Tabletop Design for Place Settings

On the heels of Betsy's post about tabletop etiquette for place settings yesterday, it seems fitting to share a few helpful tidbits about tabletop design. 

Over the years, I've had the honor and privilege of designing tabletop experiences for so many wonderful people. Brides, grooms, families, wedding guests, political figures, celebrities, and even former presidents of the United States. No matter who will be sitting down to dine, when I start to design the table, the task ahead of me is always such an important one. I intentionally use the word "experiences" above, because I believe that time spent having dinner with friends, family, loved ones, and colleagues should a full sensory encounter. I could write for pages about flowers and candlelight on tabletops, but those elements are each only a small part of the story. To that end, here are my top three design guidelines for the perfect place settings: 

1.) Make the Guest Feel Welcome

Whether the dinner party headcount totals in the hundreds, or only 10 guests, each person should feel welcome. A place card goes a long way in making sure someone feels special. From the guest's perspective, when he finds his name at the table, he knows you've anticipated his presence at dinner, and have gone out of your way to create a space just for him. It boils down to this: use someone's name at every possible opportunity. 

Perry Vaile Photography

Perry Vaile Photography

2.) Pay Attention to Texture 

When your guest sits down to dinner, she has planted herself in a fixed position for 45-90 minutes. Don't allow her to be underwhelmed! Delight the senses by thinking beyond just what looks beautiful. What does she touch or feel at the table? Select an interesting napkin (which she immediately picks up to place on her lap, and later uses to lift to her face), layer interesting pieces of dinnerware, and choose delicate stemware that is light to the touch. The table linen is so important. You don't need to incorporate a wild, ruffly, or sequin texture in a table linen. Sometimes a simple tuscan linen texture is all it takes. 

3.) Don't Forget the Menu!

True story... At my own wedding (nearly 12 year ago!), we dined on a delicious four course plated meal. The food was interesting, colorful, and carefully chosen. My only regret? I decided to skip the menu cards. Such a mistake!! I realized later that many of our guests were enjoying the food so much that they were curious about the ingredients. For example, our proteins were served with the tastiest root vegetables, but not everyone was familiar with root vegetables. I wish I had included a menu on the table for everyone! 

Enjoy the weekend, friends! May your dinner tables be full of love, laughter, delicious food, and beautiful details.