Set the Perfect Holiday Table

5 rules to keep in mind for a table that wows your guests and never feels old

Have you ever looked at your bare dining table before a dinner party and thought, “Where on Earth do I start?” Just the idea of setting the table can intimidate even the most skilled hostess. This savvy Southerner has five simple tips to help you navigate the do's and don'ts of setting the perfect table for any holiday get-together. Follow my advice and your guests will think you’re a party pro.   


1. Comfort Wins 

When it comes to pretty shoes, your motto might be “fashion over comfort,” but when it comes to seating at a beautiful table, go for roominess. Above all else, you want your guests to be comfortable.

I am adamant about only placing eight guests at a 60-inch round table. When I must squeeze in a few extra when unexpected guests drop by, I know that two more is the maximum. Don’t fret over not having enough matching chairs, because the mixed-mashed look is very chic. As for tablecloths, they’re nice but not always a necessity, unless you worry about ruining the surface of the table with spills.


2. Everything in Its Proper Place

Putting the china, glassware, and flatware in its proper place can drive even the most skilled hostess to drink. Should the soup spoon go to the right or left of the knife? Where on Earth does the champagne flute go? I created a cheat sheet certain to save me the trouble of remembering. It will free up you to sip a gin and tonic before your guests arrive. Wouldn’t that be nice? 


3. Short and Fat Is Pretty

I may be a slave to fashion trends, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of ballet flats. They make me look short and fat. That look is perfect, however, for a centerpiece. Keep the flowers low so as not to obstruct the view across the table.  A single arrangement makes a stunning statement, but when I go for multiple small pieces, I cluster them together in groups of three to keep them from looking too matchy-matchy. 


4. Please Be Seated

I rarely leave my guests guessing about where they should sit. Instead, I do them a favor by assigning them a seat. It takes all the stress and worry out of sitting down to dinner. I prefer a boy-girl-boy-girl format when seating guests; it encourages a good conversation, and allows me to play matchmaker with my single friends. 


5. Shake It Up

Throw in something unexpected to keep your holiday table fresh and exciting. Some of my favorite unexpected elements include sassy napkin rings, playful salt and pepper shakers, and whimsical salad plates. Select something reflective of your personality and leave the humdrum holiday table setting to someone less cool, say, your snooty coworker. 


Tara Wilson is the owner of Tara Wilson Events in Fort Worth, Texas. She is also one of our 50 People You Should Know When Throwing a Party.