How to style a Christmas table

  • By
    Cassie Best

The presents are wrapped, the decorations are up and the fridge is stocked, assistant food editor Cassie Best, talks us through the finer details, like dressing the Christmas table.

Christmas table

Plan ahead

Make a list of all the dishes you will be serving on the big day. The night before Christmas get out all of your big serving dishes and mark each one with a post-it note for what you will serve on every plate. This way you won't be hunting around for the gravy boat come dinnertime.The presents are wrapped, the decorations are up and the fridge is stocked, as the big day approaches, take time to plan the finer details such as dressing the table and getting the dinner on it in one piece. 

From the freezer YorkiesLook out for recipes, which can be prepared a day or two in advance. You can blanche carrots and greens, peel and boil potatoes, make stuffing, wrap sausages in bacon and make all your sauces on Christmas Eve. Or why not have a couple of things already cooked and stashed in the freezer? These Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes can be cooked from frozen, leaving you time to concentrate on dressing the table.

If you don't have time to make all the dinner accompaniments, shop-bought can still look beautiful. Decant sauces into pretty serving bowls, scatter cranberry sauce with a little orange zest and swirl a little melted butter, a few thyme leaves and some grated nutmeg into bread sauce. Wrap ready-made stuffing balls in half a slice of bacon and skewer with a rosemary stick. 

seafood platterWith your oven full and hob space limited it's a good idea to choose a cold starter, which can be prepared in advance. A sharing platter of seafood, cold meats, pate or a terrine are all great options- try potted shrimpcrab cups or ham hock terrine. Place them on a big wooden board in the middle of the table and let everyone tuck in.

If you're hosting a big family get together but your dining table only seats four, create space by borrowing extra tables of the same height. Once the tables are covered with a tablecloth and dressed for dinner your guests will never know you've had to do a patch job!

Place settings

Place name cookiesCreating homemade place settings is a great way to welcome your guests to the table and adds a personal touch. Get the kids to make these sweet name place cookies. Wrap up in cellophane and tie with pretty ribbons.

Theme your table for a dramatic effect. Start by matching the colours to your dining room or other decorations. Use a simple tablecloth with a decorative table runner to create a central focus point. For a vintage theme look out for dramatic candelabras, lace napkins and antique napkin holders. Or follow the trend for a hunting lodge-themed interior with pinecone name placeholders, rustic fabrics for napkins and taxidermy-inspired centrepieces.

Create height

Your centrepiece will be the focus of the table, but you don't want it to use up valuable space. Pick candelabras or vases with narrow bases so you can still see across the table and have plenty of space for the food.

Guinness, treacle and ginger puddingSet up a small table or sideboard as a bar close to your dining table. Make sure you have a selection of drinks, glasses, ice and spare napkins so you don't have to leave the table to fetch extra refreshments. 

Christmas dinner wouldn't be the same without a glorious steamed pudding. To make sure yours is ready to serve up on time, and to save hob space for your veggies, you can reheat your pudding in a slow cooker. Plug your slow cooker in (in another room if you want to save counter space) and half fill with boiling water. Place your pudding in the slow cooker and leave to steam for at least 2 hours or for up to 4 hours. We love this dark and fruity Guinness, treacle and ginger pud

Got more great tips for dressing a festive feast? We'd love to hear your ideas below...