spontaneity is essential, equally a bit of forward planning helps too, otherwise your delightful dinner could turn into a dismal disappointment.


So whether it’s an intimate tête à tête, a posh dinner-party, a friend’s gathering or maybe just a celebratory family get-together, here are some basic tips that’ll help you both set the scene and get in the mood!


OK, so you’re ready to start, but aside from the actual meal, what are the key things you’ll also need to take care of to ensure that create an amazing ambiance and perfect presentation:

Location, Location, Location, really says it all. There’s no point in trying to impress with a TV dinner, or a hurried snack in the kitchen. Where and how you dress and the location is key. Ideally your special meal should be in the dining room, although if you’re lucky enough to have a large conservatory this can work as well, or, if the weathers nice even possibly a magic meal alfresco! So what are your key style pointers?



  • Clean & Tidy, firstly make sure your chosen room is clean, tidy and uncluttered; obvious, but essential as having items of everyday living hanging round quickly destroy the ambiance & theme!


  • Lighting is an essential ingredient as well, so if you have dimmer-switches turn the main-lights to low, or better still to do not turn on at all. Keep lighting, subtle and intimate, side lights are good and candles are great and the more the merrier, but remember they can present a fore risk, so do take great care when igniting or extinguishing.


  • Flowers, a good floral display never ceases to impress and does create real pleasure & enjoyment, but don’t just stick at one, why not have a few smaller displays as well as the main attraction!


  • Fragrant potpourri, incense burners, joss-sticks can also all help to enhance the mood


  • Decoration, finally extra drapes or added decorative artefacts can help create that fashionable ‘shabby chic’ look transporting even the most mundane room onto another plane!

Dress to Impress

How you dress will say a lot about the type of special evening you want to create, carpet slippers, track, or shell suits and vests and rollers are absolutely a real ‘no-no’ and will definitely point the occasion down the wrong track and create the impression that you haven’t really bothered, so here are some tips on how to dress to impress:


  • Firstly ensure that you make an effort, a bath or shower is a good start, followed by some personal pampering to get you in the mood.


  • Unless you want to make it a more formal occasion, smart but casual is the rule, a smart shirt for men and casual trousers, not jeans, is good, whilst for women a smart casual designer dress, possibly adorned with a costume jewellery or flowers works.


  • If more formal and going down the suit and dress or ‘DJ & little black dress’, you can still keep a ‘casual edge’ by men going tie-less and women casually draping a wrap.


  • Above all though you should dress for the occasion, look stylish and certainly as if you have put more than a few minutes thought into your appearance!

Table Etiquette

A properly dressed table is essential, and really can help make or break the mood of the evening; ketchups or mayo bottles and plastic plates are absolutely not right, so here’s a few suggestions to help make your table really look the part:


  • Depending on your table, a table cloth is optional, but if using one, or a runner, ensure that it is good quality linen and matches the napkins – paper napkins and plastic table cloths are really not a very good idea!


  • Cutlery - don’t forget to use the right cutlery and lay from the outside in, starting from the left, so salad/starter fork, and then main fork and on the right similar but with the knives or soup spoon if serving, with the butter knife positioned to the outside. Dessert and cheese knives and forks should be positioned at the top.


  • Dinnerware – all plates don’t have to match anymore as you can match to the dish, but there should be an overriding style or theme, although you can use random crockery to create table accents.


  • Glassware – aperitifs will normally be served before sitting, but wine glasses should be on the table and reflect the style of wine or wines being served, tulip for white, bowl for red or flutes for sparkling. Glasses should ideally be good quality and thin stemmed. It may also be an idea to add a glass for water or soft drinks.


  • Table decoration – a well-dressed table is certainly enhanced with a centrepiece of flowers or candles, possibly even bizarre artefacts for dramatic effect.

Mood Music

Music is an essential part of any special occasion and can really either make or break the mood! Heavy metal for a romantic tête à tête is as inappropriate as opera for a fun family get-together, to get the mood just right set the music to the moment:


  • Music is very personal and sometimes even the closest of couples don’t share the same taste in music, so when choosing make sure that any music will be not only appropriate but also able to be enjoyed by all!


  • Generally for romantic evenings the more softer and laid-back, the better.  ‘Love-songs’ are always a safe bet as long as there are not too many and they’re not too soppy or sycophantic.


  • For dinner parties slightly more up-beat or operatic music can work well and for family get- togethers, a ‘trip down memory lane’, may be appropriate.


  • Whatever, it must match the mood and be background and certainly not too loud.