Come Christmas-time, and our social media feeds are filled with pictures of proud hosts' tablescapes ready for the main event.
For those of us who are challenged in this area or hosting Christmas lunch or dinner for the first time, where do you start if you want to create a tablescape that will leave guests oohing and ahhing without spending a fortune? Carolyn Potgieter, founder of Mrs Tablescape, offers the following advice.
Numbers and style
The number of people attending can determine the style of lunch or dinner and your tablescape. While any number of people and style of event won't affect achieving a beautiful tablescape, you'll need to have an idea of the style of meal you'll be serving when it comes to your design.
Take stock of what you already have
Before purchasing new items, go through your cupboards and pull out vases, plates, glasses, serving platters, bowls, etc. Take stock of what you already have and can use. Sometimes you can surprise yourself with things you find hidden in the back of cupboards. Group items like vases or sculptures you may have or use lots of fruit and vegetables as your centrepieces.
What's on the menu
This is where you need to have decided what you'll be serving (or at least have an idea) as now you can look at the food plan and what bowls, serving platters and so on you have to present your menu.
How many courses will you be serving? Will you need entrée and dessert plates to go with the main meal, or will you be serving appetisers as finger food, so you'll only need main meal and dessert plates. Will you need a bread plate?
These decisions will help when designing your Christmas tablescape as you know what plates you need on your table. Make a list of serving utensils and crockery you'll need to purchase so all your menu items have a home.
Also, think about what food will be placed on the table and what will be served from the kitchen bench or side buffet. You don't want to waste a beautiful tablescape if everything needs to be removed once the food is brought out.
Check the Christmas tub
Pull out your Christmas box or tubs and look at what you can use that you already have. This doesn't have to be definite, but it gives you a starting point. Perhaps you've used the same tablecloth for the past few years and wish to purchase a new one, or you have some decorations that could be used for centrepieces. Having a beautiful tablescape doesn't mean you need to go out and purchase all new items, and it's also something you can build on each year.
Decide on your colour scheme, starting with the items you already have. For example, would you like a traditional red and green theme, red and gold, or blue and silver theme? There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to colour schemes; however, you will want to pick one, so you know what look you're working towards.
Items for your Christmas tablescape
The tablescape items you will need to include on your list include bonbons (if you want them), centrepiece/s, placemats or tablecloth (or perhaps both), a table runner (optional), napkins, plates, wine and/or Champagne glasses, water/soft drink glasses/tumblers and cutlery.
When it comes to what to use for a centrepiece, you have the option of one large focal point - especially if you have a round or square table - or multiple smaller centrepieces if you have a rectangular table. As a guide, keep your centrepiece below eye level when sitting down as you don't want it to obstruct guests' view of each other.
Also, keep in mind the size of your table and how much room you'll have once plates and glasses are out. It's a good idea to have a trial run with the items you already have so you know how much room you have to play with. A few DIY centrepieces include candles of various sizes and colours, a vase filled with Christmas balls or cherries, or small gift-wrapped boxes with ribbons. They just need to match your colour scheme.
When it comes to tablescaping, serviettes are no longer just serviettes - this is where you can get creative. From making little pockets to place the cutlery into to serviette rings or personalised notes or place cards, there's a lot you can do with serviettes. Nearly anything can be used as a ring, from hair bobbles to ribbon or twine.