Celebrate Bastille Day

Tastemaker Carla McDonald shares ideas for a stylish Bastille Day celebration
bastille day party
French flags for a Bastille Day party. Photo by Delpixel/Shutterstock

Editor’s Note: The Salonniere, a beloved arts and entertainment website, has closed since this article’s original publication in 2018. However, the Bastille Day tips shared with Flower by Carla McDonald, The Salonniere’s founder and editor-in-chief, remain timeless. Enjoy!

Given our focus on the French salonnieres of the 17th and 18th centuries and their influence on everything from the arts and politics to the French Revolution, it’s no wonder that we at The Salonniere love a great Bastille Day bash. While our friends en France take to the Champs-Élysées on July 14th to watch the military parade, Armée de l’Air show, and fireworks, we’ll be making heads roll stateside with our own style of La Fête Nationale. Care to join us? Here are five chic and easy ways to throw a fete-fabulous Bastille Day party.

bastille day party
Traditional apèro snacks. Photo courtesy of Chez Bonne Femme

Kick things off with apèroL’heure de l’apéro—French happy hour—is a big deal en France, so begin the festivities with a traditional apéro to get your guests in a French frame of mind. Serve Kirs and Monacos, a popular summertime beer drink in France. Set out bowls of traditional apèro snacks, like radishes sprinkled with sea salt, potato chips, nuts, and olives, along with a few vintage issues of Paris Match magazine to kick-start conversations. Toast the occasion by raising your glass and saying, “Santé!”

bastille day party
Lamb brochettes. Photo by Elena Trukhina/Shuttestock

Serve Le BarbecueThe French love to grill during the summer months, so it’s no surprise that “Le Barbecue” is a popular way to entertain on Bastille Day. Cook up some brochettes, which are any kind of meat that can be skewered, and serve them with a salade verte with vinaigrette dressing (made with a touch of Dijon mustard, bien sûr), a traditional Salade Niçoise with haricot vert, and baguettes. Since there is a greater focus on the salée than the sucré in France, after dinner, serve a fun bleublanc, and rouge fruit-and-cheese platter with blueberries, sliced brie, and raspberries. To satisfy those with a sweet tooth, offer a simple and traditional mousse au chocolat or meringue with fraise as well.

bastille day party
Classic French table for a casual gathering of friends. Photo courtesy of Le Jacquard Francais

Set une table très authentique. To set a table like the French do, start with a colorful cloth from Le Jacquard Francais or Couleur Nature, a company that creates table linens inspired by the flowers and landscapes of Southern France. Add classic French Pillivuyt dinnerwarePicardie glassware, which is standard in French cafes, and vintage French flatware purchased on 1stDibs, Chairish, or eBay. Add touches of whimsy by sprinkling the table with a few “found items,” like vintage French postcards, which can also be used as place cards.

bastille day party
Centerpiece of lily of the valley. Photo courtesy of Carolyne Roehm

Add les jolies fleurs. Lily of the Valley and freesia are abundant in France in the summertime and perfect for a casual outdoor gathering. Create a statement-making centerpiece for your table using one or both of these lovely white blooms. Next to the sink in the powder room, place a small pot of lavender and lavender-scented hand soap.

bastille day party
Brigitte Bardot by Brian Duffy for Elle France June 3, 1965

Hit the right notes with la  musique. A great way to keep your Bastille Day theme top of mind is to play French music from start to finish. Check out this Bastille Day Soirèe Playlist, a collection of fun and festive songs from French singers and crooners like Brigitte Bardot, Charles Aznavour, Serge Gainsbourg, Claude François, Françoise Hardy, Jacques Brel, and Carla Bruni that will have your guests declaring Vive la France!

Voila! Bonne fête!

By Carla McDonald

About The Salonniere

At its height, The Salonniere (“sal-on-yair”) was the nation’s leading website dedicated to the art of entertaining. Named for the 17th- and 18th-century women whose influential parties—called salons—introduced the power and delight of intellectually and culturally engaging social gatherings, The Salonniere was founded by Carla McDonald in 2013 to celebrate the universal joy of social revelry and the people continuing the tradition of hosting parties to support causes, advance ideas, and bring joy to others. Carla closed The Salonniere in May 2019.