table setting for evening alfresco dining at Jordan Winery

Starry Night Outdoor Party Tablescape Idea: Summer Alfresco Dining in the Dark

Alfresco dining under the stars is something we look forward to every summer and fall at Jordan in Sonoma County wine country. A star-filled sky and surrounding trees provide endless inspiration for the event and floral designer in me. Dining in the dark with just moonlight alone can be challenging, so I created this outdoor party tablescape idea that gives your dinner party a very romantic mood with different types of flowers, lighting and candles—all while keeping the glow low, but not too much so until the main course is served.

Guests enjoying alfresco dining at Jordan Winery

For the Starlight Supper at Jordan and other summer dinner party events served outdoor on the winery lawns, I often use the night sky or the surrounding landscape for my tablescape and the floral design color palette. These photos are from our last Starlight Supper at Jordan, where tablescape elements included a dark blue tablecloth, accented with a burlap table runner, pillar candles in lanterns and battery-operated LED string lights. For the floral arrangement centerpiece, I focused on cream and white flowers with greenery accents to play off the glow of the lights. At one dinner, I also added lavender-hued scabiosa flowers to the arrangement for a pop of color. (Learn how to make this dinner table centerpiece on my floral design post, coming soon.) We hope you’ll recreate this tablescape look when entertaining at home. Links to where to buy my Starry Night Tablescape elements are below.

Table settings before dusk at Starlight Supper at Jordan Winery

Starry Night Tablescape Shopping List

Dark Blue Tablecloth – I typically source linens from La Tavola, but Crate & Barrel Linden Indigo Blue is available online for $25-$100, depending on table size.

Burlap Tablerunner – A 12 x 108-inch burlap table runner should fit a standard dining table that seats eight people ($10 on Amazon). The burlap edges are very forgiving, so it’s easy to cut the runner down to the best size for your table.

Lanterns – Hexagon Hurricane Lanterns (about $10 at Cost Plus) have an interesting shape that throws pretty shadows onto the table. I like use two lanterns for every six to eight people. Another alternative is Landen small black metal lanterns (about $10 each at Pier 1), but try to avoid the tall ones, which can obstruct the line of sight of your guests when seated.

Cream Pillar Candles – Depending on which size of lantern, you’ll need candles. For the hexagon lantern, use 4-inch cream pillars, conveniently found on Amazon or at your favorite home store.

String Lights – My new favorite tablescape accent pieces are the Outdoor Solar LED Glimmer String Lights (about $28 at Pier 1). I recommend one 20-foot string of lights for an eight-foot-long dining table, which allows you to weave the lights through your centerpiece. Multiple string lights in shorter lengths can get easily tangled. When not in use, be sure to remove the batteries for your LED lights. The batteries can corrode and ruin the power box.

I also recommend starting an outdoor dinner party about 90 minutes before the official time of sunset, so that you can have your reception during daylight, your first course during the golden hour—the best time to take photos for event photography—and then the mood lighting on the table will start to be the focal point during the main courses of the alfresco meal. It will be dark by the time dessert is served, so if you want your guests to be able to see the beauty of the dessert presentation at an outdoor dinner party, opt for a dessert reception. We like to serve dessert as a cocktail-style reception in our dining room with typical overhead lighting. This allows guests to mingle between the darker outside areas with seating around fire pits and back into a well-lit room.


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About the Author

As one of eight children, Nitsa Knoll doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t helping host parties for her Greek family in Southern California. She naturally gravitated toward planning beautiful events with bold colors and flowers as focal points. Today, she spends her days overseeing events and hospitality at Jordan Winery, where she works alongside her husband, Todd Knoll. With an eye for design, her creative mind is constantly at work, planning the next dinner party or designing a new floral arrangement. She finds constant inspiration from the trees and flowers growing at Jordan Estate and throughout Sonoma County.

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