How Does a Holiday Table
for Family and Friends Come Together?
By: Wendy Carpenter-Israel
I always have loved trying to create a pretty dining room table when entertaining family and friends in our home. I enjoy changing the theme each month. Steve and I often invite folks over last minute, so I like having my table ready to go. I'm ready for a dinner party of 10+ guests with 24 hours notice. And I'm also ready for the last minute, spontaneous bash for 75+. Buffet or sit down, we're good to go!
Over the years, my friends have asked me "How do I make these tables?" For me, it's a labor of love. I truly enjoy putting these tablescapes together. With that in mind, this past December as my holiday table was coming together, we took pictures as it progressed over a 5 day period.
“Clear the Decks.” If you need to move the dining room into the living room, this would be the time to do it. With 22 coming for dinner, we actually did this. Add all the table leaves that you will need and then polish the table until it gleams.
Pick a theme for the table and add layers of fabric to achieve a “crumpled look" for the centerpiece. This holiday table has 3 yards of soft batting under 3 yards of red, velvet fabric. There also is a top layer of white organza encrusted with pearls and silver embroidery.
Gather all your DIY holiday centerpiece ideas together. I started by filling up an antique wooden bowl with tons of sparkling snowflakes and glass ornaments. On Pinterest, I saw a table I liked with pillar candles running down the entire length of the table, so thought I’d try a modified version.
I have a closet for my table decorations, so they can be reused and recycled over and over again. American Plant in Bethesda, MD has been a treasure trove of wonderful ideas for me over the years. Ebay provided the sterling silver candlesticks. 1960s red balls came from my mother’s Christmas tree. The silver reindeers were gifts from many years ago.
Give yourself plenty of time to pull this all together. Shine sterling silver flatware and candlesticks. Press your linen napkins. Make sure your crystal stemware sparkles and is free of spots. Select fun napkin rings so they add a festive element to your table. I also love Colonial Candle’s 12 inch Cranberry colored candles for the holidays. I secure them in the candlesticks with “Stick-Um” candle adhesive.
Once the basics are completed, it’s time to pay attention to the details. On a snowy branch, I placed 2 wooden seagulls. These birds remind me of Cape Cod, MA. On another branch, I added a tiny cardinal and bluebird. Most of your guests won’t notice these details. That’s ok, since for me, it’s all about the LOVE. All my tables include love birds, dragonflies and/or butterflies. They also have candles cups to add to the table’s glow.
Once the small details are added, it’s time to set the table. I chose gold chargers, crisp white linens, Claire Leighton plates and Orefors “Harmony” crystal. My sterling silver flatware is Watson "Windsor Rose" and it belonged to my mother-in-law. I also enjoy having place cards on the table, so friends and family can sit down effortlessly. There are plenty of books and websites on "Table Setting 101." Don't be shy, go ahead and use them. Personally, I need a refresher course all the time.
The day before the dinner party, I add flowers to the table. They can be a focal point or they can be a small, simple complement to the table. Since this DIY holiday table already had a lot going on, I decided to add small bud vases filled with red/white roses.
Once the table is completed, it’s time to double check that everything is in it’s proper place. Is everything still lined up correctly? Do you have enough chairs? With 22 guests, we rented champagne colored chairs with white cushions from Allied Rentals in Beltsville, MD.
Preparing a table for friends and family makes me happy. Please don’t stress if it’s not your thing. In all honesty, being together and sharing the love and laughter of dear friends and family is what everyone will remember in the years to come. Not the decorated table or the DIY holiday centerpiece! So go ahead, throw open the front door with love and excitement! Welcome your family and friends home!