Top Tips to Set your Christmas Table

Interior Design expert and decorating guru Shaynna Blaze shares her expert advice on setting your table for the big day.

Christmas lunch becomes the magical crescendo to the madness of the silly season.The presents have been shared and opened, you have run around the house frantically stuffing away all the wrapping paper, welcomed your guests all while sweating over the timing of getting the meal on the table.

To reduce the stress on the day I highly recommend setting the table the day or even days before Christmas so when it comes time to sit down it is a world of calm as the table is the beacon to sit at to signify the final celebration.

Like the decision of whether to do a hot dinner, cold buffet or a BBQ, the way your table is set becomes a dilemma of how to set your table and what type of look and feel you want on the day. The type of food and the table setting must go hand in hand.

There is no use having the best china and all the trimmings if you are going for a casual BBQ and the same goes for a huge traditional dinner of roast chicken, ham and baked vegetables if you are having paper plates and serviettes. Get the setting right with the menu and the food experience will be doubly satisfactory.

Casual or Formal?

Either approach to the table is right but as I believe with any style of decorating you do in your home, commit to it and follow through. There are many elements to a formal table and one of the most daunting is ‘what cutlery do I use’!

The idea is to keep everybody’s setting compact and not cluttered. The main dining plate is the starting point with the forks to the left and knives to the right. Entrée cutlery sits on the outside (soup spoon on the outer right) and the main cutlery the closest to the plate. Dessert spoon and fork sit above the plate but I find with Christmas there is already so much on the table, this can be left off the table and brought out with dessert. The bread and butter plate sits above the forks and the wine and water glasses above the knives. Again you can get away with two glasses here and bring in extra glasses as the meal progresses. The serviette can sit on the main plate or over the cutlery if you need to put a soup bowl or have crudités on the plate in waiting for the guests.

A formal setting lends itself to an elegant approach that means keeping the colour scheme simple. Either go for white mixed with silver and gold or if you prefer colour pick one like red and accent with silver or gold then add some simple greenery like conifer branches and lilies to finish the table off. You can go abundant in the decorations but by keeping the palette simple it takes away the feeling of being cluttered. Always keep your centerpieces below eye height otherwise the table display becomes a barrier for conversation.

A casual setting makes its own rules as this is where you can have a sense of fun and playfulness. Take the basic rules of function of the formal setting with your plate arrangement and keeping the centerpiece low then play around with a theme. You may want to take the colourful aspect of Christmas and go with lots of red and green but to make it more casual use a mix of stripes and solid in your place mats and table runner and add either silver or gold and keep white in there for freshness. Put in some timber in your salad bowls and side plates to break up the solid colour and this will give a fresh, crisp setting.

Keep the Kids Happy


Christmas is all about kids so make it playful and relaxing for them at the dinner table so it will encourage them to at least sit and eat something to fuel their day of playing. Make the decision early if you are going to have a separate table for the kids or mix the adults and kids together, if you are all on the same table keep as casual as possible as trying to mix formal and casual on the one table setting is going to look cluttered and awkward and fight visually with the food.

To keep the kids seated make the table interactive, have butchers paper as the table cloth and have small buckets with crayons so they can draw while they are waiting. Make the centerpiece something they can touch and play with. A mix of building blocks set up as a building skyline and little Christmas figurines give the kids lots to do while at the table if they decide to be a fickle eater on the day.

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