Today I highlight an event element with rules that remain unchanged, whether you’re hosting a private dinner party in your garden or if you’re planning a luncheon for the Queen of England. For all of you hosts and hostesses, this element is the table. Below are a few tips for a perfect table for any kind of event.
Julie Livingston Photography, Al Fresco by the Sea
Always set a table as if a photographer will be following right behind you and capturing your handiwork on film. Any blemish that you see (or may not see) in person will certainly be seen in photos…and while your event may only last for the evening, photos will last forever.
At each event set up, my request of my team when setting the table is always “straight as an arrow.” It is the most simplistic rule for setting a table but it will make the greatest impact.
This rule touches everything on the table except, potentially, the floral and candle arrangements (depending on their design). Every chair, charger, napkin, each piece of stemware and flatware should be perfectly in line with its match at the next place setting. Perfect place settings are not only lovely visually, they are little gifts to each guest letting them know that they have been thought of and are being cared for.
Julie Livingston Photography, Al Fresco by the Sea
When placing the chairs, you should never tuck a chair under the table. The ideal placement of a chair is so that its edge is perfectly in line with the edge of the table. If you’re using a table linen, the edge of the chair should rest lightly against the linen so that the linen still falls directly down to the floor. When setting a long table with multiple chairs on each side, fishing wire will become your best friend! I often tie fishing line to the first chair of one side of the table and then to the last chair on that same side. This will give you a “straight as an arrow” line to then arrange the backs of all of the chairs in between against. Talk about a stunner photo!
Lastly regarding chairs, if you are using a rental chair with a tie-on cushion, take the time to neatly tie each cushion so that you don’t have any flyaway bows or knots. I like to wrap the ties around the chair back and tuck the knot and tails of the tie underneath the cushion. This creates a band rather than a bow or knot – a nice and clean finish!
Leigh Webber Photography, Classic in the Carolinas
Do you own an iron or a steamer? These tools are hands down the most important tools for a perfect table. I never go to an event installation without them. Press or steam out any existing creases in your linens, especially focusing on areas that will be focal points of the room such as the ends of tables and bar fronts (if you are having a linen-covered bar). Ensure that the edge of the table linen rests straight across the floor and falls evenly on all sides of the table.
If you are using a rental table, add a table pad before tossing your linen to soften it. If table pads are not available, thick felt also works wonderfully. Once you’ve pressed and placed the lines, visit each corner of the table and form a nice box pleat as a finishing touch.
Pressing your napkins also makes a great impact. Often our napkin folds serve as a frame to the menu and it is crucial that all of your napkins are folded uniformly. To maintain a consistent size, tape out the dimensions of how you would like your napkin to be and fold each one on top of this tape. Once the napkin is folded perfectly, hit it with an iron for a crisp, tailored finish.
A Bryan Photo, Rose Garden Romance
Whether you are arranging the flowers or if a florist is arranging them for you, ensure that the height of the arrangements are conducive to conversation. There is nothing worse than having to talk around flowers, even if they are the most amazing things you’ve ever seen! Make sure that they are either low enough to converse comfortably over or high enough with clear or thin containers that do not block the person across from you.
When designing your flowers, also consider having them arranged in containers that guests may take home at the end of the evening as a favor. Or, if you can’t part with the display container, have several disposable containers in the wings to place flowers in for your guests as they depart. Pretty, inexpensive mason jars are great for this!
Rachel May Photo, Marble Inspired
Lastly, if you would like to use taper candles on your table, there are a few things to consider. If the table is outside, you will likely need to protect the flame from any possible breeze with a hurricane. There are many beautiful hurricanes out there that can really add to the design of the table! If your table is inside, be conscious of your air conditioning vents. Sometimes vents positioned on top of or near the table will cause a taper candle to burn down incredibly quickly and drip wax onto your perfectly thought-out table. In this case, taper candles without the protection of a hurricane may not be the wisest choice. In any case, you can always purchase dripless (and smokeless!) beeswax candles to prevent wax from falling on your flowers and tabletop.
Now that you have some of the most essential tips for a perfect table, you can blow your friends and family away at your next affair. Happy hostessing!