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Setting an elegant table for a special occasion


Whether for a bridal brunch, bridesmaids’ tea or wedding shower, Katernia Cole-Coffey has perfect design in mind for a table to delight. With pieces she has purchased and inherited and experience she gained helping her mother – the quintessential hostess with the mostest – plan teas and luncheons for family and friends, Cole-Coffey pulls out all the stops when it comes to table settings for special occasions.

“You want an elegant event. You want to show the guests and the honoree that you have put effort into the event,” Cole-Coffey emphasized. “Don’t get me wrong – paper plates and napkins have their place, but when you’re talking about a special event, it’s always time to bring out the good stuff.”

From crystal and cut-glass to china and heirloom items, Cole-Coffey keeps beautiful serving pieces and dishes on hand to suit any special occasion. A favorite event for Cole-Coffey is a bridal brunch or lunch, each of which demands a certain ambiance and a menu fit for the bride and her honored guests.

“Your invitations are going to be the key to what the guests should expect, so it’s always good to start out with a nice invitation and have a good location for the event. Those two things set the tone for how special it’s going to be,” Cole-Coffey explained.

A bridal luncheon, a daytime celebration for the bride and her maids just a few days before the wedding, provides an opportunity for the bride to thank her attendants for all their hard work. Cole-Coffey said a bridal luncheon guest list, while intimate, still might include mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and even other close girlfriends who might night be in the wedding party. She recommends a fun, relaxed atmosphere for the nevertheless chic and classy event. “This is a wonderful time to use your silver, crystal, cut glass or even your wedding china, and always use beautiful linens,” Cole-Coffey said. “You want your event to be charming and special.”

The starkest difference between a bridal brunch and a bridal luncheon – besides the time of day, with a lunch set from noon to early afternoon and a brunch set before noon – is the menu. Cole-Coffey suggests dishes like chicken salad, mixed fruit, pasta, pork tenderloin, blackberry and green salad and finger desserts for a luncheon, while a brunch menu might feature quiche, fruit compote, hashbrown casserole, breakfast casserole or muffins, or even shrimp and grits or chicken and waffles.

A bridal shower is another occasion for one’s finest things. Held two weeks to two months before the wedding, showers are usually hosted by friends or sometimes family members, and Cole-Coffey said etiquette dictates guests invited to a shower should be invited to the wedding. At a shower as well as at a bridal tea, guests might expect to find bite-sized nibbles like cheese straws, finger sandwiches, fruit and finger desserts, along with tea, water, lemonade, coffee and punch. “You can use your favorite teapot, cups and saucers,” Cole-Coffey suggested.

Although some would-be hosts might be intimidated by the thought of trying to lay an elaborate table, Cole-Coffey encourages people to gather up the nice pieces from throughout their homes to bring a table setting together.

“Whatever you have, you don’t have to use it for what its original, intended purpose was,” Cole-Coffey added. Her silver bride’s basket, for example, is a piece Cole-Coffey personally cherishes and one that can be used in a variety of contexts – from collecting cards to holding a centerpiece, candies or fruit.