We all want to impress with our hosting skills when we invite our friends or family for dinner. From the food to the drinks, right down to the perfect playlist, every detail is important. A perfect table setting is the centre of it all. This is something that many people worry about. I have put together my top tips for styling the perfect dinner table. This step-by-step guide will be your guide the next time you have a table that you want to dress to impress.
What overall impression are you trying to create?
Is it going to be casual or formal? What kind of details are you planning to incorporate, from menu to centrepieces to food? Consider all of these details and let that be your steer. This will determine everything from the way the food is served to whether you use a seating plan or not. I have broken this guide into two parts; one guide to a formal table setting and the other a guide to casual dining.
How to decide between Casual or Formal Table Setting?
If you are still undecided between casual or formal, let the food be your guide. A more casual table setting is suited to a meal that will be served family style at the table or buffet. This approach is a good one for larger groups. Generally speaking, if the meal is going to involve serving more than one or two courses, or you are cooking food that requires individual plating; then a more formal approach can be nice to really elevate the affair.
The Ultimate Guide to Formal Dining
If you are going to go with a more formal approach, do try and soften it somewhat. You don’t want your guests to feel uncomfortable, bombarded with four different types of fork! Keep the setting very clean and elegant, beautiful tableware, glassware that is sparkling clean and always use real napkins. Really focus on the centrepieces, a stunning vase of fresh flowers or a simple drape of greenery along the table will soften the look as you can see here.
Take care of the finishing touches such as elegant dinner candles lit for effect to instantly impress your guests. To take it up a notch then, accent each place setting with napkin rings and beautifully lettered place-cards. The devil really is in the details with formal dining, your cutlery must be spotless. I think nothing beats the elegance of polished stainless steel when it comes to this. The Style set from Viners is an excellent example of what I mean.
Casual Dining in a Nutshell
What I love about a more casual approach to a table setting is the freedom to break the rules slightly. However, casual dining does not mean paper napkins and a slipping of standards! You can still have people seated at a beautifully laid table and have the freedom to inject some personality. What about using a gorgeous place card with a quirky welcome note? You could consider mixing up your tableware to create a relaxed vibe. I often mix my Tola Collection with simple white tableware. This is also a useful solution if you are short of some plates to accommodate everyone! If you are embracing family style dining, why not stack your ware and let people serve themselves? A bold move, but really effective as you can see here. I think this look is best suited to a smaller group or to al fresco dining.
Layers, layers, layers
Whether you chose to go the formal route or take a more casual approach to your table setting, you need to dress your table. I have listed the 4 steps I follow here. My top tips are; think layers, and start in the centre and work out.
I always start with my centrepiece, in this case, I have used a candelabra and intertwined a garland through it to create depth. Then add any finishing touches, candles etc. Now is also the time to place any serving dishes that will be used on the table to make sure they fit. These can then be filled in the kitchen and placed when full.
After that, you need to build your place settings. Start with the placemat or charger to protect your table and also begin to build the colour theme.
Then layer on the different pieces of dinnerware that you are using. Here I have mixed colours and styles to create a very layered and dramatic look. A simple guide is a piece of dinnerware for each course.
Finish with a napkin and napkin ring. I always think this is a great opportunity to really bring your theme through. Add a sprig of foliage, a tiny Christmas bauble if the season is appropriate, let your imagination run wild!
Finally… don’t overthink it!
That is the biggest mistake people make. You have invited people into your home to entertain them and they will appreciate this. Just make sure that everything on the table has a purpose, avoid clutter which could overwhelm. Keep the centrepieces low, you don’t want people straining over the top of a giant floral display. You also want to be able to see their reactions when you wow them with the menu! Always use unscented candles at the table, you don’t want anything to detract from the food. Finally… pour yourself a nice glass of wine and welcome your guests to your beautifully set table.