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How to set the table for a dinner with friends (part 2)

Updated: Dec 16, 2023


Tendências 2023: um jantar com amigos pressupõe um estilo descontraído
Black accessories bring sophistication to a simple decoration and contrast with the gold cutlery and natural wooden table. Source: Pinterest.

How to set the table for a dinner with friends?

Setting up the table for a dinner with friends is a task that can be simple and uncomplicated.

Dedicating some time to thinking about the well-being of others and surprising your guests is an excellent hobby and can even be quite therapeutic, like all activities that awaken creativity.

Find ideas, useful tips that will certainly make your task easier, and above all, get inspired and inspire those you love.

Defining the concept of your dinner table

For decoration, two vases of basil were placed, widely used in Italian cuisine, in keeping with the theme of the men
For decoration, two vases of basil were placed, widely used in Italian cuisine, in keeping with the theme of the menu. Source: Pinterest

Defining the concept of your dinner table is the first step towards a perfect table setting.

Are you planning a birthday dinner? A themed dinner, for example, featuring Italian cuisine? An outdoor summer evening dinner party? This is the starting point for everything to come together perfectly.

Having a concept in mind, even if it's quite simple, makes it much easier to choose the different elements and how you'll combine them.

Some starting points for defining the concept of your dinner table are:

  • the concept can be based on the defined menu - for example, Mexican cuisine;

  • the event being celebrated - such as a welcome dinner for a new grandchild;

  • the time of year it is being held - for example, summer, autumn, Thanksgiving, a themed holiday;

  • an experience you want to share with your guests - such as the return from a fantastic trip you recently took;

  • or it may simply be an informal gathering of friends and in that case you can choose generic concepts like nature, friendship, simplicity, or another that is appropriate for the occasion.

The choice of elements that make up the dinner table

Another aspect to consider when organizing a successful dinner party is selecting which pieces you want to highlight on your table - it could be a beautiful and colorful tablecloth, a personality-filled dishware, retro-style glasses, or a unique and thematic centerpiece.

Since you can't highlight everything, knowing how to showcase the right pieces and combine them with neutral elements is an art and is also the best way to value your most beloved pieces.

The elements that typically make up your dinner table:

DINNERWARE - The dinnerware to be used should be in accordance with the menu. It is composed of functional pieces and should only be placed on the table if they have a purpose in the particular dinner.


Dinner Plates

Salad Plates

Soup / Pasta Plates

Dessert Plates

Serving Pieces



Salad Bowls

Dessert Plates and Dessert Bowls


Water Glasses

White Wine Glasses

Red Wine Glasses

Flutes er Champagne Glasses


Dinner Forks

Fish Forks

Dinner Knives

Fish Knives

Soup Spoons

Dessert Spoons

Dessert / Fruit Forks

Serving Utensils

Serving forks, spoons, and knives, or ladles.


Tablecloths, placemats, table runners and napkins are part of this category.


Flower arrangements or other natural elements, candlesticks, candles, napkin rings, are commonly used elements in table decoration.

The role of textiles in the decoration of your table

Let's begin by understanding the importance of selecting the right table textiles, the proper placement of napkins, and how to create creative alternatives to the traditional centerpiece for a well-decorated dining table.

What works best? Tablecloth, placemats, or table runners?

In the current trends, all options are valid for an informal dinner among family or friends. If you have a beautiful table, such as a natural wooden one, in a rustic or Nordic style, it looks lovely to just use placemats that match the tone of the table.

You can also add a table runner in the center of the table, lengthwise, which will serve as a base for decoration and for placing the serving dishes. Tablecloths are also in high demand. In fact, a beautiful tablecloth can do almost everything for your table decor.

For now, let's set aside jacquard fabrics for festive events. For an informal dinner, choose natural fabrics such as traditional linen, washed linen, or natural cotton. Plain or patterned, the options are very varied and this is an aspect that should be coordinated with the tableware that you will use.

How to perfectly match your table linens with your dinnerware?

Typically, a simple and neutral dinnerware set pairs well with a boldly patterned and colorful tablecloth, while a distinct and colorful dinnerware set is best complemented by neutral-colored linens - this is a rule that always works.

However, in 2023, extremes are in fashion. You can opt for a simple style with natural colors and basic shapes for both the dinnerware and table linens to create a minimalist atmosphere that is very popular. Alternatively, you can mix and match colorful or graphic dinnerware with patterned and brightly colored table linens for an eclectic style that is also trending. Don't be afraid to experiment and let your creativity shine through.

Where should napkins be placed on the table?

This element can vary in its placement on your table. First, it depends on whether you choose cloth or paper napkins.

Linen napkins are always a classic
Linen napkins are always a classic choice. Source: Pinterest

Paper napkins are placed to the left of the plates, next to the fork, and should be folded neatly.

However, the trend nowadays is definitely leaning towards the use of cloth napkins. They're reusable, which is an increasingly important factor in everything we do. And yes, even for informal dinners.

Natural fabrics like linen, washed linen, or cotton in solid colors, pastels, or black for a more sophisticated touch are popular choices. Printed designs should be carefully selected to match the tone of the tablecloth or placemats.

The trends range from nature-inspired patterns like florals or herb prints to geometrics like stripes, checks, or embroidered monograms.

For a bolder, more creative style, it's fabulous to mix and match different patterns by using a different napkin for each guest, creating a visually interesting mix of colors and designs.

Table Decoration

Centerpiece and candles, how to use them in informal dinners?

You can and should use anything that adds well-being to you and your guests. Currently, the trend, unlike what was used a few years ago, is to have these elements not only in the center of the table.

The big bet is to place several elements along the central line of the table. They can be natural elements, such as the always welcome flowers, in various combined arrangements. Green or dry leaves, preserved flowers, branches, or why not, showy vegetables or fruits? At Saudade Flores, a florist in Lisbon, you can find everything you need to brighten up your table or order online.

You can also add, for a cozy touch, small warm-colored LED lights along the central line of the table, giving a very pleasant tone to your table. Or use the traditional candles that are always so pleasant - try combining several candle holders of different heights and colors, in glass, which give a very fun dynamic to the table.

Pamper your guests

Personalizing each place at the table with a different detail is also a very interesting way to lovingly welcome your guests.

A small bouquet, different for each person, placed in the fold of the napkin, or small boards of different shapes in place of the starter plate, are little, very special touches that will surely surprise your guests.

And what about dinnerware for a formal meal? What options should you consider?

There's one last element to consider to make everything perfect: the dinnerware. This is a topic that requires a more detailed approach and will be addressed in the next edition of Canoa Stories.

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