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11 Tips for Setting an Elegant Holiday Table

Host your family and friends in style this holiday season with these smart, budget-friendly table-setting ideas.

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Christmas table settingPhoto: Shutterstock

1. Always Add Placemats

Fabric or rattan placemats are an easy way to add a pop of seasonal colour or texture. They’re an inexpensive investment, or you can make your own from felt or fabric remnants.

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White tablewarePhoto: Shutterstock

2. Invest in Classic White Dishes

For the biggest bang for your buck and a versatile, timeless look, use classic white dinnerware for both everyday and entertaining. White dishes also show food to its best advantage – which is why the pros use it. You can purchase inexpensive white plates and bowls in complete sets or a few pieces at a time, since whites will always match with other whites. Bonus: It’s easy to replace pieces if they break.

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Vintage chinaPhoto: Shutterstock

3. Or Pull Out Your Vintage China


Dinner parties and the holidays are a great time to use your heirloom china – or the mismatched collection of flea market finds you’ve amassed. When using different sets of dishes on the same table, try to stay within the same colour family for the most cohesive results, or unite different patterns by mixing in your white dinnerware for a visual break.

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Silver flatware Photo: Shutterstock

4. Skip the Fancy Flatware


No one notices, anyway, so press your everyday utensils into use if they’re in good shape. If you need more sets than you own, buy a big batch of discount silverware that you’ll be able to put into service year after year.

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Stemmed wine glassesPhoto: Shutterstock

5. Stock Up On Stemmed Glasses


Buy sturdy, large wine glasses with plain stems. They can be used for red, white, or sparkling wines, and can even serve as water goblets.

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Water glassesPhoto: Shutterstock

6. Extra Water Glasses are Useful


Plain 12-ounce water glasses are also a good entertaining investment, and also can be used for room-temperature wine or mixed drinks.

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Table setting with runner clothPhoto: Shutterstock

7. Add a Table Runner


A white tablecloth is always classic, but you can add a layer of colour and dimension to your table setting by choosing a runner cloth in a contrasting tone or design. Or leave a beautiful, textured wood table bare and simply use a table runner in the centre.

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Fork, knife and cloth napkinPhoto: Shutterstock

8. Cloth Napkins Add Extra Elegance


Cloth napkins are one of the most inexpensive ways to instantly dress up your table. Napkin rings aren’t necessary; simply fold napkins or roll and tie with a ribbon and a sprig of green. If you have time, iron your napkins first for a detail that makes a difference.

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Brown place cards on tablePhoto: Shutterstock

9. Make Place Cards


Handmade place cards at each setting cost little but make guests feel special. Simply write names on plain white or coloured card stock using a metallic or black pen. For extra colour, tuck cards into mini-gourds or apples (cut a slit across the tops first).

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Lit white candlesPhoto: Shutterstock

10. Light Candles


Candles and their flickering glow are a low-cost way to add impact and atmosphere. Group pillar candles of different heights for the easiest of centerpieces (be sure to choose unscented candles to avoid clashing with the food).

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Table settingPhoto: Shutterstock

11. Make an On-Hand Centrepiece


Find serving pieces, vases, pitchers, or bowls from your everyday collection and fill them with flowers, fruits, pinecones, leaves, branches, or your favourite pieces from around the house.