How to Decorate for a Tapas Dinner

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A tapas party has numerous small plates.
A tapas party has numerous small plates. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Tapas is Spanish for “small plates.” An inexpensive and intimate way to entertain, tapas parties are appropriate for groups of all sizes. Select dishes that you can prepare well in advance of the party and serve the food buffet-style. Adding a few touches of Spanish décor brings authenticity and spice to any tapas party.

Table Decorations

Spanish decorating incorporates bold shades of red, yellow, black and blue. Give the table a simple, rustic look with a flat sheet, blanket or tablecloth that incorporates these colors. Fresh flowers add a touch of romance, while a bowl of fruit adds an infusion of color. Provide a stack of colorful cloth or paper napkins.

Tableware

Use rustic stoneware serving platters and bowls in festive Spanish colors. Lay out a large supply of small appetizer plates and bowls for your guests rather than heavy full-sized pieces. Colorful paper plates and bowls, available in the party section of supermarkets and dollar stores, look festive and make cleanup easier.

Food and Drink

Tapas dishes are, by definition, bite-sized. Stick to the Spanish theme if you are certain your guests enjoy Spanish foods or use your imagination to create bite-sized versions of your favorite party dishes. It is appropriate and fun to ask your guests to bring a tapas dish or two to share. Make a pitcher of red wine or white wine Sangria the day before the party and give it a place of honor on the main serving table. Maintain the tapas theme through dessert, offering shot glasses filled with mousse, mini-cupcakes, brownie bites or other bite-sized items.

Atmosphere

Build a Spanish party atmosphere with lighting and mood music. Drape the room with veils, scarves or wall hangings in the traditional Spanish party colors. Choose soft lighting, incorporating lamps or wall sconces where possible. Assemble a collection of Spanish party music and designate someone to play DJ. Tapas parties are generally laid-back and relaxed, so provide plenty of comfortable seating around the room rather than seating everyone at a dining table. If you have a patio or deck, consider offering outdoor seating as well.

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