When it comes to hosting guests for the holidays, the food is always my main focus. I would be lying, though, if I said that what I put on the plates meant more to me than what I put on the table. Since I was little I loved setting the table—my dad was in charge of the tabletop division at a large department store, so when it came to placemats and silverware, the choices were endless. There is something about the care involved in the napkin designs, the decorations in the center, even the placement of each utensil and napkin that has always made me excited for the meal to come.
The way you set your table communicates so much to your guests. It sets the tone of the meal, shows your guests that you think they are important enough to warrant some table finesse, and—believe it or not—influences the appearance of the food you serve (dare I say it influences the taste as well!).
So the question is, where to begin? Here are the three simple steps I follow for setting a table to impress:
1. Serve Suitably
Choose china that will suit the type of food you are serving. White plates are always a safe bet, providing a simple backdrop that won’t clash with any foods. In fact, this blank canvas will help the food stand out and highlight the beautiful colors you’ve spent your kitchen time perfecting. If you are focused on a holiday meal, you can choose plates that serve up a holiday flair—think holly patterns or gold embellishments. In general, try to avoid using brown plates, boldly colored plates, or ones that match the color of the food you are serving.
Being prepared with the proper silverware can also mean looking stylish. Determine the appropriate utensils needed for your meal, and learn where they should go. If you have a few courses or different types of dishes, save yourself trips to the kitchen by including everything your guests will need for the whole dinner at their table setting. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the different forks and spoons you plan to set out, check out our handy diagram on the right to find out where everything should go. As a general rule, your guests should use the utensils starting from the outside and approach the plate as the meal goes on. Using the appropriate number of utensils (and arranging them properly) is a must for taking your table setting to the next level.
3. Accent With Color
Choose colorful cloth napkins to add some flair to every place setting. Whether it’s the main pop of color on the table or a complement to the design of the plates, cloth napkins bring a bit of something extra to the table. If you want to go the extra mile, use a napkin ring, piece of ribbon, or twine to attach a name card to the napkin. If you aren’t looking to assign seats, head over to Pinterest and find a way to fold those napkins that will blow your guests away.
Pro Tip: Looking to really make a splash with your table? Pick a theme and carry it through not only with the plates, utensils, and napkins, but down the center of the table as well. Think candlesticks, flowers, wreaths, sparkles or other embellishments to really bring your table to life.
If you need a little inspiration, here are some of my favorite table designs of years past.