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Hilal Her

The Art of Table Setting for Formal Dinners

January 2024

Mastering the art of properly setting the table has evolved into a captivating skill to showcase at social gatherings. It turns out, there are several common table setting mistakes that people make. While they may seem harmless, they can actually ruin the your party and make things confusing for guests. Arranging a table demonstrates the level of consideration and regard that you have for your guests. Prior to talking about the arrangement of the buffet, I would like to discuss several frequently observed errors in table settings.

Common Table Setting Mistakes
To make a lasting impression on your friends and family, it is important to steer clear of some of the commonly made mistakes. Mentioned below are some guidelines for proper dinner table settings that will make your table feel far from basic, and once the dinner starts you can enjoy the food and festivities.
High Centerpiece
I often see that the table’s centerpiece and decorations are too high. Your table might look gorgeous, but your event could not be a success if your guests cannot see each other. Your guests won’t remember your decor if they are having trouble having a nice, enjoyable conversation. Make sure that the centerpiece is not so high for the guests that they are unable to see each other.
Protecting the Table
Another common mistake is not protecting your table. If you don’t cover your table with a nice tablecloth, the food might spill and ruin it, or your table might get scratched. Use tablecloths, mats, and runners to protect your table from getting damaged.
Don’t Overcrowd the Table
If you are hosting a meal where your guests will not be served individually, do not overcrowd your table with decorations. Make sure that there is enough space for the dishes. Furthermore, it can be tempting to pack in the place settings at your table to accommodate all of your loved ones and friends. But this is one time when more may not actually be merrier.
Not Having the Right Utensils
When you are planning your gathering, think about the food dishes that will be served and which utensils will be needed for them.

How to Correctly Lay Your Table
For formal dinners, follow these simple guidelines for setting your table:
•    Place the dinner plate in the center of the setting and lay forks to the left of the plate and knives and spoons to the right. Place your cutlery in the order that it will be used starting from the outside.
•    Knife blades should be facing towards the plate and fork prongs facing upwards.
•    Lay dessert fork and spoon above the place setting with the fork pointing to the right and the spoon above the fork pointing to the left.
•    Place side plates to the left of the setting.
•    If serving salad and soup, place the salad plate on top of the dinner plate and the soup bowl on top of the salad plate.
•    If you are folding your napkin in a simple way, you can place it on the side plate. If you are folding it in a more complex way then put it in the center of the setting.
•    Place the glasses and soft drinks to the right of the place setting just above the table knife.
Buffet Layout
This setting allows the guests to line up and choose food. A buffet setting is perfect for you if you are hosting a big family dinner. As a Pakistani, we love to host big family dinners. A buffet table setting includes many pieces: a tablecloth, table mats, dinner plates, bread plates, napkins, forks, spoons, dessert spoons, water glasses, soda glasses, and water jugs, though this may sound overwhelming. But it does not have to be. Let us simplify it for you.
•    Set a color scheme and theme, and then choose your tablecloth, mats and runners, crockery, napkins and decorations accordingly.
•    Lay the ironed tablecloth on the table.
•    Lay the table runner in the center of the table. Place the centerpiece and/or candles on the table. You can add other decorations as well.
•    Set place mats. Lay place settings according to the instructions given above minus the soup bowls, salad and dinner plates, and soft drink glasses. Plates, etc., should be set on a separate table near the buffet table, typically on the end where the buffet starts. You can set another small table in the corner of your room for beverages, and beverage glasses can be laid out there. It will be easy and not messy for the guest to choose their drinks. To make it presentable, you can use a nice tablecloth for the table or just use your tea trolley.
•    According to what is in the dinner, the food arrangement on the buffet starts with the hottest plates and ends with the coldest. Use chafing dishes to keep food warm. It is more appealing to the eye and will add dimension to your setting if you lay your buffet at varying heights. Some people stack books and boxes under the tablecloth to create elevation. However, I prefer to vary the height on top of the table using beautiful serving trays or electric dishes. Place taller items on the back of your table against the wall.
Here is one final tip from me: instead of trying to serve your guests only homemade meals, consider including a few cooked foods as well. Cooking all meals at home may leave you feeling less fresh and unable to properly entertain your guests. It is crucial for hosts to feel refreshed in order to fully engage with their guests. When I am hosting, my top priorities are creating a relaxed atmosphere and presenting myself well. By doing so, I am able to entertain my guests and also fully enjoy the event.

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