Expert entertainers and founders of The Punctilious Mr. P's Place Card Co., Karen and Martin Cooper, explain the art of gathering and its influence on mental health. Located in the Hudson Valley, Karen and Martin help set the stage for all your fall gatherings.
What would you say are the core components in entertaining?
No matter how casual or lavish the efforts may be, entertaining is a fantastic theater of creativity. Consider the premise that each host or hostess is charged with the privilege of forging memories and bonds. Have fun sparking all the senses.
- We think that the essential element to any memorable gathering begins with the alchemy of the guests. Who's coming and why? Who mixes well with who, etc. A careful consideration of the guest list is paramount. Consider all the finery in the world where luxury has no limits, it's lifeless til the guests animate the gathering. Place cards facilitate the efforts of the host or hostess to engage their guests.
- Next, the flow is vital... no one really enjoys chaos. Organization matters. A host or hostess should plan the flow of the gathering like walking through a mind palace, make lists, use apps etc. Believe it or not, the structure scaffolds spontaneity.
- Atmosphere sets the stage upon which alchemy and flow comes to life. This covers the site, the scent, the sound, the light, the energy, and the decoration.
- Edibles and potables...Taste ignites visceral memories and emotions. This will transport your guests back to your event every time they come across it again. With the internet as a tool, there is a plethora of food and drink choices to set your palatable mood. Knowledge of your guests' food allergies and dietary restrictions show an added attention to detail that makes your guests feel special.
- Finally, adaptability is the best attitude to entertaining. Knowing in life that nothing goes 100% your way, don't be so hard on yourself if something unravels a bit. Smile and carry on. Make a note and keep perfecting your mousetrap.
What items do you always use to accessorize the table for an event?
Mr. P's Illustrated Place Cards, naturally! We want each of our guests to know that they have a named place at our table. We've always treasured the way a place card sparks a smile from our guests. It's a great way to start the meal. For us, place cards are never meant as a formal etiquette, but an honorific gesture. We love how our clients, particularly our gen y's, are seeing nostalgia through new eyes as they pine for connection of rites and rituals defunct from their coming of age. Mr. P's place cards celebrate gatherings and how good it feels to connect in person.
Aside from place cards, our tables always have low cut fresh flowers— peony and dahlias being our flowers of choice from our garden. We keep the flowers low on the table so you can actually engage and have eye contact with other guests across the table. We also use a combination of hurricanes from Howard Slatkin mixed with tons of tea lights on the table to illuminate everyone's face in a beautiful glow.
In today's digital world, what role do you think gathering has on our relationships?
Let's begin by saying that the inception of Mr. P was birthed to celebrate the "goodness of gathering". The place card is a quiet, personal finishing touch that speaks volumes. We use it to honor our guests and the gathering itself. We forget how fragile life can be. It's not surprising that the digital age with its marvelous ability to bridge the gaps of time and space does not replace the connection of energy that occurs while in the same room, at the same table, at the same time. We crave it when it's missing in our lives. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that family meals form connectedness that decrease the risk of alcohol use, tobacco use, and drug abuse in young people.We love eye contact because it raises levels of phenylethylamine and oxytocin, hormones that govern attraction and bonding. Looking down at one's electronic device deprives us of eye contact and these feel good hormones.
Consider the proverbial hearth of the hunter-gatherer when the closeness of being was the shield to survival threats. Gathering is ancient, primal and evolutionary. We survived and thrive because of connections made over a fire, sharing a meal. While the digital age has made us feel "connected," circulating the kind of overshare that we think as intimacy, in fact we are more isolated than ever before as many studies show. It's reassuring that technology has yet to replace the enchantment when people make eye contact. Something palpable occurs when we are in the same place together. Suffice it to say, make the effort to set the table, take the time to gather in person, and honor the presence of your guests, because life is uncertain and making joy is the thing we can action when the world stops making sense.
How would you describe your coined phrase, "Join the Joy Economy"?
There is a bigger idea behind our little illustrated place cards. The idea is simple, find joy in the company you keep and celebrate these relationships. This is the goodness of gathering. When you entertain and set a place for every name, let Mr. P honor these relationships with our beautiful illustrated place cards which can arrive with each guests name inscribed through our digital calligraphy service (one less thing for you to do). In its purest terms, the Joy Economy begins with a maker creating products and services that bring joy to oneself which ripples forth to the end consumer and continues to ripple further to each guest and so on. In effect, the florist, the farmer, the baker, the caterer, the cheesemonger, the apiarist, the vinter, the ceramists, the silversmiths, the glassblower, the musicians are all a part of the Joy Economy. Ever stop to think how one meal supports so many vocations? Here in the Hudson Valley, makers are taking pride and passion back into their crafts, talents and livelihoods, inspiring pleasure in everything you present on your table that really brings joy back into entertaining.
Mr. P’s place cards elevate any place setting and set the stage for a great gathering. Check out Mr. P here, https://mrpsplacecards.com/
All images courtesy of The Punctilious Mr. P's Place Card Co.