Choose Your Style and Set the Scene
VIDEO: See How to Set a Table >>
Taking time to make your dinner table festive is one of those special touches that affect the evening more than you might expect.
Centerpieces can be as large, small, complex or simple as you wish. Just remember: diners should be able to see each other across the table.
Theme parties. Use Christmas ornaments in the centerpiece, a cornucopia for Thanksgiving or harvest feasts, and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Pre-Dinner Drinks and Appetizers
Casual. Appetizers and drinks may be served in a common party area before dinner. This is a great option if you're entertaining a crowd. This way, people can chat and snack while waiting for all of the guests to arrive.
Formal. If you're sitting down at the table for appetizers and drinks, set a smaller appetizer plate on top of the dinner plate, to be cleared away before the main meal. Place wine glasses after appetizers and drinks are over.
This is the most formal serving option--dishes are served and cleared for each course.
Start with the basic table setting; as the meal progresses, specialty silverware and glassware should be brought to the table with the appropriate course.
This informal serving style is a great solution when the dinner table will not hold all of the serving dishes and place settings comfortably. All of the dishes are arranged on a table separate from the dinner table, and guests are invited to serve themselves.
Potluck dinners are often served buffet-style. A small place card identifying the dish and the cook is a thoughtful detail.
For very informal dinners, plates and silverware are stacked on the buffet table.
This semi-formal option works well when the dinner table will not hold all of the serving dishes comfortably on the table but you would still like a set table.
Use the basic table setting for glasses and silverware, and stack the plates on the buffet table. Guests serve themselves, and sit down at a nicely set table.