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Setting a Perfect Table for Your Outdoor Event

Posted on Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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by AMAC, D.J. Wilson
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Entertaining outdoors and looking for tips to setting a perfect table? It’s easier than you think! Here are some great ideas that are bound to wow your guests!

Pick the ideal outdoor location

The location of outdoor tables/seating is very important. Choose level ground, consider your preference of sun or shade, and locate them near a lovely focal point like a pool or garden. In some cases, locations are non-flexible – especially when space is needed for overhead canopies or wedding tents. Regardless, for ease of entertainment, outdoor tables should not be too far from food preparation or serving areas.

Rectangle, square, oval, or round?

Table shapes largely depend on how much space you have and the number of guests. Round tables are practical for small group conversations whereas long tables work better for larger groups of people. The seating should be comfortable and practical for the outdoors. When purchasing tables and chairs separately, consider this. Per Ballard Designs, as a rule of thumb, you’ll want 12 inches between the top of the dining chair and the bottom of the table.

Set the mood – formal vs. informal

Formal

Formal table settings are sophisticated, elegant, and symmetrical. Tablescapes (the attractive arrangement of items on a table) typically follow protocol that adheres to rules of etiquette. Formal tablescapes and table settings are ideal for business-related dinners or fancy weddings.

Informal

Informal table settings are simplified, have casual appeal, and can be eclectic. Hosts may mix and match everything from chairs to plates and utensils! Informal table settings are ideal for laid-back affairs like birthday parties or summer gatherings.

Let’s talk informal…

Since informal gatherings with friends are commonplace during summertime, let’s concentrate on a table setting for a casual get together.

Here’s how to set the perfect table for your outdoor event!

  • Begin with a tablecloth or long table runner fitted for your table. Choose solid colors or patterns that you like best.
  • Set placemats or chargers at each seat.
  • For the centerpiece, run eucalyptus and small votives across the middle of the table or place vases with your favorite flowers along the table’s center.
  • Consider what you’ll need for each table setting. Examples include plates, napkins, soup or salad bowls, utensils, water and wine glasses.
  • For each table setting, place the main plate on top of the charger or placemat.  
  • Place a salad plate and soup bowl on top of the main plate.
  • Place the bread plate and bread knife on the upper left side of your place setting. (The knife’s handle should be facing right.)
  • Salad and dinner forks go to the left of the main plate. (Salad fork on the outside, dinner fork closer to the plate.)
  • Dinner and salad knives go to the right of the main plate. (Dinner knife goes closest to the main plate.)
  • A dessert fork & spoon go above the main plate. (Fork handle faces left, and spoon handle faces right.)
  • Water and wine glasses go on the upper right corner of the placemat, above the knives. For several wines, wine is set from right to left in the order used.
  • Folded or rolled cloth napkins are placed to the left of the forks.
  • If there is assigned seating, name plates should be centered above the place setting where the individual will be seated.

Easy tip – Remember outside in!

When in doubt, remember to eat outside in! Always use the utensils on the outside first and work your way inward! Easy-peasy!

Going simple

Formal dinners have multiple fancy courses of food, whereas informal tables generally have three or less casual courses served. For super relaxed family-style meals, table settings can be greatly simplified. So, there is more flexibility and less fuss involved!

Oh no! Not my good dishes!

Many people dislike the idea of bringing fancy dishes outside of the house for fear of breakage. One alternative is to use shatter-resistant melamine, which is a type of plastic tableware deemed safe for use by the FDA when used appropriately.

Here’s the truth

Contrary to popular belief, setting the perfect table for your outdoor event isn’t about where the soup spoon goes or how many plates are on the table. It’s about creating a warm and friendly atmosphere that makes guests feel welcome, wanted, and at home. As you plan your tablescape, let your creativity take hold, break some traditions, and simply have fun with it!

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