What makes up all the elements to set the table for an event? There are basically 7 components: china, glassware, flatware, linens, menu cards/place cards, flowers and seating arrangements. During the course of events in an academic year you may or may not use all of these components. It is fun to explore different ways of setting the table for a particular event to make your guests feel special; carefully chosen flowers to help your color scheme, the textures of linen, or using china with the school seal can all change the atmosphere of the table.
Dinner Plates, B&B, Salad Plates
There are so many types of china from which to select, that it is a good idea to stay with basic white. A white plate with a small single color band or seal will still allow you to mix and match with other china and linens.
The essential pieces of your settings include large dinner plates (11 1/4 or larger), salad/desert plates, bread and butter plates, cups and saucers, and soup/pasta bowls with underlines.
Rather than purchasing a charger or service plate, you can purchase twice the amount of large dinner plates. This will also ensure that you have enough for a buffet or large outdoor picnic.
Another way to enhance your table setting, is to acquire unique pieces while on your many travels, around town or around the world. You would be amazed how a stunning silver dish or antique glass platter would look as a centerpiece adorned with fresh herbs, or finger desserts.
Glassware – Goblets, Beverage Glasses
Goblets, pitchers, cordial and rocks glasses can all be used as decorative enhancements to your table setting. For example by simply placing a single blossom or lit candle in them, you can add a unique nuance to your overall presentation.
It is important that all glassware be clean and free of spots, for that extra shimmer and sparkle. In a pinch, and easy way to remove spots from your glassware is to soak them in vinegar.
Other enhancements using glassware can be achieved by varying the heights of the glasses you use, mixing colors and textures, or presenting them in an interesting way to add overall appeal to your table setting.
Flatware – Knives, Forks and Spoons
For traditional meal service the flatware will be set according to the event menu. When it comes to using the flatware itself, a simple rule for your guests to follow is to begin with the outermost utensil first and then work inward toward their plate. Theme buffets such as a picnic can have the flatware rolled in a napkin and tied with raffia or ribbon, and inserted into an appropriate vessel, and placed at each setting.
Have some fun by using your imagination when it comes to choosing napkins, tablecloths and runners. All of these items can provide an easy way to add color and texture to your table setting.
A tablecloth not only provides protection to the table itself, but also serves as an easy way to enhance the color and overall appeal of your presentation. Table cloths can be a standard cloth cover for a 6ft. round table with 120” to the floor, augmented by a queen flat sheet or a specially designed overlay. Cloths for a standard dining room table should have an 18” over-hang which will come to the top of your guests’ laps.
There are many ways to present napkins, utilizing all types of interesting folding techniques or, you can do something as simple as first folding the napkin in quarters, and then in half to form rectangles, with the exposed corners facing the bottom left. Using this approach as the napkin is picked up, it will drop open and unfold neatly for use.
Traditionally the napkin is placed to the left of the plate, or it can also be displayed in the coffee cup, beverage glass, or underneath the service plate. The typical size of a napkin is 16 to 20 inches. For formal events the traditional size is that of bed pillow, although this size is not commonly used for today’s catered events.
A seating plan is important to avoid confusion or an awkward scramble to seats at the table. Your goal is to put guests together who are compatible and will enjoy each other’s company. Here are few simple tips to follow:
When there is only one table set, the host and hostess usually sit at opposite ends or occasionally in the center of the table facing each other.
Additional seating considerations include:
As a general rule spouses are not to be seated side by side.
The ranks of guests attending formal state dinners or other similar events are usually determined by the President or highest-ranking official of the host country. Typically the President or highest-ranking official would sit at the head of the table with the host or hostess to his or her left.
Try to seat guests in a manner that best encourages pleasant conversation. By appointing seating ahead of time you generally put your guests at ease since they know this is where the host would like them to be seated. As a rule of thumb, try not to have two guests from the same company seated together, as they may tend to monopolize the conversation.
For the convenience of all of your guests, seat a left-handed guest at the end of the table so as to avoid the “bumping of elbows”, with his or her right-handed dinner partner.