These photos are from my family’s Thanksgiving dinner in New Jersey last month. We had such a lovely time with my family – 5 of my siblings, their spouses and children, my mom, and my dad’s parents – around this table. When it comes to gatherings, there’s nothing I enjoy more than dreaming up and laying the table. I want it to be comfortable, welcoming, accommodating, and warm. When guests arrive and see that the table has been set, it is a promise of good things to come. The table sets the tone for the meal, welcomes your guests, and is the very foundation of the meal. My goal with the table is to lay the groundwork for an unforgettable gathering through care for details, anticipating needs, and preparing a space void of clutter and complications of daily life. I wanted to share a few tips for setting an unforgettable table!
1. Always use a touch of nature on the table. It might be in the form of a lush centerpiece, or possibly a twine-wrapped cluster of fresh herbs at each place setting. This detail provides color and texture, and a touch of the season. For this holiday table, I decided on two medium compote floral designs, incorporating seasonal blooms and berries, and leaves, which helps give the table a wintry feel without screaming christmas or Thanksgiving. I have a floral DIY coming next week so you can make a similar arrangement!
2. Use neutral dishes and napkins. This keeps the table grounded, and allows for color and texture to be brought in by any natural elements you’ve incorporated, and most importantly, by the food. When I use patterned or colored dishes or napkins, I’m careful to keep the natural elements very subdued, or try to have a monochromatic menu (always a fun idea)!
3. Think about lighting. Flickering flames provide incredible warmth to a dinner, whether from a roaring fire or drippy tapers. To me, they are the mark of a truly cozy gathering. In general, you want to be conscious of the lighting. If you’re able, why not move the furniture from your living room and set your dining table alongside the fireplace? If you have fluorescent bulbs near the table, turn off harsh overhead lighting, and opt to bring in a few tabletop or floor lamps with warmer light. And include candles, whenever it’s possible. My favorite are tapers that drip (I love the drips at the end of the evening), but dripless tapers are gentler on your linens or tabletop.
4. If you are able, set the table before guests arrive. Not only does this free you from having to worry about that while your guests are arriving and you’re trying to finish food preparation, and welcome & entertain your guests, but it immediately communicates something to your guests. It communicates that you have prepared for them, and promises them that something very good will follow. And if your guests see that intentionality it will make them feel incredibly welcome!
5. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional. Drape napkins over the back of chairs, set the flatware on top of the plate, don’t iron your napkins (I only iron if they come out of the dryer in a ball, haha). These little, intentional details will make a big difference in making your table unique and fun.
I hope these little tips help you to create a beautiful and cozy gathering this holiday season! <3
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