Whether you’re hosting a formal sit-down dinner, a casual brunch or an hors d’oeuvres buffet, setting your table the night before your party will help you avoid that last minute dash around the kitchen searching for the perfect plate or platter.
For a buffet, use Post-its to label each platter so you’ll know instantly what food goes in which dish. When friends come early and ask if they can help, they’ll have easy instruction on how to load the table. Lining up your platters in advance will also help you avoid the last minute issue of having too many platters and not enough tablespace.
Setting the table the day or night before your party also gives you an opportunity to get your table setting just right. If you’re not pleased with your napkin fold or your centerpiece, you have some wiggle room to deal with it.
I hosted a small Christmas Eve dinner for my family and one of my husband’s best friends and his family. I set the table the night before and I’m so glad I did. Like everything else, it took about three times longer than I thought it would — so I was grateful not to have waited ’til the last minute — and my mental vision of how the table would look fell flat. Because I wasn’t under the gun, I had time to search for just the right chargers, tie the bows around the napkins just so and invent a flowerless centerpiece using only stuff I had on hand — I’m watching every penny these days. My goal was a festive, family-style table that said, “Christmas!” without being overcrowded or too stuffy.
So when it’s your turn to play host, get ‘setting the table’ off your to-do list ahead of time. You’ll save yourself a little of the stress that the tends to go hand-in-hand with throwing a party.