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Five Tips on How to Set up the Holiday Table

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You’re hosting this year’s holiday party and want to impress your guests with your tablescape.  Here are a few ideas on how to add that special touch for a festive table and create memories with your family and friends!

Being a host is one of the great joys of homemaking. It’s only natural when you are hosting to sweat the details – whether it’s planning a meal, preparing the delicious food, and presenting the cuisine worthy of all your efforts.  You genuinely want this to be a fantastic event and want everyone to have a great time!  A beautifully set table can make the holiday dining experience even more enjoyable for everyone!

Here are five simple tips on how to “wow” your guests with your holiday tablescape!

Pick a Theme

Everything starts with a theme as this sets the mood and tone of your holiday party.


An easy one to do is a seasonal theme.  For instance, why not incorporate some holiday inspiration by adding Christmas tree candles as your centerpieces paired with pinecones, berries, poinsettias, or evergreen garland (by the way, for a DIY tutorial on an evergreen garland, click here).  Scatter a few votive candles to pull it all together. 


Another example is to do a color scheme.  Traditionally, Christmas colors are red and green, but you can forgo that and be unique!   Why not stand out and use metallics like silver and gold or pastel colors of pink and blue or go monochrome like winter white!  Apply the color schemes to napkins, placemats, tablecloths, candles, or accent plates for cohesiveness.

See how easy this gets when you have a theme to carry through?

It’s All in the Details

Nothing says, “I care about my guests” than a host who puts creative effort into a well-set and decorated tablescape using holiday plates, colorful linens, and eye-catching centerpiece! 

Create layers to add interest

Layer dinner and salad plates on top of chargers.  Top it off with a fruit or a beautifully folded, decorated napkin for that soft touch.  Garnish that napkin holder with a fresh flower.

Another way to add dimension is how you serve the food.  Use cake stands, platters, and bowls with pedestals to stagger height and add interest.

Make your centerpiece

Use fresh flowers and candles for that beautiful touch!    An alternative to floral arrangements is having sprigs of eucalyptus scattered with fruits such as pomegranates, persimmons or mandarin oranges for an impressive display in the middle of the table.  The general rule of thumb is to keep your centerpiece below eye level so that you can see your guest across the table. 

Light the candles

Dim the overhead light and light the candles.  Candles provide great ambiance to the table.

Add the special finishing touch 

Why not accent the top of your plate with a sleigh bell (which can double up as place card), pinecones, ornaments, fruits, sprigs of holly or rosemary, or flowers.  You can even use a napkin ring holder to help carry out the theme as well.  How about using a fruit (like pears or apples) to stick that nametag using a cute pin?

Don’t forget the chairs

Often overlooked, chairs can also be decorated with a wreath or bow on the back.

Set your Table with the proper place setting

Have you ever asked yourself, “Which fork goes where?  Do the knife and spoon go together?  Is the wine glass with water glass?”  Well, I have the answers for you and found these diagrams from Real Simple for your reference!

Diagram from Real Simple
Diagram from Real Simple

As you’re looking at the plates, place the forks to the left of the plates (smaller fork on the outer and the bigger fork closer to the plates).

Tip:  They say you work your way in through dinner (start with the small fork for the salad, then a big fork for your meals)

Knife and spoon to the right of the plates with the knife closer to the plate (blade side faces the plate) and the spoon on the outer.

Place the bread on the top left of the plate.  Water and drinks to the top right. 

Tip: Remember “BMW” for placement (bread, meal, water). 

Keep your tableware simple

Having a white or off-white dinner plate creates a neutral nd.  With a beautiful meal planned, why take away from the colorful meats and vegetables?

If you want to jazz up your dishware, consider a colorful, patterned, or holiday-inspired accent plate instead.

For flatware, I use my everyday collection whenever I can (use what you have – why spend more?).  If you want to splurge, have gold or rose-gold silverware to match your theme.

Create the perfect backdrop with a table covering

It’s easy to spend a lot of money on buying the most luxurious linen, but perhaps you should take a closer look at the items you already have at home!  For example, use that tartan throw or that plaid blanket scarf as a table runner or accent piece for your table!   It is much more interesting to have different materials as they offer rich contrast, pattern, and texture.

Mix and match table linens to create different looks. Alternatively, contrast colors or patterns for a playful or bold look.

A friendly reminder

I hope this helps with your table setting for the holiday!  Just remember, your guests are coming for YOU to enjoy the company!  By planning and decorating the table with these tips in mind, you’ll have more time to mingle and enjoy the meal and guests!

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