If you’ve ever stumbled your way through what you thought would be a lovely luncheon but turned out to be a disorganized, deflated mess, today is your lucky day. Because we’re chatting with Natalie Bowen & Jessie Stevens all about hosting a seamless, gorgeous, your-friends-will-think-your-awesome luncheon. And we’re leaving every last bit of luncheon anxiety in the dust.

FLOWERS

I believe that flowers can transform something ordinary into something worth savoring. They are a splurge, of course, but flowers alone can easily and effortlessly turn a simple table into one that your guests will fall in love with over and over and over and over again.

From Natalie…”Consider incorporating Summer fruit on the branch or vine that you are using in the menu in to the floral arrangements. It adds a fun and unexpected element.

Whether you go for rich beautiful hues with berries tucked inside like this tablescape or you go for something wildly different, make sure you remember these few little floral tidbits.

  • Give your stems a water bath the day prior to your party. Cut the stems at a diagonal then completely submerge them for 20 minutes. This will give them a hearty dose of water to keep them nice and fresh. Then store them in a cool, dark place.
  • For non-floral experts, stick with colors in the same family. This will take you 75% of the way to a beautiful centerpiece because they will naturally look lovely together. For example, the range of purples above work easily and effortlessly together. If that is still too intimidated, go for all one variety of flower.
  • Keep your arrangement low so that your guests can easily interact without peaking over the tips of too tall flowers.
  • If you’re still a little nervous, go with a dark colored vessel instead of a clear vase. This will allow you to really play without worrying about messy stems. Floral foam, floral frogs and/or a ball of chicken wire are also really great and help the flowers stay right where you want them.

TABLE

A gorgeous table is a must for any successful luncheon. It’s sort of like finding the perfect outfit for a first date or getting a good spray tan before a vacation. I lovely table is a tone-setter, a canvas that makes everything sparkle a bit more.

From Natalie…”Don’t be afraid to play with color. Every summer table needs a punch of color!

This table was set with a pretty pink/peach linen, dressed up with napkins in rich purple and simple but organic ceramics. The result felt fresh and vibrant and yet handcrafted. Remember that not all tablesettings need to be ultra formal. A gorgeous stack of plates, a pile of pretty, mismatched napkins and vintage silverware can be a beautiful, welcoming look that feels home-inspired and authentic.

The most important thing to remember when setting your table for a lunch is to create an environment that feels approachable and easy. Keep all needed plates, bowls, glasses and such nearby (if not on the table) and consider setting up your menu to be served family style in large passed bowls.

COCKTAILS

Whether you’re going for a little mid-afternoon cocktail or a fantsy pants infused water, having a special something for your guests is a total must. It’s nice to offer both an alcohol beverage and something sans liquor so everyone has a choice and their drink of choice feels special.

From Natalie…”Consider a simple syrup infused with a summer flavor and add to sparkling water. And everyone loves a garnish. Frozen fruit is a great addition to any drink. If you are making ice cubes, invest in a large square icecube tray and use boiling water for perfectly clear ice.

A few fun cocktail ideas:

MOCKTAILS. Blackberry Vanilla Mocktail |  Blueberry Limeade | Watermelon Mojitos

COCKTAILS. Rhubarb Bellinis | Strawberry Vodka Lemonade | Raspberry Basil Limoncello

Just make sure to have an extra batch of whatever you are serving whipped up in the fridge. Along with ice cold water, sparkling waters and juices for those that have a more simple palette. We also like to always have white wine on hand for afternoon affairs.

FOOD
Hosting a luncheon is a dinner party’s little sister. She’s just as chic, but perhaps a bit less layered. And the food should reflect that. The best part about lunch is that it lends itself beautifully to salads and such. So that you can really curate a menu that is 100% make ahead, served at room temperature and yet lick-your-plate worthy just the same. Leaving you plenty of time to make a great playlist and start up a fabulous conversation with your guests!

For a great, easy breezy Summer lunch, think salads and pre-warmed dishes. Pasta salad, noodle salads, grain salads are all great options. Layer in warmed or chilled soups, marinated vegetables and fresh fruits and voila. A gorgeous, healthful, delicious meal that you can whip up the night before. Here are a few amazing mix & match recipes that your guests will looove.

STARTERS. Cup of Tomato Basil Soup (warmed gently on the stove) | Individual Crudites (fill bottom of glass with Ranch Dressing, tucking in long thin carrots, cucumbers and harricot verts) | Rustic Cheese Board | Goat Cheese and Fig Bruschetta (sliced toasted bagette, smeared with goat cheese, then fig jam, arugula and drizzled with truffle oil)

ENTREE. White Lasagna | Zucchini Noodle Salad | Sweet Potato and Sausage Quiche | Lobster & Potato Salad

SIDES. Grilled Marinated Veggies | Grilled Bread | Quinoa Salad with Feta & Watermelon | Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

DESSERT

Blogger confession? I often buy my desserts. Not from the local grocery but instead from some amazing bakery that specializes in one variety of pie, cake or pastry. Another confession? Jessie and Natalie did the same thing, picking up these gorgeous tarts at a local shop so that they could focus on the other elements of the lunch. There is no shame in taking cheat-cuts so that your other elements sparkle!

From Natalie…”Keep it casual at a luncheon. You don’t have to make everything yourself. I often purchase the dessert so that I can concentrate on the other details.”

That said, if you’re up for the dessert challenge, I would suggest a fabulous, make-ahead treat that you can casually pull out after your guests think that they couldn’t eat another thing more. Here are a few favorites:

Caramel Shortbread Bars & Coffee | Funfetti Ice Cream | Caramel Ice Cream with Popcorn | Better than Heaven Cakeletts

MUSIC

And last but not least, what is a great party without a great playlist? Your party is about hitting all senses. From the taste of the food, to the smell of the fresh flowers, to the sounds playing in the background. Music is the one thing that has the power to dictate the mood and the tone that you want for your luncheon. Whether it’s peppy and energetic or easy and effortless, make sure that you prioritize your playlist.

PLAYLIST: Ingrid Michaelson’s, “You and I” or “Far Away” | Elizabeth and the Catapult’s “You and Me” &”Race You” | Brooke Frase’s “Something in the Water” | Hello Saferide’s “My Best Friend” | The Weepies, “Happiness” | Tristan Prettyman, “Love Love Love”

Photography: Simply Jessie Photography | Styling + Floral Design: Natalie Bowen Designs