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How to Easily Set a Formal Dining Table

Expecting guests? Whether it's for a special occasion, like a milestone birthday or anniversary, or holiday, like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, we'll walk you through how to set a table properly so you can celebrate in style.

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Set a Formal (but not Fussy!) Table

Setting a formal table can be intimidating but this tutorial will show how doable it is. Just use pretty elements like inherited china and silver, flatware received as a wedding gift, or pieces picked up through the years at thrift stores and yard sales. While this tutorial follows most traditional rules of a formal table setting, a couple of rules will be tweaked for the sake of simplicity.

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Start With a Tablecloth

While a tablecloth isn’t essential, it's a nice way to set the stage for a formal table setting. A white linen tablecloth is traditional and will go with anything. Shake out the wrinkles and fold marks by spraying it with enough water to make it damp, then throw it in the dryer. Iron if desired or leave the tablecloth slightly rumpled for a more relaxed look.

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Place the Centerpiece

Add a centerpiece to the middle of the table. If using a long, rectangular table, two or three smaller arrangements might be a better option. For a round table, one large centerpiece will make a strong visual statement. Feel free to remove the centerpiece when the meal begins so it doesn’t impede conversation and allows for food to be set on the table.

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Set a Charger at Each Place

A charger is like a piece of jewelry on a formal table. It frames out the dinner plate and is an opportunity to add shine, sparkle or texture. In this case, vintage brass chargers were used to add warmth to the silver, cream and pale blue Bavarian china set.

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