Imagine film photos showcasing a lavish tablescape dripping in florals and beautiful linens, chicly dressed guests having conversations over candlelight, and a couple deeply in love toasting to their future. This dreamy picture is what has driven the rise of the dinner party wedding trend. The intimate celebration style emerged during the pandemic as couples had to reduce guest lists and curate “minimonies” that were scaled-down—yet still stunning—versions of their original dream weddings. While the number of people that can be on a guest list is no longer dictated by government regulations, the aesthetic of the dinner party wedding has remained—and has since become synonymous with the “anti-bride” trend.
“Everyone loves a classic, over-the-top, tented wedding, but there is something so special about an intimate, dinner party wedding,” shares Kelsey Connely, creative director and principal planner of Downey Street Events. “More and more, potential clients are telling me in our introductory calls that they want their wedding reception to feel like they are hosting their closest friends and family at their own dinner table. This style of wedding gives you the opportunity to feel truly connected to your loved ones and share a warm and inviting experience with them.”
Venue selection is the first step in defining the look and feel of your wedding soirée. Some couples like to create an even more intimate ambiance by hosting at their own home or on a family property. Others are renting out their favorite restaurants, where they can allow the existing décor to shape the look of the event. Another common trend today is for couples to invite their closest circle to a stunning destination across the globe for a once-in-a-lifetime dinner party that showcases local cuisine and culture.
Like most weddings, these events will begin with a ceremony and can often end with some dancing. Yet the food and the reception table design are the main course—and they are far from a cookie-cutter menu. “Hosting a dinner party is a chance to show off your personal style,” says Melissa Sullivan, founder of Studio Sully.
“Getting the ambiance just right is essential,” notes Connely. “This means low, warm lighting and lots of candles to create a romantic feeling as guests are dining, sipping their drinks, and conversing.” For the décor, she advises that “mixing in different patterns of china or unique types of chairs will make the event feel relaxed and comfortable.” Sullivan says you could even include some of your favorite design objects from home or curate vintage vessels to include throughout the tablescapes.
If you’re hosting a wedding in a restaurant, the key is to enhance the existing space. “Working with an amazing floral designer to take the restaurant from feeling everyday to special is a must,” advises wedding planner Gregory Blake Sams. “You can go over the top with floral moments because you are not spending on all the other typical wedding line items.” However, he does say that you don’t have to rely solely on the restaurant’s existing dinnerware. “Designing the tablescape with curated custom china and silverware is another way to personalize your event when your venue is a restaurant. This will help to create a memorable experience that is one-of-a-kind for the bride and groom and will delight their guests.”
To set the tone of the dinner, you also want to have the right playlist. “The music should match the intimacy of the venue,” says Connely. “You wouldn’t want to bring in a full orchestra or brass band to play at your dinner party wedding. A pianist, guitarist, or even a lo-fi playlist is much more appropriate for the setting.” If you plan to have dancing later in the evening, make sure you are prepared to transition to a different music vibe and have space available for guests to gather and get down.
Since your wedding is centered around a dinner, the food should be a star element. While some couples will choose to do a full-service coursed-out meal, it’s not uncommon to see dishes served family style along one long banquet table. “The menu should feel very personal and not generic just for the sake of formality,” advises Sullivan. “Consider including a family recipe or a dish from a notable dinner date on the menu.” If you want to host a restaurant wedding, make sure it’s an establishment where you are obsessed with the food. “Let them showcase what they do best and it will be a win-win,” explains Sams. “The culinary team typically enjoys not doing a standard night of service and your guests will experience the best they have to offer.”
Sullivan also recommends having fun with the wine selection at your event. “Serve an effervescent orange wine rather than a classic sparkling wine or look out for close-out deals online for batches of red from that region you love,” she says. “If your venue or caterer allows it, put wine on the table as anything shared encourages more interaction between guests. Mixing and matching is fun and can be a great conversation starter—just like dinner at home.” The planner even encourages separating couples–apart from the newlyweds–around the table to encourage new friendships to form. After all, an intimate evening dedicated to love, connection, and pleasure is the exact ethos of this wedding trend.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com