The OE Guide To Creating the Perfect Dinner Party Table


You have carefully crafted the most delicious menu, the drinks cabinet is stocked, and the playlist is ready.

But that’s only half way there when planning the perfect dinner party. Setting the scene often has a much bigger impact on the evening’s success than what you actually serve your guests.

You’d never find yourself in a Michelin- starred restaurant with a plastic table cloth, disposable cups, and fluorescent lighting so don’t make those mistakes at home either.

The right lighting, gorgeous tableware and a beautifully arranged centrepiece are all part of what makes up the winning formula for a dream dinner party.

So here is how to wow your guests and make your table look like it’s straight out of the pages of a glossy magazine.


Bring out your best. It doesn’t all have to match perfectly – often an eclectic mix is the most stylish – or be the most expensive, but do use your finest. If in doubt opt for simple white china as then you can mix up shapes and styles.

Try to keep glasses all the same style and height. Remember you’ll need wine and water glasses.

Ditch the disposables

Never, ever use anything disposable. Unless it’s a picnic, the supermarket packet the dip came in is simply not acceptable on a table. Put drinks in to glass jugs and decanters and food on to platters and dishes.

These don’t have to be china – how about a metal bowl for crisps, a wooden board for crudités or a marble plate for cheese.  The overall theme and look of your party will dictate what materials you use but have fun with this and don’t be afraid to try something different  – like nibbles served on pieces of slate – very chic.

Layer your linen

While a simple tablecloth can work just fine on it’s own, layering linen on top looks so much interesting and well thought out. Use a runner down the centre or side ways across the table at each place setting. Or do both in two coordinating colours.

Opt for linen napkins too rather than paper. Simply fold them or try a napkin ring, which could be as simple as a piece of string tied in a bow.

If your worried about your table getting damaged by hot plates then either place a table protector (available from John Lewis) under the tablecloth or just place mats in a style that works with your overall theme.  And don’t forget coasters. Try agate or marble to add different textures.

Lighting is key

Dim the main beam. No one wants to sit at a brightly lit table. Instead use a combination of different heights and sizes of candles. High is fine as long as they aren’t too wide and obscure your guests’ view of the person opposite. Mix with chunkier, stalkier candles and tea lights in holders. But be wary of anything with too strong a scent or it could over power the food.

Use more of the same candles on surfaces around the room to give a beautiful twinkly quality to the entire space. We aren’t great fans of fairy lights unless it’s Christmas.

Add a touch of green

Instead of one central arrangement, spread flowers and garlands along the table entire table. Fill the space with more smaller pieces, a long trailing one such as ivy, or opt for several bud vases. Or combine of the above. Whether you want pretty blooms, minimalist greenery or on trend succulents, some form of foliage is a must.

Add your own personal touches

There is no set rule on how to lay a table other than it should never be drab and must reflect the mood of the party. But don’t take themes too literally. A Mexican meal does not require napkins in the shape of sombreros.

Be true to your own style and make it fit with your décor, but don’t be afraid to throw something unusual into the mix like a small sculpture as your centrepiece or menus written out on pretty note paper. Remember the little things like place cards can really finish off the look.

Your guests will love the attention to detail and originality that you have shown and it will make the evening feel even more special. Let’s just hope the food tastes as good as your gorgeous table looks.

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