Setting Up Your Table for a Formal Dinner Party

Formal dinners that require both a solid menu and a proper set-up to receive guests.
Setting Up Your Table for a Formal Dinner Party

Last update: 13 December, 2022

When it comes to a formal dinner, basic elements and personal touches are essential for nailing style and elegance. But you don’t need to have a huge budget for a wonderful table set-up.

Your table can look gorgeous with a few simple but carefully chosen elements and details. Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know!

Formal dinner table set-up

If you’re organizing a formal dinner, you have to know what the basic elements are for any formal table and how to set everything up in a harmonious way.

1. Tablecloths and napkins

Let’s take a look at the tablecloth and napkins. They might seem like a no-brainer, but people tend to forget these small details or fail to match them properly.

formal dinner featured

To dress up a table, you’ll need to choose the color palette and patterns carefully. Our following pointers will help you choose the right set:

  • If you have a solid color tablecloth without texture, feel free to use patterned napkins (with borders, decorated, embroidered) for a livelier decor. The simple backdrop will allow for flashier accessories.
  • If you want a patterned tablecloth, look for napkins that have a similar style. Doing otherwise won’t look visually aesthetic. However, if you really want to use different-style napkins, try looking for a color that’s different from the tablecloth.
  • When using a tablecloth that has a strong base color and a decorative metallic pattern, we suggest keeping your napkins a solid neutral color.
  • If your tablecloth is a solid color and your napkins don’t have a pattern either, you have two options: use napkins that have a different color than the tablecloth (light or darker) or use a contrasting color.
  • If your tablecloth is beige, try using brown (with or without details) or turquoise napkins.
  • You can also opt to use a solid light color for everything, matching it with your dishware and some discrete accessories.

2. Silverware

Silverware is another element that doesn’t have to be luxurious but rather, well-suited for a formal table. In other words, they don’t have to be fine silver, but the set should include all the necessary pieces for each plate.

These days, you can find plenty of options in stainless steel with different finishes at a reasonable price. They work great for events like formal dinner parties.

3. Dishware

Just like the silverware, you don’t need a luxury set of dishware to set up a beautiful table. Generally speaking, classical designs are popular for formal dinners as they create a subtly elegant setting. You could also use minimalist designs as their simplicity and sobriety create elegant atmospheres as well.

formal dinner table 1

Avoid using different sets of dishware together because the result will look disorderly or even poorly organized.

Your table won’t be complete without underplates. Underplates go beneath dishes to keep the tablecloth clean. They also decorate the table, making it crucial that they match well with your dishes and silverware.

4. Glassware

Many people only think about the standard wine glass when thinking about glassware. However, the variety extends far beyond wine glasses.

Every formal table has to include a certain set for serving and drinking: pitchers, glasses, and cups.

Each plate should have at the most four glasses. But of course, it would also depend on the number of drinks served at the dinner. Similar to what we talked about before, avoid mixing different sets of glassware together.

Table accessories

Remember that table accessories shouldn’t get in the way of the meal, nor should they form walls between diners that prevent social interaction. So, try avoiding excess or big, voluminous pieces.

Don’t forget that your tablecloth, napkins, and dishware will also work as decor accessories and not just as basics. In addition, great additions for formal dinners are:

  • Floral adornments
  • Candle-holders and candles in bowls

If you want to decorate with candle-holders or candles in bowls, we recommend using white or warm colored candles. Look for silver or something that resembles silver as wellSilver reflects light and offers a nice subtle yet elegant lighting.

Or, if you want to use floral decor, avoid tall or pieces that are overwhelming color- or size-wise.

Search for smaller pieces instead that you can set-up easily in the center of your table.