Start by drawing up a guest list, and making a seating plan, determining where each guest will sit (get name cards made so you can place these on the table as per the seating plan). While drawing up the seating plan, make sure you take care to seat guests around those who they will feel comfortable with, and get along with.
Next, determine your menu, and decide how many courses you will be having – once this is confirmed, you can get an idea about how many utensils and plates you will need for each guest.
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Once you have all the required utensils, plates, and glasses, it is time to set the table. Start by spreading on a fancy tablecloth that is suitable for the occasion. Use a fitting centrepiece for the table – this should fit the theme of the party, tie the look of the whole table together, and make it look attractive and eye-catching.
Now, start setting the guests’ places at the table. For each setting, plates need to be on the left and glasses need to be on the right. Place the dinner plate in the centre of each setting, and then you can either stack the salad plate and soup bowl on top of this, or simply place the soup bowl on top of the dinner plate, and place the salad plate on the left, and the bread plate above the dinner plate, a little to the left. Do not place the dessert plates or the coffee cups and saucers on the table yet – these need to be brought in after all the preceding courses have been cleared away.
When it comes to arranging the cutlery, follow a simple rule – the spoons, knives, and forks need to be arranged in such a way that your guests will be moving from the outside to the inside. On the left side of the main dinner plate, place the napkin (slip napkin rings around these for a more formal effect), and the forks – these include the salad, dinner, and dessert forks. On the right side, place the spoons in a similar order, along with the knives with their blades facing towards the plate. Place the water glass right above the knife blade, and arrange the wine glasses to the right of this.
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Finally, place all appropriate name cards next to each setting, set down salt and pepper shakers along the table, and place fresh flower vases and candles on the table for an elegant effect (do not overload the table, however – remember to leave room for the food and drinks). Your table is now ready for the dinner party.