How To

Set tables, memorable nights | the perfect dinner

© Annie Spratt

You know the feeling: just after a dinner you served, you look around the beautiful mess on the table and see your friends and family chattering away over cups of coffee, and your heart is filled with pride — this was a perfect evening, and you made it happen. If this dinner is still ahead and instead of joy you feel panic, let us help you. Here are our tips for staging the ideal dinner.

 

  1. Success is in the details

Choose easy to clean fabrics in colours that don’t show stains. White tablecloths, aside from being rather stiff and old-fashioned, are a pain to clean. So keep it modern, but not too casual: cloth napkins are a must — and don’t be afraid to use them as pops of daring colour. You don’t need a runner, but it does help tie the dining table together, as do place setting cards — letting everyone know where to sit takes the awkwardness out of the moment, and a card with guests’ names on it makes for a sweet keepsake. Temperature control is important: if your space is big, a heater might be helpful.

 

© Tuva Mathilde Loland

© Tuva Mathilde Loland

 

  1. Less is more

Decor is an essential part of the perfect table, but don’t go overboard. Careful with the music, too: a dinner party is probably not the time to experiment. Keep it melodic and low enough for conversation — put some nice jazz on the speaker.  Flowers in a pretty vase are great, but scented ones can get bothersome over dinner. The same goes for candles: unscented, short candles — or tea lights — are best. Don’t forget to do a rehearsal with everything placed on the table, from cutlery to soup bowls — you don’t want to forget reserving space for the casserole dish and have to shuffle things around.

 

© Sincerely Media

© Sincerely Media

 

  1. Plates, cutlery & serve-ware

Eclecticism is allowed: gone are the days when everything had to be part of a set. It’s probably wise to avoid too much mixing unless you’re going for a mad hatter theme, but tinted glasses, tender, flowery porcelain plates and heavy cast iron serve-ware do go well together. If you’re unsure, pick one thing to play with: texture, colour, or shape. Even if you’ve decided to go with a mixed style for glasses and plates, do keep the cutlery the same for everyone. A nice matching set in bronze or gold can really elevate a table, while mismatched silverware just looks messy.

 

© Alevision Co

© Alevision Co

 

  1. Themed setting

The thing to consider when choosing a theme is whether you prefer formal or casual. Formal table settings follow set rules, such as cutlery placement and the proper glasses for each beverage, while casual is pretty much freestyle. With both, your options are endless. You can let the food guide you — Indian cuisine calls for vibrant colours, Italian for homey warmth, Japanese for harmonious simplicity. Then there are themes beyond food: rustic, with lots of raw, textured fabrics; whimsical, with pastels and floral decor, or seasonal themes like springtime or Christmas… your table is yours to set.

 

© Visual Stories Micheile

© Visual Stories Micheile

 

  1. Take it easy

Hosting a dinner is stressful. But instead of letting the table setting be an extra worry, make it a source of calm. You have lots of time to prepare, but if you’re worried, just stick with the classics: plain porcelain tableware, elegant cutlery and fine glassware. Look for inspiration on our site, if that helps you. If you’re panicking about the food because you’ve agreed to host but can’t cook, no problem: make it a potluck, or order in and pass it off as your own — no one will mind. And remember that the perfect dinner party is less about the food and more about having a good time. And a beautiful table setting, of course.

 

© Annie Spratt

© Annie Spratt

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