I had the exciting opportunity to work with Mara Ferreira this week to style a last minute dinner party photoshoot for one of her upcoming blog posts. The final results of our shoot will all be posted on her blog, soon, so keep an eye out for that, but in the mean time I wanted to give you some behind-the-scenes of the styling details, and some of my own styling tips.

Before I get to my 5 tips for styling an outdoor dinner party, here's what the project looked like:

Mara made some amazing recipes that had me drooling (going to be stealing them as soon as she posts!), and my task was to put together the perfect table setting from the plates to the flowers. I ended up choosing some simple ceramic plates and bowls, wooden flatware and some subtle plaid fabric napkins. We wanted a pretty linen tablecloth or table runner, but could find the perfect thing last-minute, so we ended up going with two linen window curtains which we twisted a bit and laid across the table like a runner. For flowers, we wanted to keep it simple and easy, since this was meant to be a set up anyone could do last-minute. The giant glass vase was from Home Goods (they always have amazing glassware!) and all of the flowers were found the morning of, at Trader Joe's. I grabbed some wildflower-y stems and lots of Eucalyptus to lay flat on the table as well.


Throughout the two days I spent hunting down the perfect pieces and setting them all up, I kept these 5 tips in mind:

1. Stick to the vision: 
It's easy to pass to by so many amazing pieces and prices and feel like you have to use them, but it's important to keep in mind the purpose of what you're doing and what will truly achieve the overall look you want. For this project, I found an inspiration photo on Pinterest and made myself look at it before each purchase to make sure I had a specific way I could incorporate the item I was considering. I had to put back some gorgeous floral napkins and some pretty gold accents because they didn't fit the outdoor, casual feel.

2. Start with lots of options:
Things always come up on the actual day of the shoot that aren't what you expect, so it's always good to bring lots of options. I brought a few extra platters and bowls just in case one dish ended up looking bigger than expected or if the the piece I had in mind would blend into the location more than I expected etc. etc. It's always better to have too much than to wish you brought something that you didn't

3. End with 'less is more': 
Even though more is more when you're preparing, keep in mind that you don't have to use everything you originally planned on using. I spent a few minutes, without success, trying to figure out the right way to arrange the little dessert spoons before I thought "Why am I trying to make this look good? There's no rule that says I have to use the dessert spoons," so I just took them all out and laughed at myself. I also ended up not using a few more flower vases I had in mind, because the table already looked great with just the one, big vase. Less is more!

4. It doesn't have to match 100%:
I originally learned this tip when it comes to home interiors, but I think it applies to many situations. In this case, I started with white ceramic plates and wooden utensils. In the past, I would have looked for more pieces with exactly the same wood stain and the same ceramic color and material, but that can start to feel repetitive! It's better to keep in mind the "vibe" of the shoot and figure out what materials and colors fit within that. I knew we wanted a casual, outdoor but still classic look with simple dishes and lots of greenery. I decide to look for things that were light colors, ceramic, wood, clear glass or rustic brass. From there, I could feel totally fine if the bowls weren't from the same set as the plates, or if the vases weren't made of wood just like the flatware, etc. 

5. Let the flowers do the talking:
Since so many of the main pieces were neutral colors, the color-lover inside of me felt sad at first that everything was so simple. But I knew, I had to let the flowers do the talking. I planned to incorporate pinks and bright greens in the flowers, so adding it into the dishes for this particular shoot would be too much. The flowers were meant to be the statement, and thanks to Trader Joe's, they certainly were!

This is just a peek into my process, but be sure to take a look at Mara's full post soon for the recipes and more on how to throw a last minute dinner party. I actually got to sit in as a model for this one too, so I'll be in some of the pictures :)