Three hundred and sixty four days of the year I believe in keeping things simple. A plain tablecloth, a candle or two and a jug of water are all it takes to set the scene for dinner.
But on Christmas Day I really put in the effort to set a festive table. Of course that doesn’t mean I want to be up past midnight embroidering nametags, so here’s my advice for keeping things simple and affordable, but no less special.
Decide on a theme that reflects your personal style and can incorporate the props you have to hand
I've put together a few ideas in these photos – from a cottagey red and white theme (above) to a more rustic neutral setting (left) and a simple white-on-white look with the whimsical touch of little bird toys from French Country Collections (below).
Don’t be tempted to rush out and buy new dinnerware – simple white china always looks stylish and works with any table setting theme.
Even mismatched white plates work brilliantly together. Follow the old wedding rule by including: “Something old, something new, something borrowed and… maybe something red!”
Get creative with twigs, branches, herbs, leaves or flowers such as roses – all of these can be used to decorate the table.
You’ll be amazed at what you can find for free in your garden, and bringing in something from nature makes the table feel more relaxed but no less festive.
Christmas crackers can be so expensive and once they have been snapped you usually find that everything gets thrown straight in the bin.
Even though they are great fun it seems such a waste. Why not make your own and fill them with trinkets your guests will treasure.
Buy the snaps from craft stores, and use the cardboard rolls from inside wrapping paper as the cases. Fill them up with jokes you’ve downloaded from the internet or quotes that have special significance for your family, bonbons, party hats and hooters.
In our family we put out little bowls of cherries, raw almonds, figs and chocolates on the table.
It looks so festive and really signals that it’s Christmas.
If you need a seating plan for a crowd, or want to create a more formal feel, make some name cards for the table.
If you doubt your calligraphy skills, design them in a stylish or interesting font on the computer, then print them off, cut them out.
Candles are an inexpensive way to add a festive mood and charm to the table.
If you’re eating inside, melt them onto small dishes or into candlesticks, or if you are sitting outside, put them in jars to protect them from the wind – fill the bottom of the jars with pebbles or sand and decorate them with ribbon or twine.
Set the table the night before your celebration meal – or even a couple of days in advance so you can enjoy looking at it.
There’s nothing worse than trying to finish off your food preparation with an empty table looking woefully at you – ideally you want it fully set, some music playing and a feeling of calm preparation and relaxation before everyone arrives.
And finally, relax and enjoy the process.
A thoughtfully set Christmas table sets the stage for a celebration, and is such an easy way to make everyone feel welcome.