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Setting Your Dining Room Table - Formal to Informal With Flare

Amanda Bashore

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Whether you're planning a formal dinner party or a casual get-together with friends, the care you take in setting your dining room table can express the thought you put into entertaining your guests. It isn't difficult to set a beautiful table with things you already have.

Planning Your Center Piece

When it comes to centerpieces for a dinner of course we tend to think of flowers and candles and these are probably by far the most popular but you don't need to be stuck with tradition. A beautiful tray of perfect red apples arranged in a pyramid can be simple but elegant. Or try a grouping of white pillar candles in varying heights placed on a mirror or tray of clear glass marbles. Your dinner table will sparkle.

If you do choose flowers, make sure your arrangement looks good from all directions since your guests will be seated around it and that it isn't so tall that people can't see over it to carry on a conversation.

Deciding on the Linens to Use

One of the first steps in setting your table is to decide on the linens you'll be using. A white tablecloth and napkins are considered traditional for a formal dinner, while a patterned tablecloth or placemats work well for a more informal gathering. If the tablecloth has fold marks from being stored, iron it with an iron on steam setting or put it in the dryer with a damp towel for a few minutes.

Napkins don't have to be a match with the table cloth but they should match each other. At a formal setting, the napkin is either folded or rolled in a napkin ring and placed centered on the dinner plate or to the left of the left of the forks. If you're setting an informal table, the napkin can be placed under the forks or on the dinner plate. Try some creative napkin folding techniques for your more informal settings.

Selecting Your Dinnerware

When it comes to dinnerware, it's not important that everything be an absolute match. Use plain white plates set on gold charger plates for a very formal look or use the same plates set with contrasting salad plates for an informal setting. Add Grandma's serving dishes with the tiny floral pattern and gold rim for a touch of vintage charm.

Placing the Flatware

Silverware is used for the most formal table settings but otherwise any quality stainless steel flatware is fine. The general rule for arranging flatware is that it is placed in the order of the courses to be served, starting from the outside and working in toward the plate. Forks are always on the left with knives and spoons on the right. The blades of the knives should be facing inward toward the plate. If you us bread and butter plates the knife is placed across the plate.

Arranging your Glassware

Using simple but elegant stemware is an easy way to bring a sense of quality to any table whether your settings are planned for a formal gathering or a few friends dropping by for pot luck. If you're setting just one wineglass, place it at the tip of the knife. If using more than one glass, follow the same rule as that used for flatware and arrange them in the order they will be used, in a triangle shape above the knife.

Remember there are few hard and fast rules when setting your dining room table. Even with a formal setting there is room for flexibility and creativity. What's more important is the time you will spend sharing with family and friends around your beautifully set table.

Amanda works for Your Home Supply (YHS) the definitive website for home improvement tools, and gardening supplies. Your Home Supply offers a wide range of products to help customers with common household repairs, as well as decorative accessories for the home. Visit them now at


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