Table Settings: Style vs Theme!

I’m all for beautiful table settings, as long as the mission of the meal isn’t lost.

That mission here on RE is to help the reluctant entertainer become more confident in creating a greater connection with neighbors and friends, as she overcomes obstacles of perfectionism.

Style can be intimidating, because a lot of people don’t think they have it. Your approach to setting a table, or your entertaining method – needs to become yours and who you are! It doesn’t need to be from magazines or other blogs although you might find those helpful. It’s taking what you have and pulling it together – in your own way!

How do you know what your style is? What draws you in? Look around your house--do you like old things? Lots of color? Stark modern? Clutter or none? Do you like to be bold or do you like things to be simpler? I tend to base my style around what tablecloth I am using or the flowers in bloom in my yard, or if it’s wintertime, candles. Simple and eloquent!

Contrary to some, I don’t believe you have to have a theme for a dinner party. That word scares many women, as theme parties can be so complicated! Women tend to run when they hear that word. That is where your “style” comes in to help you out.

Here are my three easy tips for setting your dining table, using what you have, employing your own creativity and style. Are you ready for simplicity?

· What tablecloth and napkins will you use?
· What dishes, stemware and silverware will you use?
· What flowers will you cut from your yard, or your neighbor’s yard (ask them first!) or what candles will you add – to make an eloquent ambience?

Setting a table is about tying your meal together – for ease and relaxation for yourself and your guests. It’s not about the ideal method of how to place your silverware on the table, or what etiquette says about making things just so. I believe most women in America know that you set the forks on the left side and your knife and spoon on the right.

As a rule, I do not use paper plates for dinner parties. It’s just “my style” to use glass dishes (unless I have more than 24 adults, and then I may mix-match my dishes). I have no problem in serving children with paper plates, at any time. For large group, casual-type BBQ’s, I wouldn’t use anything but paper plates. It just depends on what type of party you are throwing.

Making your dinner party a simple, personalized event means you do not have to have matching invitations, or party favors to make each guest feel “special.” No, remember ladies what really makes a dinner party turn into a successful time? It’s all about the conversation that flows around the table.

I’m not poo-pooing theme altogether, as I’ve had a few theme parties myself. (Most “theme” ideas come to me after the event though, like my April Fool’s Dinner and my Blue, New and Old dinner.) I just think that for simplicity and ease, using your own style is where it’s at!

To create a style-in-it’s-own, ask your children to set the table for your next dinner party! It totally takes the pressure off of having to have things perfect, as you can tell your guests how your kids helped out

You’ll find success and enjoyment, and will want to do it again. Trust me!

(Photo bottom left: setting from my outside neighbor's luncheon that I had exactly one year ago! See how I mixed/matched the glasses? Read about the luncheon, here. Read about No Foolin' Dinner, here and here. Something Old, Borrowed and Blue, here and here.)


Monday through Sunday said...

I love making the table beautiful...conversation is what I remember more than the table though! great post. :)

Jen said...

I love setting tables. I have 20 clear plates for entertaining and plan on doing some yard sales this summer to finish it or complete some tables. Great photos.

Donnetta (momrn2) said...

I guess my style has always been more of a casual entertainer.

I could count on one hand the number of times I have actually used tablecloths (currently I don't even have one), placemats, centerpieces, etc.

I only have 2 sets of dishes. My everyday and my good china. Ok 3 if you count paperplates. :-)

Even in light of these details, we still have others over on a regular basis. As you have pointed out so many times, it has never seemed to be about those things anyway.

We have always had such a wonderful time together as friends, sharing each other's company and just spending time together.

However, I may start looking for a bargain on a tablecloth or two just to have on hand. ;-)

Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

Themes do scare me, but I can set a pretty table. As long as I can use my creativity and not be stuck with a certain thought :)

I'm a bit of a free spirit when it comes to that type of thing...


Dawn said...

I just love that blue and yellow table setting in that picture...just gorgeous.

ValleyGirl said...

Sandy, you set the most beautiful tables!! I have to confess, I've never given much thought to dressing up my table. I don't think I even own a table cloth, let alone cloth serviettes. Or glasses, for that matter. I love the pictures of your different tables. You really do have a knack for mixing and matching. And entertaining. Someday I'm going to end up in your neck of the woods and get myself invited to one of these shindigs!!

G. said...

Thanks for your great ideas..I love your glasses in the first picture, they are so elegant. I've been reading this book I got from the Library called "Simple Solutions" from the editors of "Real Simple" magazine and they have some great and do-able tips on decorating your tables. They even had a cool one with paper plates. :)

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

I have those same French Countryside dishes. I love them, they go with everything for all occasions! And that is my style, I don't like to have tons of stuff and a million dishes to store, I like the simplicity of one style of dishes for my main settings so I can have plenty of them for big groups, and then mixing in different pieces for serving.

You are right, it is perfectly acceptable to find your own style and that will become how you entertain. Once you find that style that works for you, it makes entertaining a breeze because you are not having to stress out or reinvent yourself all the time! You can still be creative, if that is your style, but having the basic frame work of a style to work within makes life much easier.

Happy weekend Sandy!!!


Myrna said...

When expecting company, I always set the table first. It is fun for me. When the table is extended for a big group, I've learned that small things across the expanse are pretty and fun---plus they can be seen and talked over, rather than the dodge to peek around a giant bouquet. One of my best finds was a collection of small bottles that hold single blooms, those mixed with things like pinecones, seashells or strips of ribbon make a colorful, inviting table. And don't forget that the food you serve will bring color festivity to the table----but the best table dressing, is the people that sit around it.

Org Junkie said...

Well I must say that I adore setting a table and being creative with colors and decorations. It's the conversation part I have trouble with, sometimes (depending on the guests) it's just so much work when all you get back are one word answers. Ugg.

Stephanie said...

I always love your awesome ideas and looking at your pics. I come here with nothing and go away with great ideas & plans ~

Sue Cramer said...

Love it! And really enjoyed your article in CWO!


Cooking Librarian said...

I love the idea about having your children set the table. You can "blame" any imperfections on the children and everyone will think it is the loveliest table setting ever. I just discovered your site today and look forward to visiting often.