How to Place Centerpieces on Your Holiday Table

On Christmas and Thanksgiving tables you can use home-made centerpieces of fruit, pine cones and evergreen boughs, leaves, and other natural items. Holiday table centerpieces can also feature candles, a grouping of ornaments, or a clever arrangement of food. To maximize the effect, determine the proper placement, size, and height of your arrangement.

Consider these tips when planning your holiday centerpieces:

  • Place an arrangement of some sort on every surface that serves guests. An entry table with a guest book, a bar where drinks are served, and a buffet table are just a few examples of where centerpieces are appropriate or can be placed.

    One small arrangement is enough for these tables. Though small, these centerpieces pull a room together and soften blank areas when they’re not in use.

  • Keep the top of centerpiece below eye level if it sets directly on the table. If you want a tall centerpiece, raise the base of it above eye level, so that people can see each other without craning their necks.

    You can’t go wrong with smaller, low-profile arrangements on dining tables. They don’t interfere with guests mingling while standing up or sitting down, and they draw attention down to beautiful table settings.

  • Choose tall candlesticks or short votives rather than placing flickering candles in an eye-level area. You don’t want to blind yourself while chatting with guests.

  • For smaller tables (seating two to four people), one medium-sized centerpiece, approximately 18 inches in diameter, will do. You don’t want to crowd a table with an oversized centerpiece arrangement that doesn’t allow for any shifting in stemware or place settings.

  • For larger tables (seating six or more people), go by the one-for-every-six rule, making the arrangement itself just a bit larger or fuller (20 to 24 inches and up). A table that seats six can fit one medium- to large-sized centerpiece (18 to 24 inches) without crowding the table.

    Centerpiece placement for a table of six guests.
    Centerpiece placement for a table of six guests.
  • For banquet seating where you have very long tables or tables that are connected end to end, place a centerpiece in the middle of every six place settings, not counting chairs at the heads of tables. Centerpieces need to be medium- to large-sized ones (20 to 24 inches or more).

  • Space between centerpieces can easily be filled with votives or other small items. Be careful not to go overboard, though. You need to leave room for butter dishes, salt and pepper shakers, gravy boats, and so on.

    Centerpiece placement for banquet tables.
    Centerpiece placement for banquet tables.
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