Birthday Dinner Holidays

Styling a Modern Christmas Table

December 22, 2010

Christmas is only a few days away and I’ve been busy creating my table at home, in honour of this time-honoured and festive occasion. (I’ll be sure to share the finishing results with you post-Christmas.)  I thought I should share some of the important aspects that I consider when styling my festive dinner party table.

Table coverings

This is where it all begins.  I like to style my Christmas table with a plain tablecloth and accent with napkins, placecards and decor items.  But, if there was ever a time to dress your table, then surely it must be at Christmas.  So have fun and stick to a colour theme of one to three colours.  A crisp, crease-free tablecloth is a great foundation for the table.  The more formal the dinner, the more coverage.  I like a stylish and simple table at  Christmas.


When my table is set with a patterned or coloured tablecloth, I like the stylish simplicity of plain white crockery to really showcase the food on the plate.  Again, if you’ve decided to go with a plain coloured tablecloth, then a patterned crockery set will help set off the table.  Just remember to stick to your colour theme.  For presentation, my plates are always polished. (A mix of 1 part vinegar and 6 parts hot water really brings out the shine.)   Place the dinner plate in the centre of each setting, and placae the bread plate to the left.


A modern setting only really requires the cutlery and dishes for the dinner itself.  It’s acceptable to place cutlery in the order of the courses where you work from the outside in and it’s ok to bring the dessert dishes, cutlery and coffee cups out after dinner.  Polish your cutlery in a mix of hot water and vinegar.   Begin placing the cutlery at each setting; knives are always to the right of your plate with the serrated edge pointed inwards.  Spoons are to the right of the knife and forks are to the left of the plate. The butter knife is laid upon the bread plate.  Traditionally, the dessert fork (handle left)  and spoon (handle right) are laid one above the other above your plate.  You might also like to consider a separate dessert table.  Rather than eating dessert at the dinner table, the guests can make a selection of sweets and move into the living room or outdoors to relax.


There are two glasses that I always set on a dinner party table – the water and wine glass.  The glasses should be polished and placed above the blade of your knife (water then wine).  Any other glasses can be brought out during the meal.  Champagne is always a wonderful pre-dinner drink and I love a good champagne saucer to celebrate festive season.  Champagne flutes (long) are the recommended glass for drinking champagne, as it contains the bubbles and aroma of the wine; but I love to drink champagne from a saucer.  It’s remininscent of another era and is really wonderful to drink from.


Napkins rings are a fun and fabulous way to coordinate your setting.  If you are feeling creative why not use pretty patterned ribbon, fabric (below) or vintage buckles to wrap your cutlery.  You could also place a festive dinner menu over a folded napkin (below).  There are a variety of  napkin folds that will add style to your tablesetting.  Take a crisp, ironed napkin, create a fold and place either on the plate or beside your setting.  (It’s best not to place the napkin in the wine glass, in case the guests knocks the glass over and it shatters over your setting.)

Ambiance and finishing touches

Now to the fun part, adding the finishing touch to your table and room.  You don’t want to create too much fuss on the dinner table; it should be simply stated.   Fresh flowers always dress a table; just make sure the arrangement doesn’t block the view of the guests.  You could use several small vases and spread them down the table.  Create ambient lighting around the room – candelabras or tea lights can really set the mood. If you have access to a printer then it’s very easy to create placecards for the occasion.   Finally, lay some stylish Christmas bon bons and decor around the table, just make sure you don’t overload it.

There you have it.  I hope I’ve inspired you to create something fabulous this festive season.  BTW – the final image (above) is from the Californian Christmas article on Hostess with the Mostess.  I just love this setting!  It’s a beautiful and festive table setting; perfect for Christmas in Australia.

Happy Holidays!

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