Setting the table is an important element in hosting an elegant dinner party. There are several elements that should be paid attention to, from utensils to centerpieces, to create an overall effect that will make for a memorable evening. A few key tips will make table etiquette simple even for table setting novices.
Make sure to have the appropriate number of utensils at each setting for the number of courses that will be served. That means that if there will be soup, salad, an entrée and dessert, there should be a utensil for each purpose. Also, a knife should be provided, with a dull edged blade for multi use functions and a sharper knife if red meat will be served.
Typically, forks are laid to the left of the plates and knives and spoons to the right. Lay the utensils as they will be used, from outside in. Usually the smallest utensil goes on the outside, with larger pieces going in. For example, if there are three forks laid to the left of the plate, the smallest fork will be farthest from the plate.
Don’t forget to add a napkin to each place setting. For fine dining, choose linen napkins. For more casual dining you can opt for whatever material you like best. The napkin can be folded into a rectangle and placed under the forks to the left of the plate. Or, fold the napkin into a shape and place it directly on the plate. You can get creative here, making a folded shape or a rosette. You can even go simpler, pulling the napkin through a pretty beaded napkin ring.
To add a classy touch, make place cards to set at the head of each plate. This helps cut down on the confusion when guests are trying to find a spot to sit. Plus, by using place cards you ensure everyone is seated next to someone they’re likely to get along with. There’s nothing worse than stilted conversation at a dinner party.
Make the place cards from any material you like. Pretty craft paper or card stock can be folded in half and written on in your own hand writing. Or, print out the cards on your home computer for a more professional look. You can also use objects like a small pear of pine cone to stick paper names into, making for a modern twist. Have fun with it and think about the theme of the evening when designing these cards.
A centerpiece is the perfect way to top off your table setting, and there are a number of options here. A vase of flowers is a traditional choice, but make sure the flowers aren’t so high that guests can’t see over them. Choose instead a low flower arrangement with tasteful blooms. Or, for an alternative, fill a crystal bowl with objects that you like. At Thanksgiving, this may mean scented pine cones. Or, at Christmas, use pretty glittering ornaments to create a dazzling display.
Make sure to surround the centerpiece with candles. Candlelight is the perfect addition to any meal. Use long, elegant tapers if you prefer, or small tea lights in votive candle holders for a charming effect. The candles can be left on the table for the duration of the meal. The dishes can be placed around the centerpiece and candles as they are brought out. Make sure each dish is placed in a pretty bowl or silver serving piece, so as not to detract from all the other elements you’ve created at the table.