When I wrote my party book FOR GOOD TIMES, one of my favourite chapters was all about Sweet Tables. Here is a bit about what I wrote there modified for the Science Party Theme.
BACKGROUND Behind your dessert table is often the most overlooked element and yet it can totally make or break the table especially in the photos. Possibly you are lucky and the party area already has pretty wallpaper or perfectly placed pictures. If not, opt for a blank wall and decorate with:
A printed custom canvas/poster
A wall of ribbon
Removable Wall Stickers
For the Science Party, the wall was already grey and the addition of Periodic Table Buntings pelling out Happy Day worked out great.
OVERHEAD The most exciting part of a dessert table is often the decorations that “frame” the table from above. First and foremost, assess whether your venue allows for the fastening of items from above. If successful, consider options like Chinese paper lanterns, tissue paper poms, paper daisies. If you are not able to hang items, a similar look can be achieved using helium balloons.
For the Science Party I actually didn’t add anything else but if I think about it, balloons would have worked well.
TABLE A weathered wooden or colourful trestle table can be left bare. Or opt for a floor length tablecloth and patterned runners. Do measure your table beforehand so as to ensure a good fit; and importantly assist with spacing out the items that will sit on the table.
At the Science Party, I left the set of drawers I have bare but then I added some Caution: Happy Birthday tape to the front.
VARIATONS OF HEIGHT Whilst an obvious tip, be sure that your tall items are placed at the back of your table and the smallest ones at the front. Height is created by covering polystyrene cubes in wrapping paper. For easy options look out for pre-covered gift boxes, nesting suitcases and overturned wooden crates.
Last year, I found little white wooden rectangular trays at Micasa in their office section and these work great as trays, or if overturned create a little “stage” for goodies.
DECORATIONS Even though the main focus of the table will be the sweets and treats, it is a good idea to incorporate other decorative elements to set off your sweet things and this is a good way to fill up the table without the often more costly option of food items. Think flowers, decorative ornaments – in fact an additional table centrepiece or two on either side of the table makes a good choice. Avoid candles, as their fragrance will interfere with the food.
For flowers, I have been keeping my eye out for months for Science Laboratory jars, beakers etc. I also used simple measuring jugs and years ago I even found two vases that look like light bulbs!
CAKE More often than not, a cake on a cake stand is placed in the centre and sufficiently tiered to be the highlight of the table. If your cake is “too short” elevate your cake stand on top of a covered box. Also, asymmetrical placing of the cake to one side is also pleasing to the eye especially for an overall informal look, which is what I went for the Science Party.
VESSELS Glass Jars, Metal Buckets, Over Turned Hats, Ceramic or Glass Footed, Compotes, and Bowls are needed to hold the sweet treats, particularly loose candy. Opt for items in clear glass or white; thereby forming a neutral base to show off the sweets and start a collection that can be used for future tables.
This was easily achieved for the Science Party as I have accumulated tons of glass jars over the years. Good sources include IKEA and Micasa. And how awesome are these plastic syrings I found at Depot last Halloween!
PLATTERS White ceramic platters or plates will display stand-alone treats like cupcakes and cookies. For a crafty idea use mirrors or glass frames and fasten small knobs at each corner for feet. These not only elevate the goodies off the table but allow for one to cut down on the surface area needed to be filled with treats.
BAKED GOODIES Favourites to include are iced cupcakes, cake pops, iced cookies, macaroons, whoppie pies.
At the Science Party, we were only have eight guests so I had just the cake for the baked goods, but was tempted to have cookies to serve as “microchip cookies” and cupcakes decorated with the Meri Meri Cupcake Kit complete with little Science themed food picks.
NO BAKE GOODIES Jellies and mousses are best made and displayed in small glass jars or shooter glasses, complete with teaspoons tied on with twine. Pretzels dipped in chocolate, candy floss and flavoured popcorn are easy to add treats.
The success of this was definitely my little spice jars from IKEA turned into “petri dishes” holding jelly with blob sweets and gummy worms inside and decorated with hundreds and thousands. Plus, pieces of candy floss coming out of jars looked like smoke!
CANDY SWEETS Marshmallows, Lollipops, Liquorice, Dragee Almonds, Chocolate Bars, Mints, Gumballs. Sweets are probably the most costly element of the table, as even a small jar requires a lot of candy. Therefore, consider using small footed glass jars with pretty lids and decorate the tops with ribbon bows.
My favourite new place to buy candy is at Ottos as they have huge tubs of sweets from Haribo at great prices. I picked up gummi frogs, gummi worms, gummi volcanoes. I also found tic tacs, M&Ms and gumballs as protons, neutrons and protons.
LABELS The little details make all the difference therefore be sure to add little labels or place cards naming the goods on offer. Decorate with the Printable Party Party Circle Tags and Food Flags fastened onto toothpicks or skewers.
The Science Printable Party had little place cards that I used either as tented placecards labels or cut in half to be jar labels.
TAKEAWAY CONTAINERS Always have little plates, treat bags or boxes alongside so that your guests can fill up on the goodies and have the option to take some home.
Top Tip: over Christmas I bought the little treat bags that Depot had for making up Advent Calendars. I ended up getting 24 red paper bags for a fraction of the cost I would have paid during the year. I then stuck on little Science Party round circle tags featuring a little atom.
FILL IT UP If your table is particularly large and you need to fill in some gaps, consider incorporating your drinks as part of the table, similarly one can add other party food or favours to the other end of the table.