Table Decorating for Dinner Parties

I have so many memories, as a young girl, of my mom spending much of her free time on the weekends cooking up a storm and setting the dining room table to host family and friends for delicious meals. She really had, and still has, a natural flair for hosting a gathering with ease. While I haven’t totally inherited her love of cooking for a crowd, I really do enjoy setting the stage for entertaining and creating a beautiful table setting.

No matter whether you’re hosting an intimate meal, a potluck with friends or a large family feast, there are simple ways to add a sense of style and create a welcoming table that your guests will appreciate. Here are a few of my favourite tips that can be adapted for any season.

Start with a theme

It is always helpful if you have a basic theme in mind when you’re getting ready to host a gathering. It can be as simple as a seasonal or holiday theme, or it can be something more specific, such as a country- or game-themed event. Either way, if you have a general idea in mind it will make selecting all of the required items, such as food and decor, much simpler.

Table linens

A tablecloth is the classic base for many table settings, but you can dress things up a little more by layering a cloth with a runner or placemats. You can also forego the cloth altogether and instead go with a pretty wrapping paper as a runner down the centre of the table. Papers are available in such a wide array of colours and patterns that you are sure to find a lovely option to accentuate your table theme. An added bonus is that the clean-up is a snap!

Decorate the table

Keep the centerpiece low enough for guests to be able to see/talk over. Group items such as candles or vases for more dramatic effect. Vary item heights with cake plates or pedestals. For an extra special touch, add a sweet treat or small present, such as an ornament, candle or themed item, to each guest’s place.


Create a cozy ambiance by dimming the lights, replacing bright bulbs with softer ones, using battery powered lights and lanterns, and lighting candles to create a soft, inviting glow. Avoid scented candles, as you don’t want to affect the flavour of the foods.

Bring nature in

A simple arrangement can add a fresh fragrance, a sense of style and really elevate your table setting from simple to stunning. In the summer months blooms can be cut from your garden, while in the winter a bouquet of fresh boughs can be the basis for a beautiful display.  Other items such as twigs, leaves and pinecones can help to complete the look.

Place cards

A simple way to add a special touch to the table while avoiding the confusion of who sits where, place cards are easily made using thick paper, card stock or even gift tags. Names can be handwritten, printed or applied with letter decals. The cards can be held in place by seasonal items such as small Christmas ornaments, pine cones or mini pumpkins.

Serve it up

Let the meal be the star of the show. Basic white serving pieces really help to highlight that delicious food.

Set the mood

Compile a playlist of songs that will enhance the atmosphere you are trying to create.