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How to Set a Holiday Table

Guest Author - Donna Coogan

With the holidays fast approaching, setting a beautiful table is the perfect complement to fabulous food and conversation. Whether you prefer a formal table with multiple pieces of cutlery and glassware or a more intimate casual setting is up to you. Whatever your preference, creating a festive table setting will enhance the ambiance of your holiday meals.

While everyone has their own approach when setting the table, I like to simplify things by thinking in terms of layers and multiples.

To begin, I layer the table with a full size tablecloth that is topped with a festive table runner. If Iím seeking a more casual look, I layer 2 runners instead of using a tablecloth. They are placed down the center of the table with a narrower runner on top of a wider one.

Next I decide on plates. I have several dish collections that I like to mix and match. I usually just layer two plates: the dinner plate with a salad plate on top. To make it more elegant start with a charger plate and top things off with a small bowl on top.

After the plates comes the cutlery. I use a fairly understated approach when it comes to that and only use a few pieces. To help you envision it; here is how I place everything, starting from left to right:
  • Salad fork
  • Dinner fork
  • Plates (stacked in my desired layers)
  • Dinner knife
  • Small spoon
Then I place 1 to 2 glasses above the knife and spoon. They are for water and another beverage. If you like wine with your meals, you could also add a wine goblet here. I place a small bread plate above the forks. If the menu requires a steak knife, I place that between the dinner knife and the spoon.

Of course, no table setting is complete without napkins. I like to take my cue from how quality restaurants place their napkins. Iíve seen them wrapped around the cutlery and placed on the dinner plate, tucked in the water goblet or set to one side of the dishes. I usually prefer to place the napkins next to the forks or on the table above the plates.

Iím not very clever at folding napkins into interesting designs, so I just fold them in half or when the mood calls for it, wrap them with ribbon or twine. For the holidays they can then be enhanced with a sprig of holly or a small ornament or jewel.

Next itís time for more decorative elements. If there is a chandelier above the table, enhance it with some greenery or hang some ornaments from it. Decorate the backs of dining chairs with a large bow or hide them altogether with floor-length slipcovers. Finally, the piece de resistance of the table is going to be the centerpiece.

You can never go wrong with the stereotypical flowers and tapered candles in the center of the table. But, itís much more interesting to do something different. For example, decorate in multiples using odd numbers like lining 3 to 5 large chunky candles down the middle of the table. Fill an odd number of apothecary jars with balled ornaments. Use 3 compotes in varying sizes in the middle of the table and layer with miniature dessert cakes.

Give a nod to the floral centerpiece by placing one bloom in a small vase by each place setting. Wind ribbons or sprigs of greenery throughout your arrangement. Add some sparkle with glistening marbles or gourds spray painted with silver and gold metallic. Sprinkle glitter here and there.

These are just a few flourishes to get your creative juices started. The most important thing to keep in mind about setting your holiday table is that you create a cozy ambiance to enjoy with family and friends.





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Content copyright © 2014 by Donna Coogan. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Donna Coogan. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Michelle Ullman for details.

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