How to Properly Set a Table for the Holidays

How to Properly Set a Table for the Holidays

4 Ways to Set the Table for the Holidays from Casual to Formal

A Quick Guide to Setting the Table for Holiday Dinners

Every great holiday has some kind of feast involved, which makes the tablescape one of the main decorative focal points, so properly setting the table is very important.

Set the Table, Set the Mood

If your table resembles the family taco night then you haven’t gone far enough, but if it looks like a seven-course cotillion you’ve gone too far! A well-set holiday table needs to be inviting yet formal, elegant yet festive, and, if you do it right, it’ll appear as if it took a lot more work than you actually put into it. Keep in mind that setting a table should be fun! It’s cleaning up that’s a chore.

Lay the Foundation

As far as table linens go, traditionally, a tablecloth with a runner layered on top was the go-to foundation piece for formal dinners. However, nowadays, more and more hosts are choosing to leave their table bare to show off the beauty of the table’s top and opting for decorative placemats and shiny chargers.

If you do choose to go the route of the tablecloth, you’ll want to make sure that your tablecloth is the right size for your table. A tablecloth that’s ironed and wrinkle-free is preferable and you’ll also want to consider putting a pad underneath to add a little extra protection for your table. Tablecloths can come in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures. For Thanksgiving, you may wish to shop for autumnal hues while for Christmas you may choose to go with a traditional red or green tablecloth, although I prefer white for Christmas and then add sparkle and beautiful sculptures to decorate a rather ornate table.

Glassware, Plates, Utensils, and Napkins

Here is where we would advise you to make the best of what is available to you. You may not have enough matching formal dinnerware for every person at your sit-down dinner party and if that’s the case don’t hesitate to get creative! Every person needs a plate, and at least a knife and fork, a water glass, another glass for wine or some other beverage, and a napkin. What your dining accouterments are made from is entirely up to you and the look that strikes your fancy. Here are a few quick guidelines to follow:

  • In a formal place setting the fork resides to the left of the plate.
  • The knife goes on the plate’s right side with the blade facing left.
  • The spoon (optional) will go to the right of the knife.
  • A wine glass or other vessel for refreshment will be adjacent to the water glass.
  • For ease, fold a napkin into a simple rectangle with the napkin’s spine facing right. Place the napkin on an empty plate or underneath the fork to its left. If you are using cloth napkins feel free to get creative with the way you display them.

Decorations: Find a Balance Between Festive vs. Function

Get creative, but don’t go overboard establishing an ambiance. This isn’t your average dinner, it’s a feast, and that means copious amounts of food. Style has been a big part of what we’ve discussed so far, but don’t forget the function: we’re all here to eat. Establish the right autumn atmosphere while leaving room for crescent rolls, sides, and more by carefully adding decorations like gourds and flowers to the table. Other items that evoke the spirit of the season are also welcome just as long as the mashed potatoes have their proper place as well. And, of course, say yes to candles as long as they aren’t scented. Nothing should overpower the already sublime fragrance of the dinner table spread.

Simple Dinner Party Dos and Don’ts

Follow these simple dos and don’ts to make your dinner party a success.

Holiday Table Setting Dos and Don’ts
DO use cloth napkins and your best silverware
DO mix and match your silverware, plates, chairs, glasses, etc…
DO use candles
DON’T use scented candles
DON’T use plastic utensils or paper napkins — EVER!
DO cover the dining table in a suitable tablecloth
DON’T stress!
DO make desserts. Lots of desserts
DO play music, chat to your neighbors, and have fun

This helpful place setting guide will show you how to set the table for any occasion – from a casual Friendsgiving tablescape to a formal dinner party and everything in between.

Infographic Designed by Jessica Smolinski

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