Setting the Mood for Dinner

In the world of fine dining, presentation is every bit as important as ingredients, creativity, and flavor. The presentation prepares the body for the delectable journey ahead. For the host and hostess of a holiday dinner party, presentation begins before the food ever hits the table. It starts with the mood and ambiance created by the table setting.

As the holiday season approaches, take the time to plan your approach for the upcoming holiday meals. The right table linens, dishes, centerpieces, illumination, etc. will help to create a dinner to remember. Here are ideas for setting the mood and creating an artistic environment for your holiday meals and get togethers.

Choose your table linens. You may already have heirloom linens that have been used for more Thanksgivings than you can count. If not, search for high-quality linens that you will be able to use again and again, and even pass down to your children or grandchildren. If you have a table that can handle direct contact with dishware, a table runner can stand alone to dress the table, while retaining a rustic look. If you prefer to protect your table, or to create a more formal aesthetic, a classic white table cloth is never out of style. You can use ribbon to indicate place settings, or layer it with a decorative runner to add color.

Add a center piece. The center piece is often the highlight of your table decoration. In the fall, it is easy to create an attractive centerpiece using mini pumpkins, gourds, apples, and other fall harvest items. If you have a long table, you will want to create either a main centerpiece with echoing accents on either end, or you can design three or four equally sized centerpieces so that every guest has a view.

Use creative place settings. Place settings are a helpful tool; in addition to ensuring guests are placed next to people they like, share interests with, etc., they are also a way to add decoration to the table. You can use something as simple as traditional place cards and holders or a homemadeplace card tied around the napkin with a bit of greenery. You can also use aholiday ornament to prop up the place card, and guests will have a memento from your lovely evening.

The table settings. In our everyday lives, we get away with just the basics: a plate, cup, and fork-knife-spoon. The holidays are a time to really enjoy the beauty of formal place settings, as well as their function, as you enjoy multi-course meals. Says etiquette consultant Pamela Hillings, “Once you realize table setting is based on logic, things become less intimidating.” You can use this formal table setting chart from to help guide you. If you don’t have formal china, keep an eye out at thrift stores and flea markets. You can use mismatched pieces to set a lovely table.

The lighting. Last, but certainly not least, is your lighting – it can make or break your mood. A beautifully set table and harsh, florescent lighting are not a good match. Nor is it wise to have such a low-lit meal that guests can’t see each other or the delicious food they’re eating. Ideally, your dining room light will have a dimmer switch, allowing you to control the brightness. Otherwise, use lamps or lighting from surrounding rooms and then fill in the difference with real candle light or faux-tea lights.

Together, your linens, centerpieces, table settings, and lighting will create a beautiful mood and a dinner that will leave your guests wanting more.


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