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Formal Dinner Table Settings for the Holiday Season Tips

Formal Dinner Table Settings for the Holiday Season Tips

We know what you're thinking: “Why does it matter if the silverware isn’t set in its most accustomed place?” Setting a table the traditional way not only looks great, it sends a message to your guests that their presence is welcomed and appreciated. It also has a wonderful way of setting the tone for the entire evening.

Knowing how to properly set a table for the upcoming holiday season shouldn’t be a daunting task. These days, it’s not as well known as it was years back when it felt like common knowledge. Don’t worry. The team at The SDPR Event Shoppe has you covered with this easy to follow guide to get your dinner table looking fabulous in no time.

Why is setting the table so important?

We know what you're thinking: “Why does it matter if the silverware isn’t set in its most accustomed place?” Setting a table the traditional way not only looks great, it sends a message to your guests that their presence is welcomed and appreciated. It also has a wonderful way of setting the tone for the entire evening. Your guests, upon seeing your attention to detail, will immediately know that they are in for a lovely meal. Think of it as offering a visual appetizer for their palate.

Setting a formal holiday dinner table

If you’re like us, you love seeing creative and exciting tablescapes. However, we also recommend only placing items that have a specific purpose for that meal. If you are not serving steak, eliminate the steak knife. Your elegant dinner will probably consist of three or four courses, possibly more.


To begin, place your charger down front and center. These should be placed with about 12 inches of space on either side so your guests have plenty of room. The charger is a decorative plate that provides a background for your meal and will set the style and tone for your tablescape. We have a large collection of chargers available for rent or purchase within the New York & New Jersey Metro areas and right here in Southampton.


Place your charger with 12 inches on either side


Traditionally, you want to place your dinner plate followed by your salad plate stacked above your charger. If you plan to serve soup, the soup bowl will sit on top of everything. You may also decide to switch this up by placing your napkin or menu instead of a soup bowl.


If you plan to serve dinner rolls or bread, place the bread plate to the left and above your charger - much like Mickey’s left ear - with an inch or two of space in between.


Add your dinner plates


Placing the flatware in your tablescape

The left side of your table setting is where your forks will be placed. The larger fork, the dinner fork, is placed closest to the charger - about an inch away - followed by the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork. These are placed in this order based upon how the meal is served, starting from the outside working in. The salad course is traditionally served first, which is why the salad fork is placed further out. Click to see our selection of flatware available for rent or purchase.


add your flatware to the dinner table


On the right side of the plates is where you will place the dinner knife, about an inch away from the charger, followed by a second knife, if you plan to have one, and the soup spoon. Be sure to have the blade of your knives facing inward towards the plates. Finally, if you have a butter knife, place that on top of the bread plate with the handle pointing towards the top edge of your charger.


Planning on serving dessert? There are special dessert forks and spoons as well to round out your tablescape! These lovely accents are placed above your charger with the fork closest to the charger facing to the right and the spoon nested above that facing left. However, if you are beginning to run out of space, you can reserve these for when the dinner plates are cleared away in preparation for dessert.


Dessert flatware


Where to place your glassware

Let’s start with the water glass, which will be placed right above the dinner knife. To the right of your water glass, angled closer to your soup spoon, is where we will place the red wine glass. We then continue on that angled line to place the smaller white wine glass. If you plan to offer champagne or perhaps an after dinner beverage, you will place that behind the red wine glass aligned with the water glass and slightly to the right. Here are some great drinkware options you can have this holiday season.


Adding glassware

How to style the napkin

There are many options from which you may select. The most traditional place is folded into a rectangle and placed to the left of your forks or underneath your forks. We love to get creative with the napkin placement and style. Ask our team about napkin rings, specialty fabrics, and other creative holiday accents that can elevate your table settings.


Styling your napkin

Let everyone feel welcome with place cards

One of the finishing touches for any formal table is the place card. These small accents allow you to take control over where each of your guests will dine for the evening. Most important, if your guests are not all acquainted, the cards assist in remembering with whom each individual is seated. Our recommendation for these situations is a standing place card with the guest's name printed on each side. You’ll thank us later.



Coffee and Tea

Modern table setups will omit the coffee or tea cups from the display, opting to bring them out during dessert service. This helps with limited space. However, if you plan to have them pre-set, the cup and saucer are to be placed to the right, just below your white wine glass on the same angled line with your water and red wine glass. The handle of the coffee cup should be set at about 4 O’clock, and the spoon placed face down on the saucer or to the right of the soup spoon.


Accents and centerpiece


Centerpieces and accents

Here is where your creative side can run wild with a wide range of centerpieces and accents. We love including candles in our designs to add that special, soft glow to the meal. You can select from LED or tea light candles to create that extra ambience, and be sure to place them in matching votives.



Where can I rent holiday supplies?

Something Different Party Rental offers a wide selection of holiday tablescapes for rent or purchase in New York City, New Jersey & NYC metro areas! You can even visit our showroom at 145 Main Street
Southampton, NY 11968, Mon-Sat: 10:00am - 5:00pm. 


Click here to see our entire selection of holiday supplies. Order online or contact a member of our design team to learn more at 973-742-1779.





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