The lazy host’s guide: how to set the Christmas table
Ah, Christmas planning. It was all so rosy back in June, wasn’t it? Back when you had visions of elaborate six-course menus and hand-crocheted place cards. But that was then. And this is now.
The legitimate Christmas countdown has begun and, if you’re anything like us, you’ve probably got one fifth of your gift list ticked off, eight festive napkins shoved at the back of the cupboard from 2005, and almost no free time between now and the 25th December. Guest? Fine. Host? Not so fine. But if you can cover the turkey, we can cover five ridiculously easy tips for how to set the Christmas table – and transform your dining room into a scene of low-effort festive beauty.
Easy peasy place cards
Place cards smack of considered organisation, even if you only write them 15 minutes before your guests arrive. Paper’s fine, but card is better – the brown inside of a cereal box cut into folded rectangles will do. Grab a fine ballpoint pen and write your guests’ names in your finest scrawl, ideally with Christmas doodles to boot. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, you could pop a personal note on the other side. Keep it clean, though. You haven’t even opened the wine yet.
Quick and easy comfort
You want your guests to feel so relaxed and comfortable that they’ll sit around the table for hours, drinking coffee and helping themselves to their seventh round of the cheese board. If you’ve got hard wooden chairs, pop a couple of cushions or blankets on them – it’ll lend the whole setting an air of cosy bohemian chic.
Take vases, bowls and pots from elsewhere in the house and use them as vessels for snacks and condiments; a range of different shapes, sizes and patterns will feel eclectic rather than unplanned. If you’ve got a garden, or a spare half hour before the big day, a surefire way to make the whole thing look effortlessly luxurious is to pop a few fresh leaves or flowers across the table and around the room.
DIY mood lighting
What with it getting dark not long after lunch is served, the last thing anyone needs is blinding overhead light. Set the tone for a relaxed and atmospheric afternoon with table lamps and candlelight. Pop some tea lights on plates or in jam jars – or, if you only have those giant candles for power cuts, shove a few into empty wine bottles for a Parisian cafe vibe on the hoof.
Why should your guests have to know you only figured out exactly what you were cooking while you were making it? Treat them to a hand-written menu to sit neatly atop their plate. If you’ve got more of a scrawl, make it all uppercase and separate courses out with a simple line. Then, when they sit down, they can marvel at the deliciousness that awaits them. But really, they’ll be marvelling at how excellent and unflappable a host you are.
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