A Little Pomp IS the Circumstance Graduation Buffet

Before we know it, the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” will fill the air on college campuses and in commencement halls across the land. The hard work that goes into earning a degree deserves a celebration that stands out in the crowd. I’m not trying to put my nose all up in the air, but if you want to go beyond the crepe paper streamers and cardboard mortar boards, here’s an idea for a graduation buffet cum laude that your graduate and their guests may favor. I created this as a demonstration table for my Spring 2012 “Art of Tablescaping” students to consider.
(Click on any photo to enhance/enlarge.)

Our Mission style dining room table was way too heavy to move, so I left in place for this demonstration. Students were asked to pretend the table was positioned lengthwise in the room as shown in the 2nd photo.

I started with a black full-length tablecloth to resemble the black of traditional academic robes. Of course, you will want to consider what colors are most fitting for your graduate’s special day.

The head of the buffet table has forks nestled side-by-side in a cotton napkin and placed on a silver tray. The butterflies – seen throughout the room – bring spots of color and speak to the Spring season. The initialed napkins, which remind me of the traditional “hood” worn over the gown, are simply stairstepped on either side in front of the Arcoroc “Seabreeze” glass plates. The napkins can be purchased with any letter from A-Z at Bed Bath & Beyond. Separating the eating utensils from the food is a barrage of silver candlesticks arranged at different heights. Peering down the length of a buffet table through candlelight can be quite the dramatic look!

I know a lot of people have moved away from traditional chafers in favor of electric warming trays (I own a couple myself that I just love!), but I still like the regal drama and uniformity of multiple chafers all lined up for a more formal look.

Grapes are piled high in an oil-rubbed bronze urn centered on a huge oval tray. A variety of hors d’oeuvres are placed on the tray beneath it. This is one little trick that can make your buffet look a bit more sumptuous AND be used as a space-saving idea as it places food both high and low.

Breadsticks are presented in small urns set atop miniature silver cake plateaus.

Try using “edible space fillers” like the melon wedges on silver beaded-edge plateaus shown here. This adds color, texture and sometimes fragrance (as in that of cut fruit) to the table while filling in those bare spots. I like for a buffet table to be teeming with food and have that Louis XIV Court at Versailles look about it!

The surface behind the buffet table is used as a beverage center. A large, untamed centerpiece in an urn like the one used for grapes on the table fills space and plays nicely off the glitzy pieces around it.

The glasses of mock champagne pictured here have a cherry added for flavor and color which create a sensational presentation. (Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or sliced fruits like peaches or apricots work well also, and infuse the champagne with fabulous fresh flavor!) Coffee is served from a large silver urn.

Celebrating a graduation is a fun and happy occasion, so deep-six a bit of the pomp and use something near the front door or in the food area that adds a little whimsy. Here, our faithful butler, Geoffrey, is all decked out in his freshly starched lab coat and mortar board as he celebrates a pharmacy school graduation. (This idea actually came from our next-door-neighbors last Spring when their daughter graduated from St. Louis College of Pharmacy. I asked if they minded if I recreated the look that greeted guests who came to their home to celebrate.)  On this evening, the only Rx for my students was to have a great time in class!

I am joining Cuisine Kathleen again this week for the next installment of “Let’s Dish!” which will be up for all to see after 6:00 p.m. CDT on Wednesday. Join us for all things dish-related!

31 thoughts on “A Little Pomp IS the Circumstance Graduation Buffet

  1. Your butler is the bomb!!…How cute is he…and you the creative one!
    I agree, I really love the traditional chaffing dishes too….they look so
    regal…You have so many “regal” pieces for elegant displays…

    As I said before, I want to be your student!!!…Beautifully done…again, Alycia!


  2. How creative and so fun! Love the butler…..I also love traditional chafing dishes. They do present a presence. Your students must be having a ball. I am sure a lot of them are on a mission to shop for more dishes and accessories.


  3. Alycia.. just to have this set up, I’m thinking of returning to school! I love the idea of food fillers. I need to remember that. Also need to remember the trick with the urns and plateaus! your serving pieces are to die for. And you entertain with a beautiful style that one day maybe I’ll be able to emulate! Your butler rocks.. and if you don’t treat him well, I’m snagging that cutie.. Great table! xo marlis


  4. Sooo pretty. I am going to have to steal that tucking in the forks idea. I can’t say how many times I’ve been irritated by people pawing through the tableware at a buffett! The candlestick collection is stunning and your butler is the best kind – the kind who can’t tell anyone what people got up to!


  5. I think it all looks wonderful, and you’re right that sometimes it’s nice to get away from the informality to something nicer for graduation. We don’t have another one around here for two years, but I’ll keep tips in mind.

    And I loved the whimsy by the door! Very cute.


  6. That tablescaping class must have been an enormous amount of work. You have posted at least 5 tables just from that one class. This one, like the others, is pefect in every way. Dianne


  7. Alycia, your creativity continues to astound me! This would be a lovely tribute for the graduate. Love your butler! :o)

    I’m noooot sure about the beans and champagne?? Thank goodness there are good & plenty “pills” with which to chase that combo!! Thank you Geoffrey. LOL xox


  8. Very snazzy indeed! Is that butler handing out pills! (gasp) I think you most definitely are channeling Versailles. You always teach us something new and interesting about presentation.


  9. Love EVERY detail of your party. So elegant, beautiful and looks so delicious.
    I’d jump at an opportunity to take one of your classes. You rock girlfriend!! Even though I’ve taught my fair share of classes like yours I think I could learn even more from you. You are truly an amazing hostess!!



  10. Very elegant and fitting for so special an occasion! Love the array of candles and the wild arrangement on the buffet. The silver just gleams against the black tablecloth, and cascading grapes always look so decadent!


  11. So elegant and you are right that the attainment of a degree is so special and to be heartily celbrated. Love your pharmacy entry table and generally how you have laid everything out.


  12. Another fun celebration table scape. Since I’m married to a pharmacist it was fun to see your prescription. Looks like something easy to fill!


  13. Alycia~ I’m sure your students were thrilled with that Rx! What fun~ I love your full table~ definitely more is MORE at a buffet! Love the pomp and circumstance of the chafing dishes too 🙂


  14. Oh how fun! Your touch of details is always exquisite….love love love…What a beautiful way to celebrate. Thanks for your comment. I added some pictures for the finished product and it’s actually quite healthy…that’s why I cook, I control the ingredients.


  15. Wow, this is a very pretty and sophisticated graduation table with all those excellent touches like the monogrammed linens and the grapes in an urn, and the fruit in the champagne! And you always have the best ideas for putting out the utensils–the hardest thing I think! Linda


  16. What a terrific buffet table, with all the great elements, as always. Now I know where to copy my next buffet luncheon…from my fav teacher..Dame Alycia Nichols! Hugs,


  17. What a perfect table for a celebration! I have those chafing dishes too, but when I am serving soups I do love my Command Performance Triple Buffet burner from HSN, No plug intended!
    I love how you have everything set up, as beautiful as a fine Country Club. Thanks for sharing this at Let’s Dish!


  18. Alycia, you never fail to impress! I just love the way you have thought of every little detail. I love the presentation of the forks. The formality of the table is a wonderful contrast to the humor of the butler. You have such beautiful serving pieces. I imagine they are so versatile. Do you have some huge room to store all of this in? Can you tell I am struggling with space? I don’t know how I fit two teenagers in this house not too long ago. 🙂 Lovely, as always.


  19. What a beautiful buffet set up, ALycia. Personally I prefer these kind of chafing dishes as opposed to electric cause an electric plug is always a problem unless your table is against a wall. I hate hanging electrical visible cords.


  20. I love the elegance the candles in the silver candlestick holders and your silver trays bring to the table. Using the urn and tray for high and low space is a good idea for the table since space always becomes an issue in presenting all of your food. Beautiful sideboard too and I love the branches of the flowers. Another perfect presentation by Alycia.


  21. Pingback: Blurred Lines with Shades of Pink | Tablescapes at Table Twenty-One

  22. Beautiful and elegant my friend. I am keeping this, cause I love the way you have set up the buffet table! You are talernted and sooo very creative over the top!
    Wishing you, Ramon, your mom and the rest of the family a very merry Christmas and all the blessings God can give you!


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