Simple Formula for Dinner Table Setting at Any Occasion
This post is sponsored by Better Homes & Gardens at Walmart.
A quick guide to create a simple dinner table setting for any occasion or holiday using tricks to make inexpensive dinner table decor look upscale.
We are not set-the-table kind of people when it comes to the every day. (I mean, more often than I probably should admit, it’s a cereal-devoured-while-sitting-on-the-couch kind of situation around here.)
But when it comes to having friends or family over for a nice meal in our dining room, there is a go-to simple formula for a dinner table setting that I’ve used for years for basically every occasion (or no specifically special occasion at all).
And I use some tricks to make inexpensive items look upscale. Some of my favorite inexpensive dinnerware and dinner table decor I’ve used for a long while came from the Better Homes & Gardens line at Walmart.
The Simple Formula for Dinner Table Decor at Any Occasion
So if ever you find yourself hosting a nice dinner and you’re stumped on how to set a simple dining room table, these are some of my favorites broken down in this post.
(P.S. You can see more info about the DIY tutorials, paint colors, and sources in our dining room makeover here.)
But first, here are some tricks to make dining table basics look upscale.
How to Make a Dinner Table Setting Look Upscale with Versatility for Every Holiday
- Choose a neutral color scheme for your dinnerware and linens
- An herb sprig, leaf, or place card can make an ordinary plate feel special
- Think about what in-season flowers or stems you can snip from your yard (or even roadside with permission)
- Candles add a lot for very little
- Let the food double as the decor (plus, it’s more practical than knick knacks)
1. Choose Neutral Dinnerware
The best reason to stick to white, gray, beige, or black dinnerware is because it gives you the freedom to choose any color scheme you want for any occasion and any floral arrangement!
Maybe some would call neutral dishes “boring”, but by using it as a blank canvas, you have the ability to set the tone for any holiday in a simple table setting.
I love this speckled exposed clay dinnerware set that we’ve owned for a couple of years. They’re so sturdy (even with our kids banging them around), and since they’re stoneware, we can put them directly in the oven.
It’s easy to find neutral dishes at the thrift store too (even pricey, vintage types), so keep an eye out on your next thrifting trip.
2. Add a Place Setting Accent
See how versatile this speckled gray dish set is?
Add a sprig of rosemary, a handwritten place card, or a leaf at each place setting for an important holiday.
It’s definitely not something to do every day, but that one little accent makes Thanksgiving, an anniversary, or a birthday feel extra special.
We picked magnolia leaves from our yard last fall, rinsed them to put at each Thanksgiving place setting, and our oldest daughter wrote names on them with a silver permanent marker.
3. Snip What’s In Season as a Dining Room Centerpiece
Walk around your yard (or a friend/neighbor’s yard with permission) to snip whatever is in season.
Our hydrangea bushes are always bursting this time of year! And I love that they’re so easy to arrange with a few green stems in the mix. (Or you can dry hydrangeas for a simple fall dining table centerpiece.)
I just stick whatever flowers or stems I can find in a neutral vase like this clear pedestal vase.
I love cutting a few ginkgo stems from our ginkgo tree in the front yard when it turns bright yellow every fall.
Or skip the vase altogether and just spread out green stems directly on the table as a low dining room centerpiece for holidays.
Last fall, I cut a few purple leafy stems from the loropetalum bushes in our backyard and nestled in a few pears for a simple Thanksgiving centerpiece that anyone could arrange themselves.
I added some juniper berry branches that I snipped from a tree in our girls’ school parking lot (with permission, of course).
4. Use Candles for Glow
Just a pair of candlesticks can make a simple dinner table setting come to life. There’s something about the flicker of the flame that makes a birthday or anniversary dinner feel sort of magical.
We play a little game in our house with our girls – when the candle on the table is lit, we act fancy and practice our table manners. (My parents and grandparents did the same thing with my brother and me growing up, and it’s one of my favorite memories.)
5. Let the Food Be the Decor
You don’t have to fill up the center of the dinner table with knick knacks or clutter every open space with decor.
Let the table “breathe” and instead keep places in the center open for serving dishes or a charcuterie board.
My favorite serving dish is this acrylic multifunctional 5-in-1 cake dome that can be used as a cake stand, divided serving tray, chip & dip server, punch bowl, or serving bowl. And it works perfectly outdoors since it’s break-resistant.
I use this white footed bowl all around the house not just for serving food on the dinner table but also as a fruit bowl on our kitchen counter or for growing paper white bulbs as a winter dining table centerpiece.
This round cutting board is the perfect size and shape for making a charcuterie board for 6. I can’t believe it’s from Walmart! It looks like it came from a high end shop.
6. Opt for Black or Gold Flatware
It’s something so small that adds so much.
That’s our dinner table decor breakdown! It’s a lot of simple small details that add up to be something special on the occasions we want to feel fancy.
Although, don’t worry… most of the time, we’re eating messy tacos over paper plates. Just in case this post gives the impression that we eat candlelit “pinky up” meals every single day. Yeah, no. That sounds exhausting.
But doing the special dinner table setting thing is nice every so often to put down the phones, turn off the electronics, and enjoy each others’ company. Setting the table this way encourages us to do that.
Dinner Table Setting Sources
Here are all of the Better Homes & Gardens dinner table decor items I used from Walmart.
- 16-Piece Stoneware Dinnerware Set
- Glass Fluted Vase
- Striped Linens (the napkins I used are sold out but this table throw matches them)
- 5-in-1 Acrylic Cake Dome
- White Footed Bowl
- Charcuterie Board
- Black Flatware Set
- White Wine Glasses Set
- Water Glass Set
- Salted Coconut Mahogany Candle
You can see more info about the DIY tutorials, paint colors, and sources in our dining room makeover here.
Got any other dinner table setting tips you use yourself?
Have you hosted an unplugged, phones-down dinner lately? Even without the lit candles and flowers? No matter what the table looks like, it’s the quality time that matters more than anything.
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