Charleston wedding and event designer Calder Clark describes her look as “Mississippi Delta meets coastal Carolina—inherently casual with the occasional elegant swish.” Whether she’s dreaming up a client’s reception for a cast of thousands, or planning an evening for six in her own courtyard, she always wants the party to have polish without being overwrought. “At home we keep it cozy, but usually alfresco, with lots of bubbly, and ending with s’mores by the fire,” says Clark.
5 Things Calder Learned Along the Way:
1. SELECT A STARTING POINT. A flower, a color, a cocktail—anything can be inspiration. I chose an icy blue palette to echo winter, even though it’s mild enough to entertain outside. I didn’t want the table to feel leftover from the holidays or headed too quickly toward Easter.
2. MIX AND MATCH FOR A HIGH/LOW EFFECT. No one wants to be “bride in a bag,” where everything matches perfectly. It’s the same with tabletop. Things should be kissing cousins, as opposed to obsessively coordinated, because then it looks collected over time. However, I’m mixing it up in subtle ways these days—it’s a bit more refined and not like I emptied Grandma’s attic on the table.
3. BREAK THE RULES. Sometimes I’m a “dessert before dinner” kind of girl. Champagne glasses can hold water; water goblets can hold red wine. Antique silver and gold electroplate flatware will work beautifully together on the table. I might still have an apron on when the first guest arrives. But the one rule I’ll never break? Flowers that block conversation across the table.
4. THERE CAN BE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING. Every dish doesn’t have to be homemade, nor every silver fork polished to a gleam. It’s okay to be real. I create an atmosphere that says, You’re special and I love you, but feel free to put your feet up by the fire.
5. GIVE GUESTS THE NIGHT OFF. Friends always want to know how they can help or what they can bring, but for me true hospitality is about letting them relax and not lift a finger. Here I did place Champagne and cocktail accoutrements (sugared blueberries, juices, lemon twists, and other garnishes) right on the dinner table so that people could refresh their own drinks, and they also added a great pop of color.
By Karen Carroll | Photos by Julia Lynn