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Wedding gift list essentials for a modern dinner party hostess

Seven steps to setting a perfectly dressed dining table


how to host a dinner party

Your wedding gift list provides the perfect opportunity to request everything you’ll need to set a well-dressed table…

Far from being a domestic goddess I’m learning as I go along, but one of the first things I had to get to grips with was how to set the dinner table.

Simples you think? Well, not quite – did you know that a formal table setting requires no less than three forks, three knives, three spoons, at least three glasses and three plates –and that’s per person!

That’s a hell of a lot of cutlery and crockery!

Luckily for you, you’re getting married and that means you’ve got the luxury of wedding gift list at your disposal, which bring me to me my first helpful tip:

#Tip 1 Plan for a party of 10

Of course you’re not going to throw a dinner party for ten people every weekend, but you’re quite likely to host 4-6 people on a regular basis and you’ll want to allow for losses and breakages along the way, so when it comes to adding items to your gift list think big numbers.  Specific table ware collections can be discontinued and you don’t want to find yourself short a plate or two down the line. Essentials include: dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, dessert plate, soup bowl, and pasta dish.

#Tip 2 Think formal and informal

When you’re compiling that gift list, think about the different types of entertaining you are likely to do and make sure you include everything you’ll need to pull them off – from informal BBQs to cocktails and canapés or a full blown Christmas lunch with all the trimmings.  Add a selection of both formal (usually porcelain or china) and informal (usually earthenware) tableware to your list. If possible choose patterns or colours that complement each other so you can interchange the sets if and when required.

#Tip 3 Glassware

What really makes a table sparkle are the glasses you use, and nothing sparkles quite like crystal.  Crystal has a certain quality about it that makes it stand apart from glass. From the way is glistens, to how it feels in your hand and on your lips, it provides a sensory experience that cheap replicas just don’t deliver. In saying that, unless you’re Royalty, you really can’t be drinking out of crystal glasses on a daily basis; it just wouldn’t be practical, you can’t even put them in the dishwasher for goodness sake. Reserve crystal for special occasions and make sure to include lots of every-day glasses on your gift list as well. Essentials include: Red wine, white wine, sherry, Champagne flutes, high ball and tumblers, but you might also want to add martini, margarita and brandy glasses.

#Tip 5 Charger plates aren’t essential (but look fab!)

A charger can be made of china, pewter, plastic, brass or even straw or papier-mache. Food is never served directly on the charger, but a first-course soup bowl or salad plate can be set on top of it. Think of them as pieces of decoration for your table and go to town having fun with them.

#Tip 6 The rule of silverware never changes

And by silverware I mean cutlery or knives and forks. There is an order that these should be laid on the table in and it doesn’t change regardless of whether it’s a formal or informal event.    For guidance here I turned to Martha Stewart’s website which said: “Set the silverware on the table in the order it will be used, from the outside in. The fork for the first course is the one farthest to the left; to the right of the plate, the knife for the first course is the farthest to the right. Any spoons needed before dessert (say, a soupspoon), should be placed to the right of the knives. Dessert utensils should always be placed horizontally above the plate, or they can be brought in later, with the dessert.

#Tip 7 Mix and match

Before you get too OCD about table setting ‘rules’ you should know that it is 100% okay to mix and match your collections, in fact its positively encouraged. Tables that set pretty vintage dishes on top off modern charger plates; or put hand cut crystal water glasses alongside modern wine ones are considered eclectic and filled with personality, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Feature image:  Flora range from Royal Copenhagen, prices from €54 at The Wedding Shop, Dublin.