3 Ways to Set Your Holiday Table
No matter what tradition you choose to celebrate at this time of year, food is typically at the center of any gathering. After all, sharing a meal together is the ultimate way to connect with our loved ones! But while your priority as a host is to create a delicious meal, it’s important not to forget how you’ll serve it! The way you set your holiday table will establish the mood, start a conversation, and also make guests feel welcome and festive. That doesn’t mean you need to go super formal. Or that you need to spend a fortune! In fact, you can usually work with what you have. What is important is to give it some thought and planning. That way it won’t be a last-minute rush and you’ll know exactly how you want it to look.
So where do you begin? Let’s start with the expert! According to Emily Post, you should think about the type of meal you are serving and the level of formality you have chosen. So the first question is whether you’re planning a casual get-together or a formal sit-down meal. Are you serving food buffet style, or will you need room on the table for dishes to be set down? How many people will be attending? These are all questions that will determine the table setting you choose.
As a refresher, there are two main types of table settings. The first is the formal place setting, with glassware, plates, and flatware laid out for a number of courses. At the center is the dinner plate and charger topped with the napkin, with the bread plate placed to the top left of the setting. The different utensils (dinner knife and fork, fish knife and fork, salad fork, soup spoon) are placed so that the diner uses them from the outside in. Above the dinner plate is the dessert spoon and fork. On the butter plate is the butter knife, facing towards the left. Red wine, white wine, champagne, and water glasses form a diamond shape top right, with champagne and the top and the water glass at the bottom.
The casual place setting has the dinner plate and/or charger at the center with the salad plate on top. The napkin is placed to the left of the plate. The salad fork and dinner fork are placed on top. The dinner knife and soup spoon sit on the other side of the setting. Top right, a single wine glass, and water goblet complete the setting.
Of course, you can use these rules simply as a template and create the combination that works for you and your meal! To get your creative juices flowing, here are three different ways to set your holiday table that will all look fabulous!
Formal and traditional. For many of us, the holidays are a great excuse to bring out our best heirloom china and silverware. Even if you don’t have fancy plates, using a formal setting and matching everything will elevate the most simple serveware. Other small touches can really make a difference too, like a linen runner laid over the tablecloth, matching napkin rings at each place setting, and handwritten place cards. You can inject some festive fun into the table setting through the little extras. For example, add bowls of nuts and chocolates or fresh seasonal produce like pears or pomegranates to your table, as well as flowers, greenery, and candles. Opt for a classic red, green, and gold color scheme for Christmas, or blue, white, and gold or silver for Hanukkah.
Neutral luxe. One of the simplest ways to achieve a cohesive look for your holiday table is to opt for a neutral palette. What I love about this look is that it gives the food the chance to take center stage. After all, there’s plenty of color to holiday food! Start with simple yet elegant neutral linens and layer up your place settings with sleek white dinnerware. You can choose either a formal place setting or a casual one, depending on the type of celebration you’re planning. Either way, add small touches of luxury like gold flatware or gold-rimmed glassware, or elegant modern candle holders. To finish it off, add a single pop of color or texture that pays tribute to the holiday.
Casual and colorful. If you’re hosting a more-the-merrier casual get together, there’s no need to stand on ceremony. Set your table in bright, bold colors that will put everyone in a happy mood. You can incorporate fun aspects like mini Christmas trees or colored baubles, or bring in color from natural elements like flowers and fruits instead. Add homemade craft elements or have the kids make something for each guest. Stick to basic neutral dinnerware or simply mix and match a collection of plates and glassware. Group objects of different heights and sizes. You can also add fun edible touches like candy canes or chocolate coins. Or borrow a British tradition and get the party started with crackers. Most importantly, have fun with it!
No matter how you set your holiday table, be sure to enjoy the process!