Video:How to Set a Creative Tablewith Greg Dunlop, IIDA, ASID
Second to the fabulous food you serve, the table setting at your dinner party will set the tone and mood for the evening. Learn how to create a social, atmospheric, and functional party table for you guests.See Transcript
Transcript:How to Set a Creative Table
Looking to impress your friends or relatives at your next dinner party? Well, a creative table setting can go a long way in making a lasting impression and setting the tone for your event. Hi, I'm Greg Dunlop for About.com and I'm here with some tips on how to creatively set your table for a successful event.
Party Table Function and Aesthetic
When getting your dinning table ready, you have two things to consider: the function and the visual aesthetic. Function is critical because at the end of the day, you're hosting a dinner party and your guests are there to eat and enjoy each other's company. You want your table setting to complement your meal while visually engaging your friends and family.
Natural Party Table Decorations
I like to use nature as decoration whenever possible. Here I have some greens from the florist that I've paired them with some Granny Smith apples or navel oranges to create a simple but elegant center piece. With the addition of some fresh flowers you can make it even a little more sophisticated. This is just a basic white dinner plate but you could also use a decorative bowl, if you have one.
I recommend using vegetables or fruit in different sizes and with some great color. Now, this could be a great centerpiece on your table for either a Sunday brunch or a dinner party AND the best part is that once your event is over, you have some great fresh food to enjoy. It's even better when one of your dishes served uses one of the "ingredients" in your decoration.
Party Table Candles and Lighting
With the centerpiece done, it's time to think about what else you need to "finish" the table. No matter what you do, avoid scented candles on your table. They can take away from and over power the food aromas and affect your guest's palettes. Who wants to spend all that time in the kitchen to have that happen? Also, look for dripless wax candles and save yourself the hassle of cleaning wax off your table or tablecloth.
OK, so here I've got taller candlesticks paired with some votive candles. This creates layers of light and some visual interest on the table during the meal. I also like to use a couple of pairs of small salt and pepper shakers even when I'm setting a table for just four people. It avoids your guests having to interrupt conversation to ask for them and they come in a lot of different styles which can be visually interesting.
Party Table Flowers
Since the centerpiece is done in fruits and vegetables, I still want to use some fresh flowers too. I purchased these flowers at the grocery store and added some cranberries to the water to hide the stems. Let's face it, you're spending the day cooking and getting the house ready for your friends, keep some of these other tasks as simple as possible.
Set the Party Table Place Settings
Now it's time for your place settings. Using a tablecloth or placemats is dependent on what you prefer. Here I've selected some bamboo placemats and because of the shape of my table, I change the direction of the placemats at the head of the table so that they fit better and are visually more interesting. Chargers are the large decorative plates that go underneath your dinner plate. They add some color and again some visual interest. When it comes to plates, my preference is for basic white. It allows the color of the food on the plate to be the focus. They also can transition easily from meal to meal. My salad plate is a simple glass plate topped by either some additional decoration, or the napkin.
Set Colorful and Playful Napkins
I think napkins are the place to bring in some fun color or pattern. Here are a couple of options that I use but it's always about what works for you and your personal style. No matter what, remember that napkins have a practical purpose. There's nothing worse than trying to wipe your mouth on a fabric that really isn't meant to help you out. So avoid metallic fabrics or anything like that. OK - Napkin rings. Great way to add some decoration to your table and there are a million different options out there for you. And yes, you could spend hours folding napkins but, again, spend time on preparing a great meal. Your guests will remember that before they remember how you folded your napkins.
Party Table Flatware and Glassware
A few simple tips for flatware and glassware: glassware goes above the knife and spoon on the right. Even if I'm hosting an informal dinner party, I like to offer my guests white wine in a white wine glass, red wine in a red wine glass, and don't forget to include a separate water glass. Knife and spoon on the right with the sharp blade of the knife facing IN towards the edge of the plate, salad and dinner forks on the left, dessert fork and spoon at the top.
Party Table Place Cards
And the finishing touch is the enduring place card. Place cards aren't just for wedding receptions and big events. They can be an effective way to help you mix up your guests so that personalities can compliment each other, guests can meet new people, and conversation can be encouraged. It's best to consider the personalities of your guests, how long it's been since some have seen each other, and the comfort level someone has in a social setting.
For instance, if your sister and your cousin are close and they haven't seen each other for a while, probably best to put them across from each other. If one guest comes with a new friend or partner, make sure they are sitting next to each other. And if your dad and your brother like to talk sports all night, make they sit next to each other too. This way, the table is balanced with personalities that compliment each other and everyone will have a great time.
In the end, that's what it's all about. Bringing people together, whether friends or family, to have a great time being with you and being in your home.