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Make sure your centerpiece adheres to the basic rules that formal centerpieces follow:
- don't let a centerpiece overwhelm a table;
- don't have a centerpiece that blocks the views of people sitting across from one another;
- don't create a centerpiece that hinders serving and dining.
Look through magazines for centerpiece ideas.
Fresh flowers are the most common centerpiece. You can also try glass, china, or silk imitation flowers or fruit. Ornaments can work too, if they match the occassion.
Dishes filled with candied fruit, thin chocolate mints, or other sweats can be placed at the corners of the table, between the candles and the centerpiece. They are left there through the entire meal and are sometimes passed around after dessert is finished.
Nuts may be put on the dinner table either in large silver dishes or in small individual ones at each of the places. They are removed with the salt-and-pepper shakers after the salad course.
Flowers are often found on the table in two or four smaller vases, in addition to a larger arrangement in the center.
Fresh-cut flowers need special care so that they do not wilt by the time the party starts.
- Cut flowers in the early morning or late evening and place in lukewarm water.
- Cut flower ends on the diagonal. Pluck leaves from stems that lie beneath the waterline.
- Add a couple of aspirin, a sugar cube, or a few drops of bleach.
- Keep flowers in a cool spot away from direct sunlight.
- Change the water in your vase every day.
- Revive wilted flowers by recutting stem ends and putting them in warm water and then into cool water.
- Candles should be white and brand new.
- Candles are lit before the guests come to the table and remain lighted until they leave the dining room.
- When the centerpiece is in place, a pair of candlesticks is placed at each end, about halfway between the centerpiece and the end of the table.
- The candlesticks or candelabra must be high enough so that the light does not shine into the eyes of those at the table.
The number of candles you use depends on whether the room is otherwise lighted.
- If candles are the only light source at the table, there should be one candle for every person.
- If the candles are used in addition to other lighting, two or four candles are adequate for a table of up to eight people.
Use a candle snuffer to distiguish the candles so that you don't blow wax or sparks across the table.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
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