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It’s that time of the year – family gatherings, reunions, holiday parties, the works. And we’ll probably be doing much of it for the rest of summer.

But while casual get-togethers can be as simple as takeaway food on your everyday plates, Spotify on shuffle and spare wine bottles in your pantry, consider taking it up a notch for special occasions and dear friends.

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Kate White of Sydney’s Katering has been organising and catering events for decades, so she knows a thing or two about bringing your long lunches and dinner parties together with style. She worked with Sydney linen label Carlotta & Gee to style a table and here shares a few tips.

Make the tablescape special
White says put your everyday dinnerware back in the cabinet and bring out some of your schmicker pieces.

You can also crowd the table a bit more with bits and bobs you wouldn’t usually have – separate glasses for water, red and white wine for example, or a fresh flower arrangement (just make sure it’s low enough that guests can chat over them).

“People are really giving their table all the details: in the flowers, candles, crockery, cutlery, textured linens and soft florals. It’s all about the tablescape and adding personal touches where they can,” she says.

Grazing platters are having a moment
“Everyone wants grazing boards and share platters – every wedding asks for it, every client suggests that style,” White says.

And depending on how you put it together, the meat, cheese and snack spread becomes more than just a meal: it’s part-aesthetic, too. (See this virtual charcuterie-board builder to help you style your platter).

“I love that this becomes part of the decor but you have to be generous, so invariably a lot gets wasted. Although I [put it in the fridge and] usually pull it out again the next day for my four children so it does get eaten,” says White.

Get in on linen trends
It’s been a couple of years since linen took our bedrooms by storm, and now they’ve conquered our dining tables, too.

“I love soft linen tablecloths with neutral colour palettes to work off and add a pop of colour or added interest,” White says. “I’m loving the soft tones or beige, whites, sands and terracotta; and at the moment I’m loving monotone colour palettes of beige and soft pinks mixed with neutrals and dove greys.”

Carlotta & Gee’s new collection of tablecloths are made with flax linen and come in soft neutrals, as well as a couple brighter shades of orange and olive.

“I’m a very tactile person, so the texture and weight of the fabric is perfect to build on. The material can form a structure, which is important for a napkin formation to look generous and full, and I’m not talking napkin swans of the '80s,” she adds, tongue in cheek.

Have a playlist (or two or three) ready
Music can be an unspoken workshorse, whiling away in the background and setting the mood for the whole evening. Having separate playlists for different parts of the evening can help your party go from raucous laughter and fun games to winding down with a glass of wine.

Or have it do the opposite.

“Have a playlist organised in advance for dinner music, and then liven it up later in the night. If guests want to dance, let it happen organically,” White says. “When Covid meant no dancing allowed at weddings or in clubs, my daughter said to me, ‘Mum, I feel like we’re living in Footloose times’.”