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7 Inexpensive and Chic Table Setting Ideas

posted in Lists and Leftovers by Lisa Freeman

table settings

Setting a table for a romantic dinner for two, or a dinner party, doesn’t have to cost a bundle. And it’s so easy there’s really no excuse not to have a centerpiece of some kind. You don’t need fancy plates or silverware to set a striking table either, just a little bit of creativity. You can incorporate any one of these ideas or even a few together, but try to keep things simple:

  1. Flowers: This is the old standby — a classic — that everyone still seems to appreciate. Make sure your vase is low so your guests can easily see each other. If you don’t have the money for a full arrangement, you can purchase a single rose in a cool bud vase or just spread out the petals on your table.
  2. Candles: Just a single chunky pillar type candle in the center of your table is enough. Floating candles in a bowl of water is also unique. I recommend non-scented candles for a table, as a scented one can compete with the aromas of your meal, or offend the noses of your guests who will likely be sitting quite close to it.
  3. Fun with Napkins: Cloth napkins are not at all expensive, but lend a real elegance to a table. You know you’ve officially grown up when you have these at a dinner party. Learning how to fold a napkin is a simple way to lend a cool, elegant look to your table, or you can simply roll your napkin and tie a few inches of ribbon around it in a bow.
  4. Nature’s Bounty: Table décor can be absolutely free — every year I head to the park and bring pinecones home. I fill a bowl with them and put them on the table. I’ve also used a vase of twigs with some colorful leaves yanked straight from the yard with great effect.
  5. Colorful Tablecloth: Fabric tablecloths can be purchased for under $10 these days at a discount shop, and they automatically lend a look of sophistication. Be sure to iron it when you yank it out of the package — there’s nothing cheesier than fold lines! When the guests are gone, just throw it in the washing machine and you’re done.
  6. Repurpose Ornaments: A few holiday ornaments surrounding tapers will bring some sparkle to the table in a jiffy.
  7. Gift: For a real surprise, put an inexpensive gift (party favor) at each place setting. During the holidays, I’ve done a Christmas ornament tied with a ribbon that each guest can then hang on their tree. You could do a small box of chocolates, a fortune cookie or even a little plant that someone can take home and love.

Quick Table Setting Tip: If you’ve got no idea whether the knife goes on the left or right of the dish, check here for some helpful advice.

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anishka said:

Try scattering some confetti or glitter around the table under the place settings, all over or just down the center. If you get the irridescent or mirrored kind, it picks up the light from candles. So elegant and pretty!

Kathy Maister said:

Great idea anishka! Heart shaped confetti would be great for a Valentine’s Day celebration!

Juan C gutierrez said:

Hi, My name is Juan Carlos Gutierrez and I have a question. Recently a went to Colombia by a business travel. In a restaurant there I took a plate from the menu. The food came with a bake potatoes. I cut the bake potatoes with a knife. A partner of me told me that to cut a bake potatoes with a knife is unusual and show poor habit. My question is: Is it correct to cut the bake potatoes with knife or only with folk? What is the correct way for to eat a bake potatoes from a plate?

Thank you very much.

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Jaun, You are correct using both a fork and a kinfe to eat a baked potato. Perhaps the customs are different in Columbia.

Sandy said:

I just left a diner where the bread and butter plates were very far to the left. In fact, the plate that should have been my husbands was in front of my left arm and my plate was in front of my daughter’s arm. I just used the plate at my right arm to keep from drawing attention to tye crowded situation. Should I have just reached?

Kathy Maister said:

Some restaurants take creative liberty with table setting! Emily Post would clearly not have approved of your situation! I am sure everyone was a bit confused. Sometimes one can actually get away with just asking, in a sweet polite way, with a big bright smile, “which plate is mine??”

Princess said:

The idea is great. My boyfriend and I are going to celebrate 1 year together and I was thinking about preparing such a romantic dinner for the two of us. Since I didn’t have any other idea, this one is very good. Thank you very much.

Jessica said:

Hello there,

Hope your dinner turns out well. Congratulations on your one-year anniversary!


kurstin said:

wow that is really nice!!! thanks!

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