If you’re totally design-minded and love the feel of linens, the look of layered plates, and the tiny details that bring a table setting together, planning a wedding is right up your alley. But if you can’t tell a salad plate from a saucer (or planned to leave those specifics to your mother or your wedding planner!) the thought of designing a table for your reception may wake you up in a cold sweat. And that’s before you realize you’ll have to design your bridal shower and engagement party!
But, just like Rent the Runway eliminated the dreaded outfit repeat and Vow to be Chic has changed the bridesmaid dress game, there’s a new company that’s here to take all of the work out of setting the table. Enter Table + Teaspoon, a tabletop company that provides perfectly curated plates, glassware, flatware, paper goods, and linens—shipped directly to you. All you have to do is invite some friends, set the table, and ship it all back when you’re done! We sat down with CEO and founder Liz Curtis (a former lawyer who made a name for herself with her cooking, décor, and design blog and company) to chat about how to create the perfect table, no matter what you’re celebrating.
What is the most important detail to consider when designing a table setting?
“The foundation of your table is the textile you choose for your runner or tablecloth and napkins,” says Curtis. “Everything you set on your table will go over the cloth, and the napkin will be in your guests’ hands the entire evening. Resist the temptation to go with basic white linens or paper napkins.” Instead, she recommends textures like velvet, dupioni silk, or lace, as well as rich colors like jewel tones, which will add instant depth to your table.
Where should a host/hostess start when working on the design of a table?
The good news is, anyone can create a gorgeous table with the standard settings and a beautiful floral arrangement. But, says Curtis, why not challenge yourself to make something more personal? “The best way to do this is to look around your house for objects that you love and use them as decor on your table," she says. "Sliced agate, bronze stars, boxwood topiaries—whatever you decorate your home with can double as tablescape fodder.” You’ll love the table because it’s centered around your favorite pieces, and your guests will instantly recognize those little touches of your personality between the plates and glassware.
Do you have a favorite way to add interest?
“My rule of thumb for everything from interior design to tablescapes is adding something slightly unexpected,” Curtis explains. But what does that mean? “Think about a floral arrangement. Everyone loves a peony centerpiece, but why not emphasize the femininity of the gorgeous petals with something completely different, like a thistle or artichoke? Adding something dramatically different from the norm to your tablescape will provide your guests with something to talk about and differentiate your table.”
What is one classic table setting "rule" you always follow?
“Admittedly, I am terrible at remembering the rigid rules for tableware placement. I’ve only mastered them in the last six months!” Curtis laughs. The salad fork goes on the far left of the plate, next to the larger dinner fork. The knife goes on the right of the plate, with the blade facing in toward the plate. Adds Curtis, “During Anglo-Saxon times, people brought their own knives to dinner. It was considered a sign of aggression if you placed your knife with the blade facing your neighbor, so always have it facing in!” Then the spoon should be placed to the right of the knife.
“If you have a dessert spoon and fork, they go on top of the plate with the handle facing the direction they would go if brought down to the left and right of the plate (so fork handle on the left, spoon handle on the right),” Curtis explains. For glassware, the water glass goes in the top right corner, with the wine glass behind or beside it. “If you use a standard napkin, it goes underneath the forks on the left, but if you take my advice and go oversize, I like to place the napkin folded in thirds underneath the plate for a bigger aesthetic impact.”
Is there one "big impact" item to focus or splurge on, even if everything else is kept simple?
Guests eat with their eyes as much as their mouths, so give them something to consume visually by staggering the heights of objects on the table. “Candles are the easiest way to vary height, because you can use both votives and taper candlesticks to create flickering light from a few inches inches to a foot or two off the table,” she describes. Curtis also loves using candles for height because, unlike flowers, your guests will be able to see around them. “Twenty tapers down a table can have a bigger impact than the most expensive blooms, while setting the tone for an intimate evening.
Rather than plain glass votives, use small vintage glasses or silver julep cups for tea lights.”
What about an event like a wedding, where you have 100+ settings instead of 20—are there things you should emphasize or keep in check to work on a larger scale? What about things that work better for a smaller or larger event, but not the other way around?
“The biggest difference between a table setting for eight versus a table setting for 200 is the need for detail. When you have ten tables at a large event like a wedding, the collective view of the tables is what guests will take in,” Curtis explains. This means that one gorgeous floral arrangement and a couple of candles on each table will be magnified, simply because there are more of them. In that instance, too much décor can make the room feel cluttered, so you’ll want to exercise a little restraint.
“On the other hand, for a small dinner party you have to make sure your table makes a big impact because it’s the only one,” Curtis says. “Use place card holders, hand-written menus, a beautiful centerpiece, and favors at each seat to layer all the details.”
Ready to celebrate? Here are four of Curtis’s favorite Table + Teaspoon designs that will take all of the work out of hosting a fabulous pre-wedding event for up to 24 people! And if you’ve got an intimate wedding in mind, look no further than Curtis’s bespoke services for a celebration for up to 100.
Engagement Party: The Parker
The striking black and white pairing are perfect for the dynamic of an engagement celebration. Neither overtly feminine, nor hyper masculine, the setting sets the tone for everyone coming together to support the couple on their journey to the alter. Use the Moscow mule mugs for cocktails as people arrive, so that once toasts begin they already have something in their hands for all the “cheers” throughout the evening.
Bachelorette Party: The Monroe
Banana leaf, cotton candy pink, black and white cabana stripe, and gold flatware combine to create an insanely chic aesthetic. Tastemakers have moved banana leaf from an accent to a neutral in decor, which makes our setting perfectly on-point for bachelorettes everywhere from wine country to poolside in Palm Springs.
Bridal Shower: The Lauren
A shower should feel bridal without feeling overtly saccharine. Though you may be tempted to fall back on traditional pale pink and lavender decor, go a bit bolder with an orange and hot pink palette. The bright setting feels feminine and confident, which is the ideal backdrop for fêting your bride-to-be.
See more: All the Dinnerware and Flatware You Need on Your Registry, Based on Your Entertaining Style
Rehearsal Dinner: The Hadley
Wedding white and dove gray provide a classic palette for both the groom and bride to shine without competing with their décor for the big day. The mint julep cup water glass is a detail that I just love about this setting because it can also serve as a vase if the party isn’t sit-down or the bartenders bring their own glassware.