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Tips for Setting the Table for a Holiday DinnerMany people tell me they are overwhelmed when thinking about how to set the table for a holiday dinner.

However, it’s actually quite simple with a few guidelines. In my tips below, you will learn how to set the table for a holiday or Christmas dinner so it’s elegant, yet easy for guests to navigate and not feel intimidated.

1. Start with an elegant or festive table cloth.

  • Allow it to hang down 12-18 inches from the table on each side.
  • If you have holiday cloth dinner napkins, (or paper ones will do), fold and place on the dinner plate. Or they can be placed to the left of the plate, but not under the forks.

2. Pull out your best china, crystal and silverware.

  • The holidays are the perfect time to dust off the good china and crystal and polish your sterling or silver-plated flatware.
  • If your group is large, don’t worry if all the silverware and china don’t match. It’s okay to mix and match, especially if you have some family heirloom pieces that are special to use.

3. China

  • Place a dinner plate and bread plate at each place setting.
  • The bread plate goes at the upper left of the dinner plate.
  • A charger, or service plate, is placed under the dinner plate.
  • Try to allow about two feet from the center of one dinner plate to the center of the dinner plate next to it. This allows diners to have plenty of room at the table.

4. Silverware

  • Only set what is needed for the meal.
  • Forks always go to the left of the plate. Knives and spoons always go to the right of the plate.
  • Place the utensils in the order of use from the outside in.  For example, place a dinner fork next to the plate and the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork.  If the salad will be eaten along with the main meal, place only one fork to the left of the plate.
  • Place the knife to the right of the plate with the cutting edge facing toward the plate.
  • Place a soup spoon to the right of the knife if you are serving soup as a first course.
  • If you have individual butter spreaders, place one on each bread plate.
  • Place a small fork and teaspoon above the plate for dessert.

5. Stemware

  • Glass ware or stem ware always goes on the right side of the place setting.
  • Water glasses are placed above the tip of the knife.
  • Iced tea or wine glasses are placed to the right of the water glass, in the order of use.
  • Coffee cups are brought out when dessert is served.

6. Serving Utensils

  • Do you have unique serving utensils, possibly heirloom items passed down in the family? This is the time to bring them out from the back of the drawer, polish them and use them.
  • Perhaps you have a cranberry spoon, olive or pickle fork or lemon fork.
  • Use an heirloom tomato server to serve green beans or other vegetables.

7. Place Cards

  • Use place cards for a medium or large group and if using multiple tables.
  • Place them on the napkin, on the plate or on the table above the plate.

8. A Centerpiece is the Finishing Touch

  • Make sure the centerpiece is not too tall. You want people to be able to see over it easily.
  • Fresh flowers or a pretty bowl of shiny ornaments work well.
  • If using candlesticks or candelabra, place them on both sides of the centerpiece.

Thinking about your company’s professional development options for next year?

A licensed business etiquette consultant, trainer and speaker, Rachel Wagner helps organizations and individuals position themselves as savvy, consummate professionals and professional organizations. I advise clients on business etiquette and business dining etiquette to empower them to represent their company’s brand, reputation and image with excellence. I have worked with public and private sector clients in a variety of industries since 2007.

Photo credit: Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol. All rights reserved.