How To: Set a Beautiful Table
Updated: Nov 4
Can you believe we are over halfway through 2020 already?! We are slowly starting to see weddings happen again, so there is no better time than the present to talk about table décor, and the best place to do that is with the one in your own dining room. With that said, let’s talk about how to set a beautiful table!
First, of course, we need to start with the table itself. There are several different kinds and styles, but the most common are six-foot or eight-foot rectangular banquet tables, five-foot round tables and eight-foot farm tables. A banquet or round table will need a tablecloth before we look at table runners and décor, whereas a beautiful farm wood table does not need a tablecloth (nor do you want to cover it up with one). For tablecloths, I would look at something neutral (white, ivory, tan, black, etc.) that way you have the opportunity to create pops of color with the napkins and centerpieces. Fun fact: to be floor length on a five-foot round table you will need a 120” round tablecloth, for a six-foot banquet table you will need a 90”x132” tablecloth, for an eight-foot banquet table you will need a 90”x156” tablecloth. For a farm table that doesn’t need a tablecloth, I always like looking at a table runner to still add that element without completely covering up the beautiful wood. However, with a runner I recommend getting a little creative with color or fabric style versus staying as neutral as you would with a tablecloth. Some fun and interesting fabric styles that work great as a runner are lace, satin, velvet, or even a fabric with a slight metallic sheen.
After you’ve got a good solid base, next let’s look at the china. It is not necessary, but I always love the extra element that a charger plate adds to a tablescape. Do note, chargers are not for eating off of! There are so many fun charger options now, from acrylic to glass just depending on what color and style is going to match your overall theme. If you are having a plated meal, there is no need to set the table with an actual plate as they will be brought out with each course. If you are having a buffet dinner there are two options, you can either put the plate on the table (with or without a charger) or put the plates at the buffet itself. If you put the plates at the buffet itself your guests will not need to carry their plate with them to get food; however, I have had it happen a time or two where a guest thinks the charger is their plate and carries that with them. If you decide to put the plate on the table, just make sure it is clear to your guests that they need to pick that plate up and take it with them to the buffet. Plates come in all different colors and shapes now, so don’t feel like you have to stick with the traditional white round plate if you are looking for something different. Rental companies in our area now have square or round, white, stone, black, clear, or eggshell colored plates.
Now my favorite part… the napkin! I swear I could do a whole blog just about napkin folds, and maybe I will one day, but for now all I will say is don’t be afraid to get creative. I always love when I ask couples how they would like their napkins folded and they respond with, “there’s more than one way to fold a napkin?” OH, let me tell you! A napkin fold can be simple and elegant, or you can get very elaborate and fold it into a swan or rose. Either way, the napkin is a great way to add additional color or keep things neutral and really put the focus on the beautiful centerpiece. It can also be placed wherever you would like on the place setting… on the plate, under the silverware, under the plate, etc. Napkins come a wide variety of colors and fabric now, so don’t feel like you have to limit your options, but on the other hand that can be very overwhelming so it’s best to come up with an idea of a color scheme before you start browsing. One of my favorite things to do is create a mood board. This allows you to piece everything together before you bring it to life, so you can see what works and what doesn’t.
Okay, we are almost there just a couple more steps! The last piece you need to complete your place setting is, of course, silverware and glassware. Again, silverware doesn’t just come in silver anymore… remember gold or copper are also great options if that matches the rest of your tablescape. If you have ever seen Titanic and the scene where Molly Brown is telling Jack which fork to use, she says start from the outside and work your way in. She is not wrong. As you are looking down on the place setting, starting on the left side of the plate/charger you have your forks. Depending on how many courses you have will depend on how many forks you will need. If you are just having a buffet, then typically only a single dinner fork is needed. If you are having a plated salad and main meal, you will need a fork for each course. Taking it one step further if you are having a very formal meal with a salad, fish, and meat course, you will need a total of 3 forks – starting on the outside and working your way in. Typically, salad forks are slightly smaller than the others, but that is not a requirement. Moving to the right side of the plate will be your knives and spoons. If you are doing a buffet or a plated meal with a salad and main course, you really only need one knife and one teaspoon. If you add in a fish course, you will need to add a second knife or if you decide to do a soup, salad and main course you will need to add a soup spoon along with the teaspoon. Knives are closer to the plate with the spoons on the outside. Always, always, always remember to place your knives with the blade side in. It doesn’t happen often, but you don’t want your guests cutting themselves on their knife. The last piece of silverware to include is the dessert fork or spoon. Of course, choose which piece makes more sense for what dessert will be served (or maybe no dessert silverware is needed if you are doing handheld desserts). This fork or spoon will go at the top of your place setting. If you choose to have a dessert fork, you will face the prongs to the right. If you choose to have a dessert spoon, you will face it to the left. Next, you will need to add your glassware. At the very least, you will for sure want a water glass. This is placed just above the knife(s). If you are adding champagne or wine glasses those will be placed at a slight circle to the right of the water glass. The last element of your place setting is a place card (if you are choosing to incorporate one). These are typically placed at the top of the place setting, just above the dessert silverware, but can also be placed on top of the plate/charger. If you want to learn more about the purpose of a place card, consider reading my blog post, "Wedding Seating Chart Pros and Cons". With that, this completes your place setting and we can finish up the table with the beautiful centerpiece!
Again, I could do a whole blog post dedicated to centerpieces and all the different styles, but for now I will try my best to keep it concise. If you are using a farm wood or rectangular banquet table, I always tend to lean towards using garland or greens down the middle. It is elegant and beautiful while still being low profile so everyone can see over and talk to each other. If you are using a round table, I would recommend a centerpiece in the middle of the table versus a garland. This centerpiece can either be tall or short, but keep in mind if it is tall make it tall enough that your guests can either see around it or through it to talk to those on the other side. Additionally, another downside of a tall centerpiece is the wind if your reception/event is outdoors. I have managed a couple of strictly outdoor wedding venues and I always cautioned brides on the risks of a tall centerpiece because wind is very unpredictable and can seem to come out of nowhere. After you have decided on the main centerpiece, I recommend accenting the table with candles whether they are real flame or LED depending on the regulations of the venue. Candles are a great way to create ambiance and fill space without getting in the way. My favorites are thin candlesticks or low profile votives, but candles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so this is a great opportunity to not only add ambiance but add height dimension too.
I know that was a lot of information, but if you work through it step by step, I guarantee it will all come together beautifully and you can always invite friends and family over to give yourself an opportunity to practice! To demonstrate, I have created and attached a video of me setting my own dining room table. Keep in mind, everything I used in this video is part of my décor supply and can be included in any of my planning packages.
If you found this article helpful and want to learn more about how I help design the wedding of your dreams, head on over to the services page for packages and pricing information. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below!
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