How to Choose the Perfect Tableware for Your Holiday Feast

Posted by Belle and June on December 19, 2023

How to Choose the Perfect Tableware for Your Holiday Feast

The holiday season is upon us, and that means you may be tasked with hosting a holiday meal. A crucial element that sets the tone for your holiday spread? The tableware. From elegant dinner plates to sparkling glassware, each piece helps create a memorable dining experience.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to go about choosing the perfect tableware for your holiday dinner party, ensuring that every detail is perfect.

Choose a Theme

Yes, even your holiday party might need a theme to keep you on track. Your theme doesn’t have to be strict. Simply decide the type of event you’re going to host and the look and feel you’re going for.

Do you want a casual pot luck where friends and family bring a dish? Or would you like to mimic the formal occasions seen in so many holiday movies? Deciding the theme will help you pick the right dinnerware.

Set the Menu

Sometimes the theme and the menu go hand-in-hand. For example, a three-course meal almost demands a formal table setting, while a potluck has a more relaxed vibe.

The type of meal also dictates how the food will be served. A potluck-style meal allows your guests to serve themselves, while more formal occasions might have you serving your guests yourself.

You should also ask if the meal will be served family style with all the serving dishes on the dinner table or if the dishes will be placed elsewhere. This has a big impact on the look of your table.
 In addition to the food, think about the drinks. Will there be wine, beer, or cocktails? Do you have enough of the appropriate type of glass? If not, add that to your shopping list.

When you answer these questions and decide on the menu, you’ll have a better understanding of what tableware items you’ll need for serving and for each of the place settings. It’s always easier to design a tablescape when you know what will be on the dining table!

Lay the Foundation

Begin with the essentials based on your menu. This probably means serving pieces, dinner plates, dessert plates, salad or soup bowls, and drinkware. Decide what will you need to serve each dish and what should be at each place setting.

When it’s time to choose the pieces, pick neutral colors like white or cream for a timeless and versatile base. This allows you to add seasonal accents and decorations to your heart’s content. Luxury dinnerware sets are often timeless, making them a great investment that you’ll use and love for decades.

For more of an eclectic or bohemian vibe, consider mixing and matching to create your own dinnerware set in different colors and styles. This will allow you to use your everyday dinnerware while incorporating new pieces. You can even visit thrift stores or estate sales to find unique, colorful glassware and plates without breaking the bank. It might be a special occasion, but fine China isn’t a necessity!

If you’re purchasing new dinnerware sets, be sure to choose things that fit your lifestyle and aesthetic. Dishwasher safe plates, cups, bowls, and mugs will make everyday a little easier.

Add Layers & Visual Interest

Textured elements can take a table setting from just nice to show stopping. Start with your table cloth and table runner. Choosing a neutral table cloth and patterned table runner—or vice versa—instantly adds a little flair. For example, a solid colored table cloth with a plaid or striped table runner is elegant and beautiful. For an interesting monochromatic look, choose linens in similar colors but different textures. An ivory tablecloth with an ivory lace runner is a classic combination.

Next, add placemats and/or charger plates in colors that contrast with or complement your tablecloth. Beyond their aesthetics, these items are practical, protecting your tablecloth from spills.

add layers visual interest

Place the Finishing Touches

With the dinner plates in place, it’s time to add the finishing touches. Fresh greenery or flowers are a classic table centerpiece, while candles add incredible ambiance.

For larger parties, personalized place cards help organize seating arrangements while adding a touch of sophistication.

And don’t forget the napkins! Cloth napkins are elegant, but require more work than their paper counterparts. Whichever you choose, neatly fold or roll them at each place setting.

How to Set a Table

Whether you’re going for a basic or formal dinner party, here’s how to create perfect place settings at your dinner table.

Basic or Casual Table Settings

  1. Start by putting your placemat, chargers (not common for casual settings), and dinner plate on the table. If your meal requires a salad, soup, or pasta bowls, place the bowl on top of the plate.
  2. Then, neatly fold the napkin and place it to the left of the plate with the fork on top. To elevate the look slightly, place the napkin and silverware on top of the plate.
  3. On the right side of the place settings, lay the knife closest to the plate with the blade facing the plate. The spoon will go to the right of the knife.
  4. Now to place the glassware. The water glass will go on the upper right side, approximately at the 1:00 position on a clock. Wine glasses will go to the right of the water glasses.
  5. If you are using place cards, these will go at the top of the setting just above the plate.

Formal Table Settings

  1. Place a charger at each seat with a soup bowl in the middle.
  2. Bread and butter plates should be placed to the top left of the charger, at approximately the 10:00 position on a clock. Place the butter knife horizontally across the bread plate with the blade facing in and the handle to the right.
  3. To the left of the charger, place a neatly folded napkin with a dinner fork on the inside and a salad fork on the outside.
  4. To the right of the charger, lay the knife on the inside with the blade facing in. The soup spoon will go to the right of the knife.
  5. Place the water glass directly above the knife. Wine glasses should be placed to the right of and slightly higher than the water glass.
  6. Place the dessert spoon or fork horizontally above the charger with the handle pointing to the right.
  7. Last but not least, the place setting cards should be positioned just above the dessert silverware.

Choosing the Right Serving Platters

The best type of serving platter? The one(s) you like!

There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to serving bowls or trays. Choose individual pieces that fit your style and dinnerware sets or mix and match platters and bowls for a perfectly eclectic look.

It’s a good idea to have a few serving bowls on hand for foods like pasta, mashed potatoes, and salad. Use a rectangular or oval platter for things like meat, bread, or even desserts. Having serving platters in few different sizes and shapes is great for both dinner parties and year round use.

When it comes to dinnerware materials, porcelain is easy to find, relatively affordable, and both dishwasher and microwave safe. Most porcelain dinnerware is also oven safe, making it versatile and convenient. But let’s discuss dinnerware materials in a little more depth.


What are the Best Dinnerware Materials?

When it comes to dinnerware sets, there are a lot of materials to choose from: porcelain, fine China, stoneware, earthenware, and more. Here are the basics about these materials to help you decide which is the right dinnerware for you.

Porcelain Dinnerware vs Fine China

Many people believe fine China is extremely fragile and/or expensive. While both of these are accurate, China can be found in thrift stores or at estate sales for very affordable prices.

The term “fine China” is used to describe high-quality dinnerware made from porcelain or bone China (bone ash). The descriptor “fine” comes from the fact that it is extremely lightweight and delicate.

While fine China can be made of porcelain, not all porcelain dinnerware is China. Porcelain plates, bowls, and serving platters are thicker and much more durable than their fine China counterparts. Porcelain is great for everyday use, while fine China is not.

Stoneware vs Earthenware

If you’re shopping for serving plates or dinnerware sets, you may come across stoneware or earthenware. While these materials sound similar, they’re pretty different.

Earthenware is a porous material made of crumbly, iron-rich clay. Dishes made from earthenware are beautiful, but tend to break easily and, because of their porous nature, are prone to staining. True to its name, earthenware pieces tend to be glazed in neutral colors, making them perfect for those with subdued tastes.

Stoneware is much harder and more dense than earthenware, but not as durable as porcelain. It is often slightly textured with lots of character and speckles in the glaze. It’s well suited for everyday dinnerware sets and special occasions.

Create the Perfect Holiday Meal With the Right Table Setting

Whether you’re hosting friends and family for a Thanksgiving feast, Christmas dinner, or Hanukkah party, the right tablescape and dinnerware can create extra holiday cheer. For all of your kitchenware needs, explore Belle & June’s dinnerware collections, drinkware, and serving ware.