How to set a dinner table for the holidays and impress your guests

Festive plate setting on table
Festive plate setting on table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re hosting a festive party, you’ll need to know how to set a dinner table for the holidays and impress your guests. In fact, the dinner table is the focal point of any feast, creating a welcoming first impression. In addition, it can uplift a drab, dining table and make mealtimes more exciting. 

Whether you’re hosting an intimate dinner for a select few or cooking up a storm, knowing how to set a dinner table the correct way is useful to know. The etiquette of where to place the right fork or knife for each course doesn't have to be limited to fancy restaurants! Plus, it’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit and celebrate in style with loved ones. So if you want to go all out on those hosting skills, here’s how to set a dinner table this holiday.  

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How to set a dinner table this holiday 

1. First, lay out a clean and ironed tablecloth on the dining table. If you prefer not to use a tablecloth, you can use linen table runners in the center.

2. Next, set a charger for each guest. Chargers or server plates are large, decorative plates which are used as a backdrop for your dinner plates. The idea is that when the main course is served, the charger should be swapped out for the correct dinner plate. 

Charging plate with bowl

Charging plate with bowl (Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. In the center of the charger, place a soup bowl (optional) Then place the bread plate to the top left of the charger. Add the butter knife on the plate with the handle facing right for easy reach.

4.  Place a cloth napkin to the right of the charger. It's also popular to place a napkin in the centre of the plate.

Napkin placed on a festive dinner plate

Napkin placed on a festive dinner plate (Image credit: Shutterstock)

5. To the left of the charger, place the salad fork on the outside, and the dinner fork on the inside. On the right of the charger, place the dinner knife, salad knife, and soup spoon, from left to right.

6. Now for the glasses. The water glass is placed above the knives while wine is set from right to the left in the order. Typically, white wine is on the outside for the first course, and the red wine is inside for your main meal.

Wine glasses on dinner table

Wine glasses on dinner table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

7. Finally, the dessert utensils are placed above the charger. Usually, the fork handle is to the left and spoon handle to the right.

Dinner table setting

Dinner table setting (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Do I need name cards? 

If you really want to impress, you can personalize your dinner party with name cards. Typically, these are set above the dessert spoon but you can also place them on the plate if you have limited table space. At least you can plan your guest seating arrangements to avoid any festive family drama!

Name card on dinner plate

Name card on dinner plate (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Other Christmas table ideas 

You can bring style to your festive table with wreaths, candles and baubles to add glamor. Christmas centerpieces are a great way to style your table, and you can find a range of designs. You'll find centerpieces made from artificial fir tree and pine cones to ones with candle holders attached. 

We particularly like this Christmas Candle Holder Centerpiece ($35, Amazon) or this Christmas Advent Wreath Centerpiece ($15, Amazon) to add that festive feel. 

Candle centerpiece on table

Candle centerpiece on table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Other festive table ideas include mason jar candle holders, silver bells, napkin art, or you can create an 'evergreen' theme by adding fresh greenery, foliage, pine cones and red berries. The best thing is, you can get creative as you like to make it fun and festive for your guests to enjoy.  

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!