Set the Mood With Candlelight

Easy and elegant, these entertaining ideas for a summer soíree won't break your budget.
Alicia Clavella and Mary Leigh Fitts

Summer is the prime season to set a shimmery tablescape. And because of the heat of the day, twilight is the perfect time for a gathering of friends. First, plan a menu with a little light fare, then seat your guests at a table brightened with creative candle displays and twinkling lights. They're guaranteed to feel enlightened. Here are a few quick-and-easy ideas to get you started.

Special Delivery
Before you even begin thinking about decorating the table, take the time to make and hand-deliver party invitations attached to beeswax sheets. Tell guests that you'd be delighted to have them, and remind them not to "bee" late! Nestle each invitation in a small box filled with tissue paper, and then tie with an elegant ribbon.

A Stellar Setting
Cover your table with simple bedsheets. Two white sheets, draped to the floor, can serve as an under cloth. One with a pastel pattern is layered on top. Plates are lime green, and flatware has soft yellow handles.

Use wicker chairs bedecked with ribbon and fold-out chairs with a wonderful patina to provide stylish seating. Drape twinkling white lights, mingled with greenery, from the terrace or balcony above; then place candles around to set the scene ablaze with color.

The Center of Attention
For a centerpiece, gather some clear glasses from the cabinet, and position them down the length of the table. Mix wineglasses with champagne flutes, margarita with martini. Include a handful of clear- or colored-glass baubles (available at home-decorating stores) in the bottom of each glass. Fill glasses halfway with water; then add floating candles and flowers.

Neat Napkins
Keep to the candle theme by incorporating sheets of beeswax (found at crafts stores) into your tablescape. Begin by cutting strips of beeswax a few inches wide and several inches long. Wrap strips around rolled linens to use as napkin rings. Press wax strip ends together to secure ring in place; then add a piece of knotted twine.

A Perfect Place Setting
This is one time that it's okay to be a little rough around the edges. It's simple to create a beeswax place card. First, cut beeswax square to the desired size, and fold it over to form the place card back. Cut a piece of paper to size of back, fold, and write guest's name on one side. Slightly burn edges for a vintage look. Place paper on place card to mark each spot.

Buckets of Fun
Highlight a walkway or some stairs with cheerful luminaries fashioned from paint cans. Purchase inexpensive empty cans, both large and small, from a home-improvement store. Use a pen or pencil to mark where holes should be, and drill holes. (Note: Wear protective eyewear when using a drill.)

Paint the cans in a coordinating palette of colors, and finish off with lovely ribbons tied to the handles. Fill bottom of cans with sand, and place candles inside. Use them to mark the way to the party, mixing larger cans with smaller ones. You can even suspend a few as lanterns from a balcony.

Beautiful Bouquets
What summer soiree would be complete without flowers? Dress some of the chairs with hanging vases formed from strips of beeswax, and fill them with flowers, such as hydrangeas, petunias, and other seasonal blooms.

Begin with a piece of wax cut to desired size, and fold it to form a small wax cone. Press ends together to seal. Use a knife to make a hole in either side of the cone a few inches below the top edge. Weave colorful ribbons through it. Insert fresh flowers in water picks, tuck in dried hydrangeas, and tie to a chair with ribbons for a festive look.


"Set the Mood With Candlelight" is from the August 2001 issue of Southern Living.