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We all want our holiday parties to be perfect. We plan a wonderful menu and cook and clean
for days in advance. But many people spend all their time and energy on the food, and neglect
the other important aspects of a party. Table décor and room arrangement are just as important
as good food to the success of a gathering.
Unfortunately, most hosts don't think about these things until the last minute, and often just
throw something together. Here are some ideas for creating a functional and attractive environment
for your dinner party.
The best way to avoid stress is to put together a plan in advance. Think about where your guests
will sit. Don't try to cram too many people around a small dining room table. If necessary, add
another table and cover them both with one long cloth. The point of a party is to provide a fun
opportunity to socialize and that won't happen if guests are squeezed uncomfortably together.
If your chairs won't fit, try using a bench on one side of your table.
Another way to make more space is to place all the food on a buffet table. Set up one room as
the buffet area, and once guests have been seated, move a few dishes to the table so people
don't have to get up for seconds. You can also set up a separate dessert table in advance, so
you don't have to worry about it after dinner.
Setting a festive holiday table begins with the right china. There are many beautiful options
now, from really fine Waterford china (their Holiday Ribbons pattern is gorgeous) to festive looks
from Target (Christopher Radko's Holly Sprig is very nice) and JC Penney (check out their
Winterberry set) that can complement any decorating scheme.
Add some edibles as table arrangements such as apples, cinnamon sticks, pears, gourds and even
dried corn nuts. Another idea is to fill interesting jars or containers with flowers, cranberries
or dried fruit. Throw in some candles arranged among little heaps of apples and nuts.
Keep centerpieces and decorations low so they don't interfere with conversation or with the food.
Boughs of fresh pine or cedar are an easy and fragrant decoration that won't get in the way. To
complete the holiday look use fabric remnants to make holiday table runners or simply wrap your
table in holiday paper. Gold or silver paper makes a dramatic statement and will set off
decorative china well.
Place two glasses at each setting. Glasses don't have to match, but the colors should go together.
Use color in repetition. A good rule is to use a color in three different places, such as the vase,
glasses and napkin rings.
Bring in some height... Use tall vases, candlestick holders or other objects that add height to
the table. But make sure the objects don't obstruct your guests' view of one another. Cluster objects
in odd numbers, such as three or nine.
Use items in unexpected ways. Try layering the base of a candlestick holder with strings of beads.
Use ribbon to tie a small holiday ornament — which you may already own — to each guest's napkin.
Ribbon can be your best friend.
Think outside the box when it comes to color — use gold and dark blue instead of red and green
Finally, make sure you have all the serving pieces and utensils you need and that they are washed
and ready to go. A variety of accessories vital for entertaining are available such as a large turkey
platter, an elegant cake plate and server, a chip and dip tray, or even a decorative trivet.
So when you start thinking about your next party, don't just focus on the menu. Think about
your decorations and arrange your rooms in advance, and you'll be able to enjoy your gathering
as much as your guests.