10 Tips for a Happy Holiday Tablescape

Photography by Jennifer Gibeau

Posted on Dec 11, 2015

Sarah's City Festive Dining Room

1. Work From The Outside In

When it comes to setting a proper place setting, there are a couple of simple rules to follow. Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right. If you are having a salad before the main course, the salad fork goes on the outside and the dinner fork is closest to the plate. Same for the right side. A soup spoon or salad knife go on the outer right, then the dinner knife goes right beside the dinner plate (with the blade facing in). If you plan to serve dessert, you can place a fork and spoon facing each other at the top of the dinner plate with fork handle pointing left and the spoon handle pointing right (to make it easy to pick up and use). 

Place Setting Graphic
Sarah's City Festive Dining Room

2. Cheers To You!

If you plan to change the wine you serve during courses, the glasses should be arranged from the outside right into the middle. White wine would generally be served with the appetizer, so it is placed on the far right so it can be easily removed once the first course is done without knocking over the other glasses. Next goes the red wine glass, since it would likely be served with the main course. Next is the champagne flute (if you’re going all out and making it a celebratory night). And lastly, the glass furthest in would be a water glass because it stays on for the whole meal. Don’t feel you need to get out every glass in the house if it doesn’t suit your style of entertaining - but you have to admit it sure looks sparkly to see them all lined up, doesn’t it? Don’t sweat it if your glassware doesn’t match - just use what you’ve got and it will be a nice, eclectic look.

3. Mix Don’t Match

Many of us have a set of basic white everyday dishes. They can easily be dressed up for entertaining, so just pair them with a fun accent plate that can be used for salad or dessert (or both). Layering and combining patterns is the key to success with a beautiful table. 

4. Add Some Pattern

Here’s where I can help…My new textile collection has 4 different colourways of reversible placemats and 14 coordinating napkin patterns so we can help you add some colour and pretty pattern to your tabletop. Nothing is specifically holiday “themed” so think of these as a quick way to bring a touch of chic to your table, every day! 

Sarah Style Celestial Blue Table Linens
Click here to shop my 100% cotton Table Linen Ensembles featuring coordinating sets of playfully patterned placemats and napkins!
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Sarah Style Pomegranate Pink Table Linens
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Sarah Style Birch Grey Table Linens
Sarah's City Festive Dining Room

5. Fire It Up

I love dinner by candlelight, so a combination of taper candles and small votives are a staple of every dinner in our house. I am always on the lookout for vintage taper candles as you can usually find well-priced options in both silver and brass that are less than you’d pay for new ones (and the bonus is that they don’t take up nearly as much space as chunky pillar candles). The staggered heights of different pairs of candlesticks is part of the charm, I think. The ensure every place setting has a little bit of twinkle and sparkle, I add a few votive candles down the middle of the table. You can pick them up at any decor store for next to nothing. These are personal favourites of mine - the Snowball votive by Kosta Boda is a perfect glass snowball that makes an elegant tribute to winter (but I use it year round).

6. Give Them Something To Remember

Ornaments are usually sold in sets of at least four, and if you shop in the right place, they can be a bargain too. I found these oversized sparkly orbs for about $3 a piece and thought they’d make wonderful keepsakes of a special evening. Years ago one of my roommates gave each of us a box with 4 unique ornaments in it. I’ve treasured them ever since and can guarantee your guests will always remember this dinner!

7. Play Some Tunes

Dim the lights and play some of your favourite holiday music. Nothing helps keep the vibe festive and light-hearted like classic Christmas hits! Fire up iTunes or check out Songza to stream free online music and your choice of never-ending holiday playlists at the your fingertips!

Sarah's City Festive Dining Room
Sarah's City Festive Dining Room

8. Keep It Simple

You don’t have to put fresh flowers on your table, but it’s a nice touch to have a few blooms. You don’t want to use anything tall that will impede your guests ability to have a lively conversation across the table and a clear sightline of each other. Here’s a simple trick for looking like a pro. Use a short (and inexpensive column vase), fill it 2/3 with water,  then line the inside of the vase with a large leaf. I used hydrangeas, and just used the extra leaves that I pulled off the stems to do this. And it only took one bloom to fill each vase, which makes it not only great looking, but only takes a second to do! Just remember to smash the woody stems of the hydrangea once you cut them so they continue to draw water and won’t wilt. 

Sarah's City Festive Dining Room

9. Make Some Noise

Sometimes an icebreaker is needed to get everyone in the spirit for a fun night. That’s where the good ole christmas cracker comes in…Everyone loves a corny joke, no one ever looks too serious in a paper crown, and the popping of crackers sets the right tone for lots of laughs.

10. Have Fun!

This is the most important ingredient of all at any party. YOU, the host or hostess, need to have fun in order for your guests to feel relaxed and enjoy themselves. Whatever goes wrong in the kitchen will likely go unnoticed by your guests, so don’t sweat the small stuff. The key is to create a night that suits you and your style, so just do what you feel comfortable with in terms of food and degree of formality. Your guests will just be delighted to be invited, so focus on what matters most…making memories and sharing experiences!

Sarah's City Festive Dining Room