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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. 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 are not only the most beautiful but also the most practical. They are breathable, highly absorbent and quick drying. They also get softer with every wash, ensuring that they will last for a long time making linen napkins a worthwhile investment.

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.

2. 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.

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 Tip - Table Accessories

Subtle touches and minor details can really spruce up the dining experience. Candles, table runners, serveware, flowers and seasonal decor make stunning centerpieces that can transform the dining essence. Add these accessories in moderation though - you don’t want to clutter the table!

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

Browse our table accessories & home decor

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1 comment

  • Maggie

    These tips are so helpful and easy to implement! I can’t wait to try some out for my next dinner party :)

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