In his gardens, men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.
Just when we couldn’t take another day of winter’s doldrums, spring enters in all its glory. The season is one for transformations—out go our bulky coats in favor of light, fluttering fabrics; lighter spirits replace heavier brown ones on our bar carts; and our tables come to life with the help of bright blooms. The way we entertain changes as the weather warms, too. To inspire your spring soirées, we asked some of our favorite event experts to tell us about the entertaining trends that are blossoming this season. Pour yourself a May Flowers and get ready to spring into party action with these festive tips.
Photo: La Basque
A Sense of Grandeur
It’s time to bring out your best china and glassware. “Formal classicism, tradition, and discreet luxury are back,” says Alejandro Muguerza, president of full-service catering and event-design company Le Basque of Miami, Florida. “Thick linens, fine silver, quality china and crystal, and a whiff of good antiques are pleasing to the hand and eye.” While he adds that rustic themes are out, elements of nature—“trees, branches, fruits, and flowers”—will always be in style. “Important, opulent flowers like peonies, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, and dahlias shouldn’t be crowded. Instead, sprinkle them in with more humble wildflowers and roadside greenery,” he says. “An arrangement that appears effortless can be very grand.” However, don’t overlook the simple pleasures of the season: “What I really want this spring is to sip a cooling Pimm’s Cup and dip into a creamy Eton’s Mess with fresh spring berries,” he says.
While spring is practically synonymous with pastels, there’s a new approach to color for gatherings. “The biggest trend right now is moody color palettes accented with a metallic,” says Rick Davis, president and owner of Amaryllis Floral & Event Design of Washington, D.C. He also sees a trend toward mixing florals and greenery in centerpieces and décor. “The thing that’s out is decorating with only greenery,” says Davis. “How much Southern Smilax can you throw at a party?”
Photo: Botanical No. 9
Bring On…The Balloons!
This spring, there will be less emphasis on dressing up every surface in favor of going for one or two big statement pieces. “We are seeing more ‘impactful’ pieces, such as large floral walls or other interesting photo-ops for guests versus lots of centerpieces,” says Wendee Sawran of Botanical No. 9, a floral-design studio based in Austin, Texas. There’s also one trend that can no longer be ignored: balloons. “They’re HOT HOT HOT. We are doing them almost every weekend, and we’re not talking about your ’80s prom balloon arches but huge installations for that total WOW.”
Eye-Popping Instagram Moments
Barbara Hamilton of Ociana, a floral, décor, and event design studio in South Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York, concurs. The trend this season is toward “creating a memorable evening—one that will have guests not only talking but also posting all over social media,” she says. “At a gala, you may see artists performing on aerial silks above the crowd.” Though swinging from a chandelier is best left to the experts, you can inspire a few Instagram moments by offering something unexpected. Perhaps it’s using authentic vintage glassware for mid-century-inspired cocktails or setting a few old-school Polaroid cameras by the bar.
Photo: Marc Hall
Artfully Composed Florals
Marc Hall, president of Marc Hall Design in Boston, Massachusetts, has been a longtime observer of the stylistic trends in florals. To look forward, he looks back at what now seems dated. “What we were doing between the late ‘90s and 2010 seems, in retrospect, necessary but soulless—monochromatic blooms, stripped of their natural foliage, were gathered in clear glass vessels in perfect precision under water,” he says. After making arrangements in this style for a few years, Hall opted to embrace a looser style inspired by the unstripped beauty of flowers and other natural elements—even going so far as to refer to his creations as “botanical art” rather than arrangements. It’s a look that has caught on, he observes. “Not only do I predict that the integration of vines, leaves, branches, corms, and bulbs into our compositions will continue to ‘grow’, but I see a trend where floral design pays homage to the ancient craft of ikebana,” he says.
“This spring, the trend in florals will continue to be to use lots of greenery, to bring the outside in,” says Susan Davis of Fresh Designs Flora in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The silhouettes are also growing larger, she says. “For example, there’s a movement toward decorating your entrance with climbing florals or hanging florals from chandeliers. The idea of a long feasting table will still hold this spring to allow for long garland centerpieces with loads of candlelight in varying heights,” she says.
Photo: Creative Edge Parties
Focus on Food
Feeding guests is always a priority, but this spring, careful attention will be paid to how food enhances the experience of a get-together. “The hot trends in entertaining right now seem to highlight people’s interest in food, where it comes from, and the philosophy around creating ‘smart’ culinary experiences,” says Carla Ruben, president and creative director of Creative Edge Parties in New York City and South Florida. “‘Fine casual’ experiences—simple yet curated menus that accentuate sophisticated palates without pretense—are also on the rise. Both trends include homemade elements, like bespoke sodas, infused waters, simple syrups, and juices and incorporate ‘gut-friendly’ foods by fermenting, pickling, and preserving menu items.”
Contrasting Colors and Materials
Though spring is synonymous with floral motifs and lightweight fabrics, contrasting elements give these standbys a bit more edge. For instance, Melisa Soued of Eventorist in Miami, Florida, mentions fine leathers alongside florals. “[It’s] the essence of fancifulness and glamour,” she says. This nuanced approach also extends to incorporating a wider range of colors and bold floral prints. “Colors are soothing and range from pastel to jewel-like, and florals will be embellished and stylized, following a natural repetition pattern,” she says.
Photo: Fleur de Vie
Expressive Floral Arrangements
“The trend toward loose, lush, and expressive garden-style florals continues,” says Madeleine Elmer of Fleur de Vie, a floral design studio in Houston, Texas. “Some clients are requesting a fresh citrus palette paired with a chic mix of blue-and-white pottery, which reflects the revival of classic interior design. Soft neutral colors with mixed metals or gold are also holding their own in event design.”
Stiff formality is falling out of favor. In its place are witty party themes that show plenty of personality. “Party themes have taken a turn toward more interactive events,” says Julie Richter of Townsley Designs of Austin, Texas. “Themes are centered around what a host truly loves, like full Southern fare, which might manifest itself in a chic, comfort-food bar and décor touches like slat walls, decaled wooden food tables, and a resin cow.” While you don’t have to go whole-hog, this theme can certainly translate to your own table by serving up your favorite local barbecue. Which brings us to…
Photo: Townsley Designs
Seasonal and Local Sourcing
“The idea of ‘going green’ is always going to be in style,” Richter continues. “Knowing where your food is sourced and incorporating sustainable décor into your party design lets your guests know you care about your carbon footprint and minimizing waste.” In this spirit, Townsley Designs created a “Melon Bar” for an event that featured craft cocktails made from fresh spring fruits and herbs. The party took the seasonal theme one step further with a custom citrus wall as decor. Similarly, think of incorporating fresh fruits, herbs, and edible flowers into your tabletop as decor.
The element of surprise extends to the menu, which makes it “exciting, fun, and interesting for us,” says Tina Houston of Reid’s Cafe & Catering Co. in Sugar Mountain, North Carolina. Don’t be surprised if you see chef-led experiences like open-fire roasting or fresh-shucked oysters at parties this year, or family-style service replacing buffets. But even more departures from tradition are on the horizon. “Dessert bars are in, especially for non-traditional desserts.” Perhaps banana pudding is poised to make a comeback?
And here are a few more story topics that we think you’ll enjoy:
Great warm-weather party themes
The best floral party dresses for spring
Spring and Summer Party Trends
Welcome Photo and Quote Mashup
Welcome Photo: Natalie Wood
Welcome Quote: The Great Gatsby, 1925