Decor – Nautical-themed Decorations

This month I wrote a Travel Post about the Royal Yacht Britannia.  The Britannia, which launched in 1953, has served the Queen as an official Royal residence for state visits and official receptions when traveling aboard.  The Britannia was also used for Royal family holidays and the honeymoons of several Royal couples throughout the years.  The Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 and is now a tourist attraction in Edinburg, Scotland.  Please click on the link for more detailed information about the history of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

So, inspired by the Britannia I decided to create two Nautical-themed Decorations which were easy craft projects, using just a few inexpensive and relatively easy to purchase items that could be made in just a short time.  The Nautical-themed Decorations would look wonderful in a beach or coastal home but could be used in any style of home.      

The first Nautical-themed Decoration used a wooden hook in the shape of an anchor, a black framed shadowbox and red, white and blue stripped scrapbook paper.  To start the craft project, I disassembled the shadowbox and set aside the backing and glass.  Using the backing as a guide to size, I cut the scrapbook paper to fit the interior of the shadowbox and then glued it to a piece of cardboard cut to the same dimensions.  This provided a hard, sturdy surface to hold the weight of the anchor hook.  I centered the anchor into place and then glued it to the scrapbook paper/cardboard.  Next, I replaced the glass and backing of the shadowbox and that completed the craft project.  (Décor Note: I choose to detach the metal hook from the wooden anchor but it could remain as a serviceable item for hanging)   

Anchor Hook  Framed Anchor

The second Nautical-themed Decoration took a little bit of research but was made in under an hour using a few inexpensive items.  The supplies included a simple wooden frame with a white mat, a burlap covered backing, several colors of scrapbook paper, cardboard letters painted black and small amount of jute rope.  To start the craft project, I used my home computer to find the nautical flag alphabet and with this information I used scrapbook paper to create the flags that would spell out our last name.  After making the small flags I attached these to a small length of jute rope which I strung from one side of the frame to the other.  With the painted black cardboard letter I spelled out “welcome” and glued these directly to the burlap backing.  (Décor Note: For this project I choose not to use the glass from the frame because of the thickness of the rope and paper flags.  By eliminating the glass it also omitted any glare to distract from the display)

Nautical flag final

Nautical flag alphabet

With these custom-made Nautical-themed Decorations I was able to create the perfect items for our home.           

Decor – Framed Wedding Invitations

Since the month of June is customarily a popular time for weddings, I decided to share some ideas that can be used for a Framed Wedding Invitation.  As many of you know from reading my blog, my personal design style for home accessories is to create customized display items that are visual reminders of those important moments in our lives.  A wedding invitation specially framed would be a perfect example of this type of home decoration.

A wedding is perhaps one of the most important events that a couple shares in their lifetime and there is a wide selection of wedding invitations to choose from and sometimes the process of selecting one can take time because it will set the formality, style and colors of the wedding and reception.  No matter the size or shape of the wedding invitation that a couple has selected, a custom Framed Wedding Invitation can be designed to fit any room décor whether it will be hung on the wall, placed on a side table or bookshelf.

The first step in creating a Framed Wedding Invitation is to select a the perfect frame. There are numerous choices that can be found in retail and craft stores ranging from a flat frame to a shadowbox and there are numerous varieties of finishes made of wood, different types of metal, resin or porcelain.  Depending on the style of the wedding invitation, you can decide if it should remain simple (just the frame and the invitation) or to create a more elaborate display with embellishments.

Shown below are two examples of floral embellished ideas for a Framed Wedding Invitation.  The first one was made with artificial pink flowers and ivy accented with two small white doves and the second one was made using several porcelain flowers.  All the items were glued directly to the double ivory photo mat and were found at my local craft store.

 Framed Wedding Invitation 1b  Framed Wedding Invitation 2a

The next example features a charming little Wee Forest Folk figurine of a bride and groom mouse couple that could have been used as decoration on the wedding cake. The frame that I used had a deep recessed area and I placed the figurine in the center and attached it with hot glue.  I think it is a cute way to display a wedding invitation with just a touch of whimsy.  

Framed Wedding Invitation - Wee Forest Folks 1

Sometimes the right frame can be hand made and the example shown below features a simple craft project that I made which uses two wooden pieces.  The bottom piece is a plain wooden frame and the top piece is one of the popular laser-cut frames that are currently available in any local craft store and this particular one features several hearts. To complete the project, I painted the bottom piece with bronze paint and the top piece painted in gold with a bronze border.  I then glued the two pieces together and embellished the top piece with golden crystals that added a little sparkle and were the perfect finishing touch.

Framed Wedding Invitation wooden pieces

Framed Wedding Invitation - final

Listed below are several additional ideas and suggestions for items that can be used to embellish a Framed Wedding Invitation:

  • In a shadowbox with a wedding invitation set inside a mat frame display a wedding garter, the groom’s tie, a lucky penny or sixpence, a dried boutonniere or flowers from a bridal bouquet.  Perhaps you can arrange the bridal veil into gentle gathers for a lovely background.
  • Another idea using items from the wedding is to set the toasting glasses inside a shadowbox along with the matted wedding invitation, perhaps add a small bottle of wine or champagne served at the wedding ceremony.  This type of Framed Wedding Invitation would look great displayed in a dining room or kitchen.
  • One more idea using items from the wedding is to set the cake topper and cake cutting knife inside a shadowbox along with the matted wedding invitation. Usually the cake knife is engraved with the names of the bridal couple and the wedding date white a cake topper is selected to fit the style and theme of a wedding.  So, instead of  being tucked away in a storage box think about displaying these items along with the wedding invitation.
  • Seashells for a beach-themed wedding or perhaps some sand if the ceremony took place on the beach
  • Resin or plastic snowflakes for a winter-themed wedding or a couple of sprigs of artificial pine branches or holly
  • Scrapbook embellishments for a Disney-themed wedding (click on a link to see a photo frame which was originally used for to framed vacation photos but could be easily adapted to hold a  invitation)
  • A resin wagon wheel, boots and a cowboy hat for a western/country-themed wedding (click on the link to see a photo frame which was originally used to frame vacation photos but could be easily adapted to hold a wedding invitation)
  • A resin or glass Eiffel Tower, London Bridge or other iconic ornament for a European destination wedding
  • A bamboo frame accented with an artificial orchid or flower lei for a Hawaiian destination wedding
  • Vintage glass wedding bell ornaments added to a Framed Wedding Invitation shadowbox for a simple classic style

As you can see, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!  

Decor – British Royal Memorabilia

20160502_085630

Dating back over 40 years ago my interest in the British monarchy started when I read a series of books by the historical romance novelist Jean Plaidy on the life of Queen Victoria.  Throughout the following years I have read other biographies about King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII (who renounced the throne for the “woman he loved”, Wallis Simpson), King George VI and finally Queen Elizabeth II.  Of course, along with the millions of other people, back in July 1981 I woke up before dawn to watch the television coverage of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and then again in April 2011 for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Serious collectors of royal memorabilia divided the items into two distinct categories – commemorative and personal.  Commemorative items are made on the occasion of royal coronations, weddings or births and can include stamps and coins, medals and medallions, china plates and mugs, tea towels and handkerchiefs, dolls and figurines, books and other printed material.  Personal royal memorabilia is defined as items that were previously owned by a member of the royal family such as clothing, jewelry, or perhaps a cigarette case.  Another personal item could be a painting or drawing done by a royal.  Royal memorabilia can be found in antique stores or on the internet through sites such as e-bay.

In this post I will discuss the many different categories of items in my personal royal memorabilia collection which I have accumulated over the years.  These items include coronation and jubilee medals, commemorative stamps and coins and a small collection of Wedgwood plates created to honor the royal weddings and finally numerous books and biographies about various members of the royal family.

Coronation and Jubilee medals

  • Queen Victoria jubilee and memorial medals – These are the two oldest medals in my Royal memorabilia collection.  The first is a Diamond Jubilee medal which dates back to 1897 on the occasion of the sixtieth year of the reign of Queen Victoria; she ascended to the British throne at the age of 18 upon the death of her uncle King William IV on June 20, 1837.  The second is a memorial medal which commemorates Queen Victoria’s death in January 22, 1901, she was 81 years old.

Queen Victoria - Jubilee medal front  Queen Victoria - Jubilee medal back
Queen Victoria - memorial medal front  Queen Victoria - memorial medal back

  • King Edward VII coronation medal – This medal commemorates the coronation of King Edward VII in June 1902, the date indicates his originally scheduled coronation but when the King had appendicitis just days before the event it was postponed to allow time for surgery and then his recovery.  The King was crowned at Westminster Abbey on August 9, 1902 and the images of both King Edward and Queen Alexandra are featured on the medal.

King Edward II - coronation medal front  King Edward II - coronation medal back

  • King George V coronation medal – This medal commemorates the coronation of King George V which took place on June 22, 1911 (He ascended to the throne when his father, King Edward VII died in May 1910, in general it takes about a year to plan and execute an elaborate coronation ceremony). Featured on the medal are the images of both King George and Queen Mary.

King George V - coronation medal front  King George V - coronation medal back

  • King Edward VIII coronation medal – This medal is unique because it was for the coronation of King Edward VIII which never took place.  Although he ascended to the throne upon the death of his father, King George V, on January 20, 1936 he caused a constitutional crisis when he abdicated on December 10, 1936 to eventually marry the twice divorced Wallis Simpson.

King Edward III - coronation medal front  King Edward III - coronation medal back

  • King George VI coronation medal – This medal commemorates the coronation of King George VI who ascended to the British throne following the abdication of his older brother, the uncrowned King Edward VII.  King George’s coronation took place on May 12, 1937 at Westminster Abbey, the medal features both King George and Queen Elizabeth, who later became known as the Queen Mother after the death of her husband.

King George VI - coronation medal front  King George VI - coronation medal back

  • 1936 commemorative medal – This unusual pin commemorates the year of 1936 which is known as the “Year of the Three Kings”.  The front of the pin depicts King George V on the right (reign May 1910 to January 1936), on the left is King Edward III (reign January to December 1936) and in the center is King George VI with Queen Elizabeth (reign December 1936 to February 1952).  The back of the pin has the inscription that reads, “Souvenir of the coronation of King George VI and the historical year of 1936 during which England had three Kings”

20160502_085812-1

  • Queen Elizabeth II coronation medal – This medal commemorates the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II which took place on June 2, 1953.  Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne after the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6, 1952.  (For more information about the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, please click on the link)

Queen Elizabeth II - coronation medal front  Queen Elizabeth II - coronation medal back
Commemorative stamps and coins

  • King George VI and Queen Elizabeth 25th wedding anniversary stamp – This first day cover commemorates the 25th wedding of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, it is date stamped in Edinburgh, Scotland on April 26, 1948.  (For more information about their wedding in 1923 at Westminster Abbey, click on the link to British Royal Wedding – Part Three)  Shown below is a shadowbox with the anniversary stamp framed with the coronation medal of King George VI.

Silver Wedding stamp with coronation medal

  • Prince Charles and Diana Spencer wedding stamp and coin – This first day cover commemorates the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, it is date stamped in London, England on July 22, 1981.  The envelope features two stamps and a special coin depicting both Prince Charles and Lady Diana. (For more information about their wedding, click on the link to British Royal Wedding – Part Four)

Prince Charles and Diana wedding stamp and coin set

  • Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip 50th wedding anniversary stamp set and coin – The first commemorates the 50th wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, it is date stamped Westminster Abbey in London on April 21, 1997.  The coin features both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.  The second features four different stamps dated November 13, 1997 in Warrington (For more information about their wedding in 1947, click on the link to British Royal Wedding – Part Three)

Golden Wedding stamp and coin set

  • Princess Diana memorial stamp set and coin – The Royal Mail set of four stamps honoring Princess Diana was issued after her death in 1997.  The Princess Diana memorial coin shown was issued in 1999.

Princess Diana stamp and coin set

  • The Queen Mother’s 100th birthday stamp set and coin – The Queen Mother’s 100th birthday stamp and coin was issued in 2000.  The coin features The Queen Mother and the stamp set includes four different stamps depicting the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William.

Queen Mother stamp and set

Royal Commemorative Wedgwood Jasperware Plates

Wedgwood is a British pottery company which was founded by Josiah Wedgwood in 1759 in Stoke on Trent, England.  Jasperware is traditionally made in light blue with white decorative scenes featuring Greek or Roman mythology, other colors have also been used.  Later, Royal Wedgewood Jasperware plates were made to commemorate coronations, wedding and births.

  • Prince Charles and Diana Spencer wedding plate – This Wedgwood Jasperware plate commemorates the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

Wedgewood plate - 1981 wedding

  • Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson wedding plate – This Wedgwood Jasperware plate commemorates the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson which took place on July 23, 1986 at Westminster Abbey in London, England.

Wedgewood plate - 19XX wedding

Books and other printed material

Sparked by my interest in the British royal family, throughout the years I have collected several books which I bought in my local bookstore or online, also I have come across out of print books which I purchased at antique stores.  These books are displayed on the bookshelves in the library of our home.

Listed below are some of the most noteworthy books:

  • “Victoria in the Wings”, “Victoria Victorious”, “The Queen’s Husband” and “The Widow of Windsor” from the Victorian series of historical novels written by Jean Plaidy  – these books tell the story of Queen Victoria’s life from her birth in 1819 to her accession to the throne of England in 1837 and to her death in 1901.  (These are the books that started my long term interest in Queen Victoria and the British royal family)

Jean Plaidy Queen Victoria books

  • “The Beautiful Life and Illustrious Reign of Queen Victoria” by Rev. John Rusk – this book was published only 4 months after the death of the Queen in 1901 and includes many photographs.  (The antique book has a lovely book cover and it is displayed as a decorative item in the bookshelf in my home office)

Queen Victoria book - front

  • “Silver Wedding – The Record of Twenty-five Royal Years” by Louis Wulff – this book was published in 1948 to commemorate the 25th wedding anniversary of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Silver Wedding book

  • “The Little Princesses” by Marion Crawford – when this book about the two daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York was first published in 1950 by their Nanny “Crawfie” and it caused a scandal in England.  No Royal servant had ever divulged the “secrets” of the Royal family before in print but the stories about Princess Elizabeth (later to become Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister, Princess Margaret,  are actually very sweet.  Unfortunately, the Queen Mother and the rest of the royal family never spoke to Nanny “Crawfie” again.

The Little Princesses

  • “God Save the Queen” by Allan Michie – This book was written in 1952 after the death of King George VI and before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  The book details the life of King George from his birth to his childhood to his accession to his early and untimely death.

God Save the Queen

  • “The Last Great Edwardian Lady” by Ingrid Seward – This book was published in 1999 and discusses the life of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother.  She was born at the turn of the century and lived until the age of 101.  (The copy that I have has a special in memoriam overleaf on the cover)

Queen Mother book

  • “A Dress for Diana” by David and Elizabeth Emanuel – This book was published in 2006 and is written by the designers of the iconic bridal dress that Lady Diana Spencer wore to her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles.  (For more information about Diana’s wedding dress, please click on the link to British Royal Wedding Dresses- Part Two)

A Dress for Diana book

Listed below are some of the guidebooks collected on our trip to England in 1997:

Guidebooks

(For more information about of these travel destinations in England, please click on the links shown above)

Decor – Funeral decorations and memorbilia

This month in honor of Presidents Day I wrote a post on Presidential Funerals in which I discussed the traditions and customs involved in the planning of these events. Personally, in recent years I have helped to plan several funerals for family members and in the process I have searched the internet for ideas.  In general, craft information to create decorations or displays for a funeral are difficult to find and most websites that I found on the internet were for ready-made items to purchase.  In this post I discuss the numerous funeral or memorial items that I have made and I will also offer suggestions for additional items.  When planning the elements for a funeral or memorial service the focus should be on the deceased person and all the items used should in some way reflect their personality, interests or have special meaning that tells the story of their life.

Funeral or memorial service decorations

To start the decorations for a funeral or memorial service it is a good idea to have a welcome table for the invited guests which will usually be set up in the vestibule of a church or in the hallway or just inside the door of a mortuary lobby.   Place a large photo of the deceased person on the table along with some smaller photos, some type of book for guests to sign or write their memories of the deceased person.  A welcome table it is also a great place to set the funeral or memorial programs and holy cards for guests to pick up.  For my mom’s rosary service the night before her funeral we placed several photos on the tables around the room which we mixed in with the many floral arrangements. (Decor Tip:  For smaller photos use frames that have an easel backing or for larger photos in bigger frames use metal or wooden stands)        

Funeral display 1

For the service of my husband’s grandmother we set out the scrapbook which I had for the 60th anniversary of his grandparents on the welcome table, the book highlighted the couple’s life together throughout the years and it was wonderful for the guests to be able to glance through before the service.  (Craft Tip: This type of retrospective scrapbook is a relatively easy craft project to create in a few hours.  All that is needed are a photo album, several photos depicting the deceased throughout their life, a supply of scrapbook paper and some stickers or other embellishments)

Funeral display 3 Funeral display 5

Another type of display arrangement to create for a funeral or memorial service is by incorporating memorabilia of the deceased person.  For my husband’s grandfather’s service his special Pearl Harbor Survivor hats were set out on the table.  For my husband’s grandmother’s service several of her paintings were set out on the mantel of a fireplace with a specially made shadowbox displaying her many art show ribbons collected throughout the years. 

Funeral display 2Funeral display 4

For the memorial service for my husband’s nephew, I made a wreath decorated with artificial flowers and butterflies for the welcome table, butterflies were the general theme of the service (look for a photo of this wreath later in this post).  Since the deceased was a young boy, his mother wanted to display his many sports awards and also his school projects made throughout the years.  On the fireplace mantel in the room we set out more framed photos, sports awards and a stack of his favorite books.  Before the service started the guests moved about the room looking at all the displays.

Memorial displays 2 Memorial displays 1

Memorial displays 3

The elements or parts of a funeral or memorial service

When planning a funeral or memorial service there are usually numerous decisions to make in regards to selecting songs, prayers or poems.  Much like the choices made for the decorations, when planning the elements for a funeral or memorial service the focus should be on the deceased person and the selections made should reflect their personality, interests or have special meaning. 

A wonderful element for a funeral or a memorial service is a personalized video presentation which includes a selection of photos showing the life of the deceased person set to specially selected music.  Together my husband and I have done this for the funeral and memorial services of several relatives (and also for various milestone birthdays or anniversaries).  There are many different applications and programs that can be used to create a video and the one that you choose comes down to personal preference.

There are several things to keep in mind when making a personalized video for a funeral or memorial service.  The first thing to consider are that the photos chosen should span the years of the deceased person.  We usually select photos from childhood through to the end of their life including memorable events, special occasions or other milestones. Shown below is an unusual photo of the hands of three generations of women in my family which was taken just a few years before my mother passed away, the hands are of my mother, myself and my daughter.  We used this as the “title photo” for the video which listed her full name, date of birth and date of death.  (Special Tip: One thing to keep in mind when selecting photos is to try to include the family and friends that will be attending the service.  The second thing to consider is the music selection and it should be a song that holds special meaning.  Maybe the song could be the deceased person’s favorite song by their favorite musical artist or maybe one that you personally selected because of the meaning of the lyrics or a classical song or a church hymn.  Another Special Tip: In the past when we have created a video for a funeral we have used only one song and selected the number of photos to fill the time from the beginning to end of the song.  We found the length of one song, usually 2 to 4 minutes, works best because it holds the attention of the guests)

00- -Title

Another element that we used for my husband’s nephew’s memorial service was a special butterfly release.  The mother wanted the service to be a celebration of her son’s life, so at the end of the service the guests were invited outside to witness the release of the butterflies.  The immediate family members including grandparents, aunts and uncles said a few words before releasing individual butterflies and to conclude this portion of the service the parents and siblings of the boy released a large basket of several butterflies which fluttered into the afternoon sky providing a wonderful symbolic gesture and proved to be a very emotional end to the service. (Source Tip:  When planning the event we searched the internet for a local source for the butterfly release.  There is a little preparation involved with a butterfly release but it is worth the effort)

Another element to a funeral or memorial service are the items worn by the people taking part in the service.  For my mother’s funeral I made the boutonnieres for the pallbearers to wear, my mother had requested that all of her grandchildren carry her coffin into the chapel.  Her grandsons and grand-daughters wore white roses, my mother’s favorite flower, on their left side pined over their hearts.  I used artificial roses, a few leaves, green floral tape to create the boutonnieres and provided long pearl topped pins to fasten them to the shirts or dresses of the grandchildren.  (Craft Tip: Flowers chosen for a boutonniere can be traditional lilies, roses or perhaps the favorite flower of the deceased person)

Funeral boutonniere

Another item that I made for my sisters and myself to wear at my mother’s funeral service were special medallion brooches.  I found the metal and glass medallions at my local craft store, selected a photo of my mother and father which I copied and then minimized the size to fit the medallion.  Then I tied a black ribbon bow with a safety pin attached to use to pin it to our clothes.  Since both my mother and father had now passed away I wanted to honor their memory and also designate at the funeral that we were their daughters.  Something this simple to create was noticed by the guests at the funeral and I received many compliments about the medallions.  (Special Note: As a very meaningful gesture, I made two special medallions which I placed in my mother’s coffin.  One had a photo of her with her parents and siblings and the other was a photo of her with my dad and her four daughters)

Memorial brooch 3

For the memorial service of my husband’s nephew we used a theme of butterflies and I purchased inexpensive artificial butterflies from my local craft store which we pinned to the clothing of the immediate family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and great-grandparents.  This was a wonderful way to incorporate the theme of the service and also to identify the relatives of the deceased boy.

Preserving the memorabilia of a funeral or memorial service

After a funeral or memorial service there is sometimes memorabilia to preserve or to honor the deceased person.  The first item shown below was actually used at my wedding and was something I created to honor my father who had passed away several years earlier.  I used a photo of my father and found a special poem on the internet that I printed on my home computer and it perfectly reflected my feelings about him.  Shown below is the special memorial piece that I placed on a table with a floral arrangement and some candles.  I used a simple wooden frame, selected a double photo mat and then inserted both my father’s photo and the special poem.  Even though this item was used for a wedding the idea could also be a special piece to display on the welcome table at the funeral or memorial service or could be used afterwards to display in a home to remember and honor a deceased person.  Another idea instead of a traditional frame is to use a shadowbox frame that could include a boutonniere or flower from the funeral or memorial service.  

Framed memorial 1 Memorial poem 1

The next two items were created to preserve the memory of my husband’s nephew.  The first was the special wreath I created to displayed on the “welcome table” at the memorial service and it was saved to be used afterwards for a front door decoration.  I used a simple grapevine wreath, flowers and 12 blue butterflies were also attached to the wreath to reference the age of the boy at the time of his death.  The second item I created was a special piece which I presented to the mother after the service.  I used the program from the memorial service, some of the flowers and stems from the wreath and two of the butterflies which were originally used as boutonnieres.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Framed memorial 2

For my mother’s funeral service I wanted to create a very special and sentimental wreath. The floral wreath that I made features white roses which were my Mother’s favorite flower. I used six white full roses to represent my parents and their four daughters, nine white rose buds to represent their nine grandchildren.  I finished the wreath with green hydrangeas and berries in a lovely pastel shade of rose pink.  By creating this special wreath instead of purchasing one from the local floral shop turned out to be a blessing.  Let me explain, first by taking the time to make the wreath I was able to honor my mother’s creative talent which was something she passed on to me.  Second, as I made the wreath I was able take the time to reflect on my memories of her and start to process my grief from her passing.  I still use the wreath as a floral decoration for my front door and instead of making me sad it brings me serenity and peace in remembering and honoring my mother.

Funeral wreath 1

Decor – Downton Abbey-inspired entertaining

When watching the Downton Abbey television series, viewers will immediately notice the grand and elegant entertaining style of Lord and Lady Grantham.  There are simple breakfasts served most mornings from the sideboard or lavish multi-course dinners served very formally in the dining room or tea served in the drawing room, these scenes are all filmed for the television series on location at the real-life Highclere Castle (please see the photo below of the Highclere dining room)  In this post I will discuss the entertaining styles shown throughout the series beginning in the first season during the late 1910s in the post-Edwardian era dictated by strict rules and traditions to the final season during the mid-1920s when social changes were happening at a rapid pace after World War I as England was moving into more modern times.

Highclere dining room

Back in England during the post-Edwardian period of the mid-1910s, a woman such as Lady Grantham would spend quite a bit of time planning a dinner party.  Special care was taken in choosing the food and drink for the menu, selecting china, silver and crystal for the table service, flowers for the centerpiece and the seating arrangements for the guests.  Entertainment was an important part of the aristocratic social life and it was also a way for gentlemen to conduct business away from the office.  (The photo below shows the beautiful Downton dining table set for a formal dinner in season 3 episode 2)

Downton Abbey Dinner 2

For special dinners it was customary for invitations to be addressed and sent to the guests four to six weeks in advance.  In general, the dinner time would start at eight o’clock in the evening and guests were expected to arrive at least fifteen minutes prior to the time indicted on the invitation for pre-dinner drinks.  In contrast to the lengthy formal dinners lasting several hours during the Victorian and Edwardian times, by the 1910s there would a considerably shorter eight course meal lasting under an hour. Upon arrival, the guests would remove their coats and then proceed into the drawing room for pre-dinner drinks. (as shown in the photos below)  Once all the guests had arrived they would go into the dining room and seat in very specific places depending on their rank and status.  In general, the head of the house sits at the head of the table but in Downton Abbey Lord and Lady Grantham sit on opposite sides in the middle of the table.  In either case, the guest of honor or most important man or women sits next to the host and hostess.  (the photo below shows a typical Downton Abbey dinner with the guests seated at the table)

Downton Abbey  Downton Abbey - pre dinner 1

Downton Abbey Dinner 1

Each place setting would be carefully laid out defined by strict etiquette rules with the correct plates, utensils and stemware for the meal being served.  (as shown in the photo below)  On a more formal occasion, each guest would have a place card with their name and sometimes several menu cards with the each course written in French would also be placed on the table.  Lighting for an evening meal would be keep low with candlelight and there would be floral centerpieces or perhaps fruit in silver or crystal bowls that could be eaten later during the dessert course.  The meal would be served by butlers working their way around the table starting with the host or hostess, serving on the left side of the person and taking away used plates from the right side always in a manner that is quiet and without disturbing the guests or interrupting conversations.  During each course the butlers will stand a short distance behind the table and keeping watch in case a guest should need attention.  (the photo below shows Carson waiting to serve the guests in between courses)         

Downton Abbey - dinner place setting  Downton Abbey dinner - butler service 1

At the conclusion of the dinner, the ladies would “go through” to the drawing room for coffee while the men would remain in the dining room for port, sherry or claret and cigars or cigarettes.  Later the gentlemen would join the ladies and occasionally there would be entertainment in the evening and it could be laying cards, charades or other games.  In the case of Downton Abbey it would be an invited Opera singer or perhaps a visiting Jazz band or music from the gramaphone. (the photos below show the various forms of after-dinner entertainment as depicted in Downton Abbey)

Downton Abbey - after dinner entertainment - charades

Downton Abbey - after dinner entertainment - opera singer  Downton Abbey - Jazz band

Downton Abbey - after dinner entertainment - gramaphone

Here is a list of items needed to set a proper Downton Abbey-inspired table:

  • Table pad or other cloth, goes underneath the formal tablecloth to keep it in place
  • White tablecloth, length should hang with the end between the floor and the table edge
  • White napkins, approximately twenty-four to twenty-six inches square.  For a very formal table the napkins should be folded into the Bishop’s Miter style
  • Place the plates, utensils and stemware in a formal place setting, if you are a real stickler for details you can use a tape measure for precise placement (look for an example in the photo below)

formal dinner place setting

  • Candlelight would set an enchanting mood; use long white candles that are slightly longer than the candlesticks
  • Floral arrangements add beauty to a formal table but be aware that placement does not block the view of the guests.  Fruit in silver or crystal bowls and fern or other greenery placed on the table are another alternative.