How to Dress a Dining Table

published on 30 September 2022

A well-dressed dining table can set the mood for the evening and turn a casual dining experience into something extra special. Perhaps you’re having people over for a special occasion, or you want to celebrate and impress new friends. Here are some tips for dressing your dining table.

Choose between a runner, table cloth or nothing

The first part of dressing your table is to choose what you’re going to place on the bottom to protect the table from damage and make it look great for your occasion. A table cloth is a great solution if you’re worried about damaging your table. It also works if you're not keen on your table and want something to hide the table from your guests. A plain table cloth made from a high-quality material looks great for any occasion. If you want to make the dinner more fun, you could choose a themed table cloth, great for Christmas. A runner is like a tablecloth, but it only covers the middle of the table. This is where you will place your decoration, flowers, candles and hot plates. A table runner is a great way to show off your dining table, but it also provides some additional protection to the centre. Some hosts opt to leave their table bare and use placemats for protection. The choice is yours; if you use a tablecloth or runner, opt for a good quality washable material that matches your room decor.


Tablemats are another important way you can protect your table from heat damage. Plates will be hot when people are eating; the mats will prevent any issues on your table. When choosing your table mats, think about your overall dinner theme. For the most impressive look, pick out table mats that match your table decoration, plates and room decor. If you haven’t thought about what you’re going to put on your table, you can start by choosing high-quality material-based table mats to set the theme. One common choice is to select a theme that matches the occasion or season. In the autumn you can choose oranges, browns and reds. In the summer, choose white, pinks and yellows. Whatever colour you choose for your tablemats, you should follow it through with the rest of your decoration.

Table decorations

You will already have your theme and colours picked out from your tablemats. This needs to be followed through in your decoration. Plants and flowers are a great way to decorate any dining table, no matter what the season. They also look great with an oak dining table and chairs; natural materials work well together to create a spectacular-looking table. At Christmas, choose pine cones, red berries and spice garlands. In the autumn choose pumpkins, orange leaves and pine cones. For summer you could choose an array of beautiful flowers, including sunflowers. Spring tables could use daffodils as the main flower on the table. Whatever flower you choose ensures they’re fresh and in full bloom. You can also opt for false flowers or greenery if you don’t want to buy fresh and prefer to reuse things. Some people also opt for fresh herbs instead of flowers; these are great if you’re serving a dish that uses those particular herbs. Candles are another great addition to any table; ensure the wax is contained in a candle holder, and the scent chosen complements the decoration and the food that you’re serving.

Plates and napkins

When it comes to plates, simple is always better; with so much decoration on your table, you want your food to stand out. Plates with lots of pictures and bright patterns are best left in the cupboard. Opt for a plain white plate or something with a slight bit of decoration that matches your theme. Some plates in subtle pastel colours also work well for spring and summer occasions. Your napkins need to complement your plates and fit with your design theme, don’t overcomplicate the napkins; keep them simple in a single colour. Reusable napkins are always best; they’re better quality and can be washed and kept for the next dinner party you host.


Glasses are also important to dress the table. Ensure guests have a water glass and a wine glass ready on the table when they sit down. Water should also be available in the middle of the table for guests to serve themselves. Choose good quality glasses as they can make a difference to the whole dining experience. 


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