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Dinner Party Ideas: Setting The Table To Entertain At Home

Updated on May 6, 2011

Entertain At Home

With the economy the way it is these days, more and more people are starting to jump on board with the idea of entertaining at home.

If you weigh the cost of going out to eat against the investment in items for setting a table, you'll quickly see that no matter how often you entertain at home, you will save money.

Dinner party table setting doesn't have to be elaborate though if you want to go that route, the sky's the limit. Most people favor a less formal or casual dining style when they entertain at home.

If you organize your table setting purchases and keep several factors in mind, you can always be at the ready for entertaining at home and hosting a dinner party.

Whether it's a birthday celebration or a holiday dinner, there are some tricks and tips that can save you money over the long run. These tips and tricks can also grace you with a style all your own when it comes to hosting that special dinner.

Let's take a look at some of the ways you can be a tremendous success at home entertaining with table setting ideas.


Coordinating Accents

Most people have color schemes that they love and when it comes to decorating, the possibilities are endless.

Part of that decorating magic is having coordinating accents that blend well with such things as your furniture, your wall colors, even your curtains or drapes.

Everyone I know has several underlying colors that they blend in their home. It might be different from room to room but the dining room is no different.

I recommend coordinating your dishes and your accessories to complement your décor. By selecting 2 or 3 basic colors and then adding to your supply from time to time, you can achieve a simple or simply elegant table setting that will be both attractive and affordable.


Table Setting Ideas from My House

Serving Pieces
Fabric Napkins
Large square dinner plates
Serving bowls in yellow, green, red
Red round placemats
Red gingham
Large round dinner plates
Clear or white serving bowls
Yellow round placemats
Yellow gingham
Square salad plates
Baskets of all sizes
Sage round placemats
Sage gingham
Round salad bowls
Water pitcher
Holiday placemats
Solid red & solid green
Soup bowls
Serving plates in greens and reds
Brown rectangular placemats
Yellow & Green solids
Red wine glasses
Round green platters
Centerpiece placemats
White wine glasses
White oval platters
Small doily placemats


Accent pieces
Accent pieces
Endless supply of napkins
Endless supply of napkins

How To Set A Table

I am not so much interested in setting my table according to which fork goes where. I am much more interested in setting my table to reflect my own personal style of entertaining.

When I entertain at home, I strive to make the colors blend and complement each other.

For instance, starting out with a plain table, I add in round placemats. Since it's April, for Easter dinner, I went with my yellow/gold placemats and alternated with green. The table is set with 4 green and 2 yellow.

I then alternate my plates according to the placemats. As you can see in the top picture, I use a sage green plate on a yellow placemat. I use a yellow plate on a green placemat.

I further carry the color contrast through by adding the complementary colored napkin, folded in a simple design. So the yellow plate has a green napkin whereas the green plate has a yellow napkin.

Check out my easy-to-make napkin hub here.

I tie all of it together by using a diminutive centerpiece that blends the same colors and then add a simple silverware setting and wine glasses.

I use green serving platters and golden serving bowls to further bring out the color scheme I'm working with or perhaps I even add in a deep red serving bowl for more "pop".

Voila - a super simple but lovely dinner party table setting.

More Table Setting Ideas

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Try These Colors

Black and White
Blue and Yellow
Peach and Sage Green
Yellow and Sage Green
Brick Red and Sage Green
Brick Red and Yellow
Mauve and Grey
Brown and Rose
Lavender and Yellow
Blue and Gold

At-Home Entertaining

With the dishes and colors that I have, I can change up my dinner table settings many ways.

It helps to have different colored dishes and placemats which takes the style from formal to informal, a kind of easy lifestyle look.

I choose colors that go with my house décor. I blend a lot of reds, greens and golden colors as they seem to be what works for me. However, any combination of colors will do. Even black and white makes a wonderful table setting.

Many people buy clear or white dishes and serving pieces because they will go with anything. The same goes for any neutral colors like a soft brown.

Gone are the days where we have to have fine bone china gracing our table. The key to setting a table for at-home entertaining is to keep it simple and keep it warm and appealing. You want people to come in and sit at the table. You want them to enjoy using your things and savoring your meal together.

Try some of these combinations for table settings:

  • Round plates with a simple folded napkin
  • Round plates contrasted against a round or square placemat
  • Round plates with a square salad or dessert place turned on an angle
  • Round plates with a soup or salad bowl in the same or contrasting color
  • Square plates with a simple folded napkin
  • Square plates contrasted against a round placemat
  • Square plates turned on an angle with a round plate dessert plate atop
  • Round or square plate with a soup bowl
  • "Stacked" look - round plate with square salad plate with wine glass with napkin inside

How to Set The Table Without Spending A Fortune

As in all things, I am frugal to say the least. Even though I seem to have an overabundance of dishes and serving pieces, I really don't think what I have is extravagant.

I should also point out here that I only buy dishes and serving pieces on sale.

By knowing the colors that I use all the time, I always know what will go with my table setting pieces before I go anywhere. If I happen to see something that fits my color scheme (and my budget), then I pick it up on sale.

I have also grown my collection of table setting pieces over time. Since I don't have fine china anymore, I have made it a commitment to buy good quality dishes but ones that are always on sale.

Fabric napkins are another way of personalizing any table setting. I have made all the napkins that I have for mere pennies. I keep them pressed and ready so that I can use them for every day meals as well as at-home entertaining.

Great Places to Save on Table Setting Pieces

I've gotten great deals at all these places:

  • Macy's kitchen department
  • Ross
  • TJ Maxx
  • Safeway
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • World Market
  • Kitchen outlet stores
  • Birthday or gift cards
  • Gift registry
  • Fabric stores for napkins and placemats
  • Trading pieces with friends and family
  • Garage sales
  • Antique stores
  • Swap meets
  • Anywhere you find the colors you use!

public domain image
public domain image

Colors and How To Set The Table

A lot of the "magic" of table setting is making the colors work together. If you take a look at the color wheel opposite, you'll see that there are colors directly across the circle from each other. Those colors are guaranteed to match or complement each other.

If you're looking for new colors, sometimes it's a lot of fun to grab a color wheel say at a paint store and just experiment to see which colors "should" go well together and which ones you want to go together.

By using the color wheel, you can also draw a wedge or a triangle in the center, and the colors at the ends of the points should also blend well together.

Another easy way to blend colors is to stay with a same color "family". That way you know that your things will match.

I've been mixing and matching colors for so long that I generally just have a feel for the look that I want but I'm always looking for new ideas.

Remember that neutral colors will generally go with anything so those white or clear serving pieces will be great matches for everything.

I like staying with solid color plates and then changing up napkins or placemats for added color. However, you can do the reverse and stick with solid color placemats and napkins and buy patterned plates to achieve the same effect.

In today's world, your stylistic possibilities are endless. More modern brilliant colors make for exciting dinner table settings as well.

Table Decorating Tips

In short, there is no "right way" to set your table when it comes to at-home entertaining or hosting a dinner party.

Your dinner party table setting can be as formal or as casual as you wish.

Check out the You Tube videos for more ideas on great table setting ideas. While some of her settings are a little "too formal" for me, she has some great ideas. I especially like her idea of putting a living plant in a vase for the centerpiece.

Your table setting won't make or break your dinner party but with just a little thought about colors and shapes, you can turn a "blah" table setting into an "ah ha" table setting. It really takes no time at all to make your table setting unique and lend a warm and friendly touch to your dinner party.

If you have your own personal dinner party table setting ideas that you use, please share them with us all in the comments section below.

In the meantime, wishing you every success with at-home entertaining!



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    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      15 months ago from Washington

      That's a totally cool idea, Abby! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Abby Slutsky profile image

      Abby Slutsky 

      15 months ago from America

      i enjoy entertaining and table setting too. I have one set of good china that is only dessert plates, but every plate is from a different pattern. When I use it for desserts, the many patterns are often a conversation starter.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks kidsinvite - me too~! Thanks so much for the read.

    • kidsinvite profile image


      10 years ago

      I really like those plates!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Teresa - it is a lot of fun and hope you get to do more of it!

    • eventsyoudesign profile image


      10 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      Great article. I would love to entertain in my home more. I enjoyed the videos. Thanks for sharing. Teresa

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Petra I totally agree - thanks so much for the read. Nice to hear from you!

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 

      10 years ago from Los Angeles

      Great tips Audrey and fabulous pictures. We should all take the time to set the table as if important guest were coming. Eating is one of the pleasures of life and doing in on the run or driving through is a sacrilege

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Om as usual for stopping by~! I love those colors too as my next 'set of favorites'.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      10 years ago

      Lovely ideas. Some of the color combinations you suggested are very interesting, especially mauve and grey. Rated up and awesome. :)

    • profile image

      Industrial Photography 

      10 years ago

      Very good set of videos and the tips provided are very practical and useful

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Sharyn - You are too kind - appreciate the kind remarks. I do enjoy writing - just don't have quite the time I used to with my little Gabster running hither and yon!! But it's all good. More to come on my first love...the mals.

      Steph - Thanks so much as always for all the kudos.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Very great advice - lots of nice photos and the videos are helpful too. Keep up the great work!

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      10 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Your hubs are SO entertaining and complete. I love seeing what you come up with next (and so often). Very nice work!


    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Simone!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      10 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh, what lovely arrangements! I hope I might someday be equipped to entertain properly. When I am, I can put your advice to use! Great photos :D

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Pamela for stopping by and the kind comment. I used to be a "blue" girl but in the last decade have gone more for sages and golds with a smattering of reds. It really is a great combo!

      BJ - I actually have been accused on several occasions of having a centerpiece that is daunting and indeed people were peering around it trying to see each in point the poinsettia I put on the table at Christmas or the cattails I dried for a centerpiece. No more....I think though a cactus or 3 would be lovely as a centerpiece - I'll have to spring that one on my guests one of these days.

      Alekhouse - sounds beautiful! Being a blue girl from my past, I would have loved it back when I was decorating in blues, yellow and beige. Thanks so much for the comment.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Very nice. I love beautiful table settings. We set our table, at the bed and breakfast, in blue and white with Victorian antique silverware, crystal goblets, and blue/white Meissen ware. We use white Battenberg lace napkins and place mats. It's very effective.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      10 years ago from south Florida

      Beautiful settings and tips, Audrey, thank you. I would have a problem with just one suggestion in the video - about using a living plant as a centerpiece.

      My plants are too large to use and guests would have to peer over or around them to converse with each other. One is a very large faux orchid plant and the other a very large cactus? ... cacti? ... several cactuses.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Very nice selections for a beautiful table. I love the way you matched the colors.


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