Setting the table for our Christmas meal is one of my favourite tasks of the festive season. We are lucky enough to have lots of guests joining us for our Christmas meal every year, which means that there is no shortage of people offering to help us with preparations. But decorating the Christmas table is the one task that I selfishly guard to myself.
There is something very special about laying out the table with care and thought to create a beautiful display for your guests. It's about celebration and occasion.
So how do we go about creating a Christmas tablescape? Let's look at a few ideas.
1. To Tablecloth or Not to Tablecloth? That is the Question
When we think of Christmas dining, we think of special occasions, and in times gone by, the table cloth was an essential part of this. However in recent times, there is a trend towards more relaxed social occasions, and a table cloth is no longer a "must have" item, although it can still look very pretty. A halfway house is to have a table runner along the centre of a long table, and linen table mats to soften the look.
2. The Pièce de Résistance
Image by Brissi
The pièce de résistance has to be whatever you place in the centre of your table. Having a centrepiece gives the table a focal point, and an opportunity to bring the wow factor to your display. It sets the scene for the rest of your table: whether you want a glamorous look with sparkle and shimmer, or a more rustic look with greenery and burlap or hessian.
You can really go to town with your centre piece, using lots of winter greenery and dried or fresh blooms. Just be careful not to get carried away; make sure you leave enough room for serving bowls and glasses!
Image from Lights 4 Fun
A round table calls for a round centerpiece, but this can look good on rectangular tables too. A simple circular centrepiece of fern, pinecones and candles with fairy lights scattered throughout gives a laid-back, rustic feel to your table, and leaves lots of room for serving dishes too. Either buy an off-the-shelf wreath for your table, or push sprigs of winter greenery into a ring of oasis for a DIY solution.
Image from Lights 4 Fun
In some ways, a longer table takes more effort to dress and usually requires more 'props'. Think in terms of one long line down the centre of the table and plan a display around this shape. Start with a long table runner, place a garland along the centre line, or dot miniature Christmas trees along the length of the table. Add a long row of candles, tea lights or battery operated fairy lights. Even if you are eating during the daytime, dots of light still add something special to the table.
3. Place Settings
No matter whether you are sticking to traditional red and green, going for minimalist white and grey, or you want a more glam look, there is a certain order to creating a place setting for your Christmas table.
If you are using a tablecloth, start here. It will bring the wow factor to a more formal table, and as most of us rarely use tablecloths every day, it does mark this out as a special occasion. Consider the colour scheme you are using across your table, and choose your cloth, mats and crockery to match.
Start with a cloth place mat or charger plate in your chosen colour scheme. For a more rustic look, put your plates straight onto the table, or use pure unbleached linen mats. Stay away from old-fashioned cork back mats (trust me, they are so 1970s, and not in a retro-good way).
Layer plates and bowls on top of your placemat, and alternate the colours if you are able to so that the top plate picks up the colour of the placemat or other decorations on the table.
Top the plate with a cloth napkin, bound with ribbon, or a sparkly tree decoration, and add in a spring of rosemary, sage or pine for a flash of natural greenery. Either place your knives and forks inside your napkin ribbon, or place them either side of the plate if you are following 'proper' rules. Remember: knives on the right, forks on the left and dessert cutlery above the plate. Starter knives sit to the right of the main knife, and starter forks sit to the left of the main fork. You always start from the outside and work your way in towards the plate.
Glassware from Laura Ashley
Unless you are going for an intentional eclectic look , mismatched glasses look out of place in a formal table setting, and chipped glasses are an absolute no-no from a hygiene, safety and aesthetic point of view. If your glassware is looking a little sorry for itself, treat yourself to some matching wine and water glasses this year. Match the glassware to the style of table you are creating. Opulent fluted glasses are ideal for a wistful, romantic look, gold or silver dipped glasses for a glam look, and more simple shapes work well in a laid-back scheme.
5. Christmas Crackers
Brussel Sprout Crackers by Annabel James
And finally, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the good old cracker. Whether you like novelty crackers or something more traditional, there is something for everyone. Tie the cracker in with your table decor by matching the colour schemes thoughout.
What will your table look like this Christmas?