How to Set a Table

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As generations get older and our world constantly changes, some traditions and ways of life get left behind in the past. One such practice that I hope sticks with us is setting the table for dinner. I do not just mean having a plate and fork laid out; but rather the actual artistic expression and thought out display of dinnerware to help your guests properly receive and enjoy a meal. The details can be as easy or as expressive as you would like. But if you are thinking of opting out for paper plates and plastic cutlery (which is always great in a pinch and saves on washing dishes) then let me give you some ideas to get your creativity flowing. Have no fear! Here are a few easy steps and interesting tips on how to set a beautiful table without going over budget. Lets begin with the basics:

1) Placement of tableware


I can remember learning how to set a table properly before learning how to tie my own shoes. For those of you who were not brought up with this kind of training, here is an incredibly helpful website to visit: I love this site because it breaks down the different types of table settings and it gives you an explanation of what each piece is on the table and why it goes there. This takes the guess work out of setting any table and helps you put all the puzzle pieces together with as little confusion as possible. And if anyone ever asks you which fork you're supposed to use, you’ll be ready with the right answer. It never hurts to have some knowledge in your pocket if you are ever the guest at a fancy dinner! Think of how impressive you’ll look!

2) Dress it up with table covers and placemats

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Hester & Cook Paper Mat

Tablecloths and placemats not only act as decorations, but they provide protection against wear and tear to expensive furniture. Or if you are like me you just don't want anyone to see the drink rings from your "antique" table. Investing in a cloth table cover might be expensive at first, but can be used over and over again. This is one object in your home that you can really get creative with and not have to worry about it truly matching. Unlike your curtains or your couch this is something that takes seconds to change and can store easily in a drawer or cabinet without taking up too much precious storage space. However, if you need something disposable try Caspari tablecloths. You can find them online or sold at the local Fresh Market grocery stores here in town. They come in a wide variety of vibrant colors with a subtle wood pattern. They are also thick enough to catch any spills and won't tear. Paper placemats are also available and just as easy to use and decorate with. Hester & Cook have beautiful paper placemats that come in pads of 50 sheets. Available through other stores like Papersource,this store will even customize them for you with initials or other verbiage for any occasion!

3) Consider some other off-table dinner accessories

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Tom Kelley Archive/Getty Images

There are lots of studies done to figure out what kind of setting, lighting, and location people prefer when consuming food. For example, at Cornell University a study proved that the more relaxed an atmosphere is (soft music, low lights, etc.) the longer people stayed to eat. Interestingly enough, this also caused diners to consume less food. By taking longer to eat the stomach has time to talk to the brain and tell you when you need to put your fork down before over stuffing yourself. An inexpensive way to create some ambiance is to buy votive candles at a local dollar store along with some glass containers. Pick up some frosted glass spray from a hardware store to use on your glass containers. Drop in a few candles and voila! Small touches such as this can offer a subtle splendor to any table.

4) Color, shape, and weight of tableware can affect the taste of a meal

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West Elm Dinnerware

When choosing utensils and plates I would recommend reading some of the results Charles Spence and his colleagues have found in their research. For instance, people tend to enjoy meals more when they eat off of heavy plates with heavy utensils. Although researchers are unsure as to why this is, Spence believes that the weight of your tableware is associated with a more expensive meal. Food consumed off of a white plate might be considered sweeter, whereas less food is consumed if a red plate is used (red thought of as a warning color). Also, colors that have sharp contrasts to the food will limit the amount consumed. Although you might not want to bust out the good silver and china for your next cookout, it's a great tip to keep in mind the next time you are trying to impress someone special!

5) Changing your mood can improve a meal

It is kind of obvious to say that if you are happy then you will enjoy life more. Although it's not always that easy to improve your mood. In cases such as this, why not ensure the happiness of your guests by giving them some incentive? Maybe add some crayons in a jar and let everyone draw on their side of the paper table cloth (if it's in good condition by the end you can save it and frame everyones scribblings as cute gifts later on). One of my favorite traditions is the Christmas cracker. Mostly used in the United Kingdom around the holidays, these party poppers are fun for any occasion. Make your own and fill them with paper crowns, jokes, and other cheap toys. Place them on everyone's plate and have everyone open them before you begin your meal. There is nothing like sitting around with a paper crown to lift the spirits!

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