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How to set the perfect dinner table

Whether you’re a newbie having your friends over for the first time, or are a seasoned host, it’s worth going over these basics every now and then.

Dinner serveware

1. What kind of dinner are you serving?

Are you planning a sit-down dinner for a few intimate friends? Or a more informal buffet? The way you set your table will depend largely on this. A few things you will need no matter what – dinner plates, soup bowls, cutlery, napkins, table cloth, runners and some sort of décor centerpiece. If you have a theme going, your party will be more fun. A few that come to mind are rustic (with wood and stone finishes) old English (think heavy floral notes) and bling (with lots of metallic tones). 

2. Set the table for a sit-down meal



For a sit-down meal, start with a table cloth and placemats. A trick we follow is to use a plain table cloth with patterned placemats, or vice-versa. On the place mat, first place the dinner plate, with the bread-plate above it, and the soup plate last of all. If you’ve already invested in a matched dinner set, this will be really easy for you.

Cutlery should be arranged from inside to outside, starting with soup spoons closest to the plates and dessert spoons outside. Any knives of course, go on the right. The idea is for the guest to work their way from the closest spoon to the farthest. Glasses must be arranged on the top right corner, with the water glass closest to the plate, and those for other beverages, next to it. Don’t forget the napkin – place this on top of the soup plate to save space.

Try cute little name tags next to each setting. Remember, if you’re placing a vase of flowers or some sort of centerpiece, it shouldn’t be so tall as to block your view of the person sitting opposite you.

3. Things you need specially for a buffet meal

This is a whole lot more informal, so go ahead and have fun. Place a few chafing dishes so that the dishes warm, and have your guests circulate around it taking what they please. Desserts can be displayed on pretty cake stands, and you can go cray-cray with your centerpiece. Stack plates, beverages, cutlery and napkins on a sideboard. In this sort of dishes, your serving dishes will be the highlight, so make sure you have pretty choices over and above the chafing dishes – salad bowls, sauce boats and so on.


Cookware and serveware


4. Pay attention to detail

What makes a dinner party a dinner party? For us, it’s all in the trimmings. A pretty table cloth, runner or place mats, first of all. Cloth napkins in cute napkin rings. Candles, floral arrangements, even succulents. Have a pretty decanter set for your beverages. We were at a dinner party recently where an array of hors d’oeuvres were served on different wooden trays.

Whatever you pick, it should go with the rest of your elements – your centerpiece or serveware, either in terms of colour or finish. At the same time, something too busy would take away from what should be the highlight of the evening: the food.