How to Set a Table: Impress Your Guests With the Perfect Table Setting

How to Set a Table: Impress Your Guests With the Perfect Table Setting

· By Richard Ma

We know how much fun it is to throw a dinner party, and a big part of that fun is the anticipation. Finding the most delicious recipes, choosing the perfect playlist and selecting your favorite wines all help set the tone of your party, and getting these right will ensure that your guests enjoy their evening.

But what brings it all together? Creating an environment that complements the food and appeals to your guests is crucial. We'll show you how to use your tablescape to make a lasting impression that will make your meal flow as easily as your favorite chardonnay.

1. Tablecloth

The tablecloth is the most important piece of your table decor. The foundation of a central theme, the tablecloth is what ties the napkins, place settings and accessories together. Correspondingly, selecting the wrong tablecloth can dampen the dining ambiance (but, no pressure!). Here are a few general rules for choosing a tablecloth that is both appropriate for the occasion and aesthetically appealing:

Selecting a Pattern:

  • For a larger room, use a tablecloth woven with a larger pattern (either color or texture) to convey visual weight and to keep the table setting from looking lost. Ruffled tablecloths are perfect for an elegant chic look.
  • For a smaller room, your cloth should be woven with a simpler pattern to convey lightness.
  • When in doubt: A simple, patternless tablecloth is an elegant choice for any formal or informal event.


Selecting a Color:

  • For formal settings, tablecloths should be smooth-textured and white, ivory, ecru or pastel in color.
  • For less formal settings, throw in a pop of color that complements your dining room.
  • If you're aiming for a trendy minimalist look, a gray linen tablecloth is the best bet. It looks gorgeous in modern interiors as well as in rustic-style homes.

white tablecloth made of linen, classic design, 100% linen, wedding tablecloth

Selecting a Size:

  • As a standard rule, tablecloths should hang about 6-10 inches over each end, so look for a tablecloth that's 12-20 inches longer than your table.
  • For formal dinners, tablecloths usually have a longer drop of 10-15 inches on each side and rests in the diner’s lap.  Exceptions do apply, as some formal events will have tablecloths that drop to the floor or that create a "puddle effect” by spilling over onto the ground.

2. Napkins

Napkins provide a contrast to the tablecloth and enrich the feel of the eating environment.

Napkin Texture:

  • For formal table settings, napkins should be fine-textured and placed on top and in the center of the dinner plate.
  • For informal table settings, napkins may be uniquely textured, (i.e., woven with symmetrical patterns) to bring variance to the dining table.
  • Advice from the pros: Napkins made of linen have a down-to-earth elegance that infuses your table with natural beauty. Its sophisticated texture lures the eyes, ensuring your guests will stop and take notice. Plus, linen gets softer with every wash, becoming even more luxurious with time. They are stronger and more durable than cotton, ensuring they can stand up to years of use and abuse making linen a worthwhile investment. See some beautiful linen napkins here.

Napkin Size: 

The size of the napkins you use depends on the event you will be hosting, as follows:

  • Cocktail: Cocktail napkins are the smallest, measuring 9 x 9 inches.
  • Tea Party: Tea napkins measure 12 x 12 inches.
  • Lunch: Lunch napkins can be either 14 x 14 inches for buffet lunches, 16 x 16 inches for informal sit-down lunches and 18 x 18 inches for formal lunches.
  • Dinner: Evening napkins range from 20 x 20 inches for informal dinners and up to 24 x 24 inches for formal occasions.

3. Place Settings

Properly arranged place settings are the best indicator that you are a truly lavish host. We've put together these diagrams to help you easily position your dishes, silverware and glasses for both formal and informal occasions:

Graphic by Daniela Rivas

Graphic by Daniela Rivas

4. Bonus - 3 Easy Steps to a Gorgeous Table Setting 

Now that you know the basics of how to set a table, you're ready for the next step. Read our 3 tips on how to create an incredibly stunning table setting. It's easier than you think and it will be sure to impress your guests and take your table setting to the next level: 3 Easy Steps to a Gorgeous Table Setting

Delicious food, great friends and a beautiful setting make for a night to remember, so here’s to creating a lasting impression!

We have the perfect pieces to make your table stand out!

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