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Etiquette Guide: How to Set Up a Beautiful Christmas Table

 When I was younger my mother always used to make a big deal about presenting a nice Christmas dinner the best way she could, and I didn’t really appreciate it, at the time. But recently I’ve come to regret not learning the rules of etiquette, because I realize that they make for a really special occasion. And, fortunately, as etiquette consultant Pamela Hillings says, because it’s ‘based on logic’, it’s quite easy to learn.
 
Have a look at this comprehensive and straightforward guide to setting up your dinner table this Christmas. First, we’ll take a look at the basic principles of dining etiquette, and then we’ll dig into the detail. 
 
etiquette guide, table setting, Christmas
The Basic Principles
First, we need to start with some basics. Here, questions like how many glasses you need, and whether place mats are a requirement, will be answered. This way, the stress of setting up a wonderfully elegant table will be taken away.

Begin with a charger or place mat: Even though a place mat can be beautifully elegant, you don’t need one, if you’re using a charger.
Mix your china styles: You shouldn’t be concerned about combining vintage and modern china.
etiquette guide, table setting, Christmas
Placing silverware: Your forks need to be laid to the plate’s left side, and, in Europe, the tines should be facing downwards. The knife and the spoon are placed to the right. As a rule, remember to place silverware in the order in which it’s to be used. Work in from the outside.
Purchase cloth napkins: The napkin ought to be slightly starched, then pressed and folded. Place this to the plate’s left.
Water, white and red: Place glasses to the top right of the plate. The water glass is at the front. Then follow with the white – for the first course – and the red. To the left of these are placed the bread and butter dish.
etiquette guide, table setting, Christmas
Keep everything in reach: Make sure salt and pepper grinders or cellars are spread liberally about the table, so everyone can reach. 
Adding place-cards:  Make place cards, whether they are to be formal or not. For a special effect, attach them to a small gift.
Remember: after you’ve understood the following basics, feel free to depart from them and make your own innovations.
 
How to Set a High-Class Formal Dinner Table
etiquette guide, table setting, Christmas

Because Christmas is such an extra special occasion, you might want to push the boat out a bit further. Now, you’ve mastered the above basics, let’s look at how to set a really wonderful table.

1. Before the 1st Course
Silverware ought to be perfectly aligned with the charger’s bottom rim. After the guests have spread their napkin on their laps (use festive napkin rings, if you like), the large plate can be removed. The water glass should stand just above the dinner knife. To its right stands the white wine glass, with the red wine place top center. 

2. Arranging the Table for Soup
The soup will be served in a soup dish that’s been heated, lying on top of a dinner plate. Eat with a soup spoon, placed on the outside right. After the guests have all finished the soup, they will lay their soup bowl along the top right hand corner of their plate. Now is the time to take away the plate, bowl, and spoon. Keep the bread and butter dish in place for now.

etiquette guide, table setting, Christmas

3. Arranging the Table for the Next Course
If you are serving a further course (fish for example), do so on a medium sized plate. For this we need to use the broad and short fork that is by outside left, and the knife (fish knife if appropriate) on the outer right. When finished, the guests will place their silverware diagonally across the plate. The handles will be placed at 4:20 with the knife’s blade facing inwards.

4. Arranging the Table for the Main Course
After the previous course has been removed, the table is empty and ready for the main event. Either bring the big plates in with part of the food already on, or empty if you wish the food to be served at the table. Make sure the plate has already been heated (unless the food is being served cold). It’s to be eaten with a dinner knife and fork.

etiquette guide, table setting, Christmas

5. Arranging the Table for Salad
The salad will be served on another medium sized plate, and eaten with the final fork. This fork’s end tine is broader than the others, and can also be used to cut. When this course is completed, the bread and butter plate, butter knife and wineglasses are to be taken away. As is the salad plate and its fork. Now the table is ready for dessert.

6. Setting the Table for Dessert
Now a small plate for dessert will arrive with coffee (or a tea cup and tea spoon). For dessert, the cake fork and dessert spoon are laid at the top of the setting (placed here in the beginning). The tine of this fork should face to the right. The spoon’s bowl should look left. Now the only stemware remaining is the water glass.


H/T: marthastewart.com; housebeautiful.com

Images courtesy of Depositphotos

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