Set it up

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Tips, tricks and advice for setting the perfect festive table.

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Cone candles From $14.50 each top3 by design

Terri Winter, founder and curator at top 3 by design, says the table is just as important as the menu! She gave us some table setting suggestions for a relaxed, yet glamorous, festive table.

Find your style

  • Think about your overall environment. Are you outside or inside? Does the room already have a strong colour palette? If the room already has strong colour in it, use that as a starting point; you can’t isolate the two.
  • Fresh flowers and candles turn the table from a setting for a meal to an event. Personalised place names – even if it is just a folded little card on their plate – it really makes people feel special and shows you have gone to a lot of trouble. And really, it’s such an easy thing to add.
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Dress it up

  • Start with the table mats – they dictate the overall look and feel. Christmas is the time to perhaps look at investing in a set of table mats that might have a little more bling than is normally your style.
  • Even a glamorous table setting can be less structured and formal. I love to have varying heights on the table to create a skyline effect, a mix of vases and candles – rather than everything being uniform. I find guests are more relaxed if they’re not worried about moving something out of place!
  • Keep it fun and have a play! Do a practice setting with what you have around the home (you don’t need to do the entire table, just a few place settings and think about your centrepiece). Then you can write a list of any little details you might need.
  • Know how many people are coming and if you can all fit at the table. You may need to look at setting up an additional table and make sure you have enough glasses and cutlery. No-one needs the stress or realising they are missing one place setting an hour before guests arrive!

Festive feast

  • If you’re having a more ‘Australian style’ seafood and salad Christmas meal, then the use of heavy reds and golds in your table setting may not work as well as a bright silver and blue toned setting. A roast lends itself to a more classic glamorous and feast-inspired table setting.
  • Always have plenty of carafes topped up with water (add rosemary, lemon or lime to make it more festive!). As there tends to be a lot of wine consumed over Christmas, the responsible host will always make sure guests are drinking plenty of water.
  • If there’s likely to be quite a wait for mains (it happens to the best of us!), make sure there are some nibbles to avoid hangry guests before the meal is served. Alternatively, if you have a big lunch menu ready to come out, don’t include too may snacks on the table.
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Editor of Real Living Ellie Lovelock says the dining table is the focal point of every celebration, so it requires your attention!

  • Start with the centrepiece. Flowers and foliage are always lovely to decorate with, but you could also fill bowls and vases with piles of baubles, tinsel, shells or fruit. The key to an attractive centrepiece is to create dimension. Use a mix of footed bowls and cake stands, or tall and short vases and candles to create height.

Finding the right size dining table for throwing a Christmas lunch is crucial, according to Focus on Furniture stylist Melissa Gullifer.

  • Check what dimensions you require to entertain your guests and ensure the seating is evenly spaced.
  • Check you have the exact number of placemats, plates, cutlery, napkins and glassware required to set the table.
  • If you are hosting a formal gathering, you might opt for adding the guest’s name on a place card so they can easily find their seat.
  • Add a fresh bunch of flowers or assorted candles to the centre of the table and keep them at a reasonable size so it’s easy to see and talk to each other.

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