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DECOR ADVICE: Tips for the festive table

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How to make this year’s holiday dinner memorable for you and your guests

Expert: Ronda Carman, an entertaining and etiquette expert and author of Entertaining at Home

Q: Do you still use holiday tablecloths for formal meals and do they have to be white?

A: I don’t use tablecloths. I love to layer with place mats and dishes. I was just playing with setting my table and did think about using a tablecloth. Maybe I will at Christmas. White is classic, but I say have fun with texture and colour.

Q: Should you carve the roast (or vegan roast) at the table or in the kitchen? Should you serve gravy hot or at room temperature?

A: I love the idea and image of a roast being carved at the table, but in reality, I always do it in the kitchen because it can get messy. As for gravy, though I prefer it hot, I’ll take it any way any day – it’s my favourite part of the meal.

Q: If you have 10 guests for dinner, should you do a buffet or a sit-down meal?

A: I think it is a personal preference and either works. I am having 14 guests for a dinner and I am doing a hybrid. I have the table set for everyone, but I am setting up a buffet in the kitchen and breakfast room.

Q: What could you serve in a punch bowl – besides punch – that would be different and festive?

A: Popcorn, chips, pretzels or a trifle would be great. When you’re not using the punch bowl, fill it with wine corks in the kitchen.

Q: I see many lovely table settings where the dishware is stacked – charger, dinner plate, salad plate, bowl. While this looks great, it doesn’t seem helpful for eating the meal. I would worry that what’s in the bowl would get spilled on plates yet to be used, for example. How do you balance serving and eating with a great-looking table?

A: I do love a layered look, but I use only dishes that I will need and in the order I need them.

For example, if I am not doing a salad, I won’t use a salad plate. Once you are done with a dish, you can take it away.

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