We all remember while growing up being called down before supper to set the table. It was a ritual in my house. This included a paper napkin, knife, fork and spoon at each place. My mom was a good cook so the food was the best part of that experience.

I went on to learn about table settings in 4H club, of all things. I still have the blue ribbon for my 1970’s tequila sunrise color themed table linens with the chunky wood candle holders and yellow flower arrangement. To this day, I am not a fan of yellow flowers in my table arrangements, but I do love to set a good table.

I think setting the table sets the tone for the entire experience. Whether you are having guests, a holiday themed table or your family dinners are a gathering in itself, tables can be set in such a way to celebrate an event or holiday, create certain conversations or experience the meal.

Who’s Coming for Dinner?

The first thing to consider is who is coming for dinner. Is it family, friends, children included? Do my guests know each other or do place cards and placement become more important to forge engagement or new friendships. It also might be handy to keep certain troublesome family members at bay. Placement of the tablemates will definitely set the tone for how and what conversations get started.

Let's Get the Conversation Started

Sometimes place cards will have a topic, question or conversation starter on the back. You might include a table activity like writing thankful thoughts at Thanksgiving or playing a table game. One of my girlfriends has a tradition where all the guests sign the tablecloth with a washable marker at every holiday gathering. After they leave, she then whip stitches their signature so it is permanently in place when she washes it. Each time they use the tablecloth, everyone looks for their past signatures and where they were sitting compared to that year. It also gives them the chance to reminisce about people who are longer at the table.

What is the Theme of the Table?

I think every table starts with a theme. The obvious is a holiday, event or celebration. If it doesn’t include one of those, it could be picnic style for a crab feast or casual potluck dinner. It could be a color or seasonal starting with the centerpiece. I usually start my theme with what we are eating and who is sitting at the table. Will it include kids? Then kid friendly food items and eating utensils should be considered. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage kids to try new foods or use adult utensils. However, there is nothing more unnerving to a new parent than to have fine crystal or a steak knife placed in front of their toddler. Dinner for Mom and Dad now becomes work.

Picking the Table Decor

Once I know who is coming and which dishes I am using for the menu I have planned, I start planning the table decor. I usually start with the flowers because I love flowers! I think I spent more money on my wedding flowers than I did on my dress. I always plan the height to hang a chandelier over the table based on the largest table arrangement I might possibly have so it will clear it. I pick my flower colors to complement my table linens or dishes. I always include something smelly like freesia or lilies because lots of roses don’t smell anymore.

Once the flowers are chosen, I start to add serving pieces and decor. We sell a variety of paper table accents. However a fall theme might include figural woodland animals, pumpkins, pinecones and more. This should be a personal expression and one that will make your table unique. Party favors like holiday crackers or small packages with treats can also add to the theme. Setting the table can be fun. It’s like an art project. The more you have to look at and talk about, the easier the conversation will flow.

Cloth Linens are in Fashion and Eco Friendly

I have been collecting linens, quilts, lace and everything handmade for years now. I have a huge collection of linens. I collect a new tablecloth on every vacation. I have hundreds of antique damask napkins. I love to give linens for wedding presents. For someone who doesn’t like to iron a thing, this is a funny hobby for me to have.

Linens are so personal to me that when I set the table, it congers a memory of a store or vacation. I know that I bought that table cloth in Italy in that cute little shop. I try to have a few choices for each table size to include neutral colors, casual and formal options and complements to the holidays or dishes I like to use.

Cloth napkins are just one more way to make your contribution to the environment saving on paper napkins and paper towels. Cloth napkins are meant to be used over and over again unless they become dirty. There are lots of great fabrics today that don’t have to be ironed and are mostly wrinkle free. Napkin rings  encourage people to fold or roll their napkins back up so they don’t wrinkle. Napkin rings can be all sorts of materials, colors and designs 

Importance of Sharing a Meal

This is where I think the Europeans get things right. The meal and the experience last forever. I think this is why I always think the company and the food are better in Italy. The meal goes on for hours and each course is a new conversation and experience. Think about creating that sensation when planning a meal. How can you make it last a little bit longer? Draw out an opinion or thought from your teenagers at the table. Create a cultural experience if your menu is some ethnic cuisine. Share a fun fact. Make it fun and something they will look forward to coming back to. Make your table settings the most memorable and the dinners that people will want to come back to for years to come.



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