The holiday season is upon us and while visions of sugar plums (and the entire Target holiday toy catalog) may be dancing through children’s heads, most adults are dreaming of formal dinner settings and centerpiece possibilities. It is probably safe to assume that most of us have a day-to-day dining room table that is less formal and more macaroni cheese sauce and cheerio debris chic. So, we turned to Acadiana’s table setting master, Edward Fremin, for inspiration and a refresher course on formal table settings. Follow this simple five-step guide to creating the holiday tablescape of your dreams.
1. Setting the Scene
According to Emily Post, a formal table must be geometrically spaced: the centerpiece should be in the exact center, the place settings should be an equal distance apart and the utensils should be balanced. Formal settings consist of a charger (or service plate, butter plate, salad fork, dinner fork, fish fork (if there is a fish course,) dinner knife, fish knife, butter knife, salad knife, soup spoon or fruit spoon if fruit or soup is being served as a first course, oyster fork if shellfish is served, and four glasses- water goblet, champagne flute, red or white wine glasses and a sherry glass.
Now, stop, take a deep breath, none of this must be complicated, costly or time consuming!
2. Where to Start
Fremin’s favorite starting point for his own table setting is the table’s centerpiece. He says he often starts there and let’s his vision for the entire setting take off. For Christmas, fresh greenery, seasonal fruits such as citrus fruits (satsumas and kumquats), cranberries, a collection of pinecones and poinsettias make stunning centerpieces. Edward creates a wow-worthy tablespaces with a pair of evergreen and apple towers that are topped with a pineapple and placed on a ring of kumquats branches.
3. Short & Sweet
It is suggested that you keep the height of your centerpieces low enough that your guests have no problem seeing and visiting with each other across the table. Although, with one exception to height, Fremin does also suggest that a grand candelabra holding 18-24 inch thin taper candle sticks be used for such occasions, and honestly, who among us is immune to the charms of a candelabra?
4. Choose your Colors
Building out from your centerpiece, you move to the decision of what colors to use in your table setting. Traditionally, tablecloths and napkins are white for formal occasions. For holidays, however, you can deviate from the traditional white and use the colors of the season - reds, greens, gold and silver. You can even simply base your holiday table on the décor of your home. The way to keep this simple while still making an impact is to use what you have already. The only rule that Fremin was sure to note was that he never uses paper on his table. Table linens and cloth napkins are a must and are cherished in his household by handwashing the delicate, antique fabric after use and a fresh pressing for the ultimate crisp presentation.
5. Crash Course
To course card or not to course card - that is the question? Fremin’s suggestion is that you leave the option of whether or not to include course cards to depend on the size of the group that you are serving. For a larger group, it is certainly recommended to use a course card. The reason being that many people have food allergies and dietary restrictions. For a larger group, it may not be possible for the host to have visited with every guest to inform them of what is being served before it is time to sit down for dinner. A course card will allow guests to review each dish being served and politely decline any item that they are not able to eat.
Whether you collect antique pieces from estate sales all year long or stick to only modern decor, whether you choose to mix and match dishes or have a matching set, whether or not you can flawlessly place all of your flatware or you cannot remember what fork to use for what course – may your holiday table be filled with love and laughter because that is what truly creates a gorgeous setting.