A butler's guide to: Candles

Candles are a staple of any elegant home. Here, former Royal Butler Grant Harrold reveals how to make the most of them…
To stop candles dripping, keep them in the freezer. I’m always asked how to prevent this and this is my tried and tested method. I put them in a few hours before a dinner and take them out about 20 minutes before. In my experience, this also makes them burn for twice as long.

Buy a selection of candles. You don’t have to spend a lot of money – I’ve recently bought some 13” candles from Ikea . I trialled them at a dinner party and they burnt very slowly, so you could get three or four nights out of them. For smaller (around 7”) candles I tend to shop at Waitrose and Sainsbury’s.

Colour is a personal choice. I prefer ivory because it’s more traditional.

Select your candlesticks carefully too. There’s no point in having thick candles on thin candlesticks. They don’t have to be expensive – most of my mine have come from car boot sales or charity shops. I’ve even found 18th century candlesticks in a junk shop.

Use sellotape to secure the candle on the candlestick. Some people melt down the wax but that gets rather messy. All I do is attach the sellotape to the base of the candle, wrap it around a few times, then twist and wrap it the other way so you have the tacky side facing outwards. You can use this to increase the thickness of a candle if it’s a little too small for the candlestick too – just make sure the sellotape is hidden!

Do not despair if you get candle wax on the table cloth. All you need to do is place a sheet of kitchen towel over the wax, and iron over it with a warm (but not steaming) iron. The wax will lift off, and any stains will come out in a hot wash. Do not iron directly onto the table though, as this can damage the wood.

There is an art to lighting candles. It’s no good running around at a dinner party last minute trying to do it. I was taught to light them, then blow them all out again, and make sure all the wicks are pointing upwards. If you’ve pre-lighted them like this, next time they will light immediately.

In an ideal world we’d all have candle snuffers. If you don’t, simply put your hands behind the candle (to make sure the wax doesn’t splatter) and blow it out. Lick your thumb and forefinger and squeeze the wick to make sure it’s fully extinguished.

Watch Grant demonstrate his techniques below...

Grant Harrold is a former royal butler and a member of the Royal Household of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. Grant continues to work as a butler for royal and high profile clients, and is recognised as an expert on royal and British etiquette. He is also a butler trainer for households and hotels. For more information visit www.theroyalbutler.co.uk and www.nicholasveitch.com