Essentials for the Holiday Table
A special meal calls for a special table. Since holiday meals are about as special as it gets, it’s time to wow your crowd with a table that celebrity event planner David Tutera would approve of. Want to be the hostess with the mostest? Then it’s time to strut your stuff.
And, before you do, it’s best to know the essentials for a holiday table. In case you’ve forgotten what Grandma taught, we can help.
START WITH THE FOUNDATION
It starts with the tablecloth or table runner, which sets the tone of your base layer. Make sure it hangs evenly on all sides because once it’s covered with plates and glasses, it will be difficult to adjust. If it’s been folded and stored away for the last 11 months, throw it in the washer and press it with an iron for a fresh, crisp look.
WHAT’S ON TREND: Try using chargers, also known as service plates, to dress up your everyday dinnerware. They date back to the Middle Ages but are right in style today. Here are a bunch of cool looks on Pinterest.
PLACING DISHES, GLASSES & FLATWARE
Now it’s time to get down to business. Pull together your favorite dinnerware, flatware and glassware—and be sure it’s clean and free of any water spots. Are you ready to begin setting?
Before you start, it’s important to note that you can eliminate any of the pieces recommended below based on the number of courses and menu items you will be serving. Beyond the basic setup, table settings are completely customizable.
• Set the dinner plate about 2 inches from the edge of the table, centered squarely in front of the chair. (If you’re serving soup, the soup bowl should sit on top of the dinner plate.)
• Position the salad plate at the upper left-hand corner of the plate.
• Have a bread plate? Put it slightly above and to the right of the salad plate.
• Arrange forks on the left side of the plate, with the dinner fork on the inside and salad fork on the outside. Confused which to use first? Start with the outermost fork and move inward.
• Place the knife and spoon on the right side of the plate; the knife’s edge should face the plate, and the spoon should sit to the right of the knife.
• Want to get fancier? Set the butter knife on the bread plate, and a dessert spoon above the plate.
• Going full tilt? Place a water glass above the knife, and place the wine glass to the outside of the water glass.
Finally, the napkin can be positioned in a few different places: either to the far left of the plate under the forks, tucked in a drinking glass or set on the dinner plate. Napkin folding can be as simple or as creative as you like—it’s an art form! Find different napkin-folding ideas on Pinterest and give a few a try until you find one you like.
Now that you’ve finished the hard part, it’s time for some festive finishing touches! The difference between a humdrum dinner table and a very merry one is in tasteful accents. Choose decorative items like napkin rings, floral accents, candles, salt and pepper shakers and even a special butter dish. Each can elevate the mood and infuse it with a holiday feel, but think simple. You don’t want to overdo it.
Also, pay attention to how your serving dishes fit with your table setting, choosing platters and bowls that complement the look and colors of your table.
TIPS FOR SIMPLIFYING
A few last things to help make your holiday dinner and table a memorable one:
• Table setting follows a logical system. For example, plates are positioned in the order you’ll use them…glassware is set near the right hand…and flatware is arranged so you use the outer pieces first, working inward as the meal progresses.
• Need a trick to help you remember which side the fork and knife go on? Remember that “fork” and “left” are both spelled with four letters, and the fork goes on the left. Meanwhile, “knife” and “right” have five letters, and the knife goes on the right.
• If you want to avoid that awkward moment when guests try to figure out which seat to choose and who to sit next to, create simple place cards at each setting.
How do you make your holiday dinner table special? Share your ideas and tips!