If you’re like me, you can’t wait for Sunday, January 4th’s season premiere for Season 5 of Downton Abbey! The Crawley family’s fabulous dinner parties are always a source of inspiration. The gorgeous décor, impeccable table settings, and importance of tradition are just some of the reasons I enjoy the show. Not to mention that the key elements of a classic dinner party: dressing up, ensuring the comfort and delight of everyone present, and essentially, putting on a show for the guests, hasn’t changed much over the years. If you’re looking to recreate that timeless celebratory atmosphere, we’ve got you covered. Read on for tips on how to bring the charm of Downton Abbey into your home.
Use Your Finest Tableware
Setting the table is one of the most important steps in creating an authentic early 20th century look. This is your chance to be extravagant, yet traditional. Use your finest polished silver, china and crystal. And of course, the freshest, crispest linen you can find. For this look, use a pure white tablecloth hung halfway to the floor. You can use a wool cloth underneath to keep it in place. Use white napkins, 24 to 26 inches in length. You can look up classic folding styles, such as the Bishop’s Mitre.
Designing a Classic Centerpiece
For a period-appropriate centerpiece, use either fruit or flowers, but not both. Place all decorations and candlesticks in a symmetrical fashion. Pink, red or yellow flowers were the most fashionable at the time. Place settings should be formal. To make sure you place everything correctly, you can look up table setting diagrams, such as this one. Cutlery should be laid from the outside in, with wine and water glasses to the right and bread plates to the left. This is a great chance to get creative and print out menu cards and place cards for each setting.
Seating Arrangements & Order of the Evening
If the society of post-Edwardian aristocracy was anything, it was traditional. There are very specific guidelines for just about everything that happens during dinner. (Which, of course, makes for such a scandal if they are broken!) But if you want your event to be completely authentic, seat the host and hostess opposite each other at the middle of the table. The guest of honor should be seated to the host’s immediate right. Seat guests alternately male and female, and do not seat husbands and wives together.