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How to Set a Holiday-Worthy Dinner Table—Stress-Free!

holiday table setting
Photograph by Christopher Testani

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Often the main attraction to your holiday dinner parties, your dining table plays an especially important role during the holidays. Guests come in from all over, be it out-of-town family members or friends you haven’t seen in awhile (because life gets so busy)! A beautiful holiday table setting really lights up the room, and sets the tone for the rest of the party. Between styling your bar cart, setting up games for the kids, and prepping a fabulous meal, the kitchen and dining area will probably be the most utilized areas of the night.

Amid the holiday ruckus, the kids being out of school, and more planning than you thought possible, throwing a dinner party into the mix can often seem intimidating. But creating a gorgeous holiday tablescape really can be done low-stress. More often than not, we don’t need to go out and get a million new pieces to set our tables handsomely. With just a few extra touches (and some tricks we have up our sleeves to share), you can create a bespoke dining table guests will swear is designer-styled. That way, you can focus on what really matters: catching up with your loved ones.

Playing With Pattern

An easy way to make your tabletop pop is by mixing patterns. But don’t just go throwing plaids and polka dots and multi-colored accessories around haphazardly. Start by using the 60-30-10 rule (60% of the scheme designated to one lead color; 30% to another; and 10% to the other). From there, you can pick complementary patterns (we love the look of stripes and florals together) and mess around with your favorite items. Don’t be afraid to experiment! With a beautiful palette, pattern on pattern can work harmoniously. Remember to leave some things simple so patterns can vie for themselves and the table feels balanced, like layering in solid napkins and neutral plates.

Layer Stems and Greenery

Grab your clippers and head to the yard to forage for gorgeous in-season branches and greenery. Especially during the chillier winter months, branches and stems take far less effort than flowers to arrange, and they look so chic and tailored when scattered in bud vases or arranged right down the center of the table. You might also choose to buy faux winterberry stems for a pop of red or glittered berry stems to add some sparkle. The possibilities are limitless here!

A Place for All at the Table

Even if your party isn’t formal, place cards are a great way to make your dinner party—and your guests—feel special. You can use card stock paper that you have on hand to DIY your cards, complete with small drawn trees or bows, or even a glued sprig of holly. You could also get some seasonal place cards custom-made for your guests. (We love these engraved mirror snowflake place cards from SouthCoastCrafted.) Something so small can add such an impactful touch to the table, and really make your holiday table settings feel sophisticated.

Mixing Unexpected Pieces

There’s no rule that says you can’t pair your Grandmother’s china with plates you scored off the clearance rack. An intentional mixing of materials can look refined and stylized when done right. Blending aesthetics, old and new pieces, and found accessories is a brilliant way to avoid a cookie-cutter table. Try layering vintage dinner plates with scalloped edges under modern, colorful salad plates; or use heirloom crystal next to sleek brass flatware for an effortlessly cool look. One thing you want to be sure of is that each piece has a family to live with—traditional vintage pieces and elegant modern accessories can complement one another well. But to avoid a messy looking table, just be sure you’re not mixing too many different styles together.

Fresh Use of Accessories You Already Own

Finish off your tablescape with some repurposed accessories from around your house (we won’t tell!) It’ll keep your table from feeling “been there, done that.” A polished vintage ring dish can work beautifully as a salt cellar; a shallow planter can be easily revitalized as a bread bowl or greenery centerpiece. This is a fun way to get creative! These reimagined handmade and vintage pieces will add another layer of personalization and charm that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Shop Pieces Inspired by Our Table

Lenox Blue Bay Dessert Plates (Set of 4)


MUTNITT Gold Flatware (30-Piece Set)


Marin Quiet Blue European Flax Linen Napkin, Set of 4


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