A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates." (Proverbs 31:30b-31, NASV)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ladies Christmas Tea 2013 - Decorating the Table

Upon hearing an announcement after church service one day back in September, my husband encouraged me to host a table at this year's Ladies Christmas Tea. Never having attended the tea before, I was a bit nervous, but the thought of sharing a time of fellowship with family and friends plus the opportunity to decorate a table with the help of my wonderful husband is hardly something I could pass on, so I signed up. What I came to learn is that the Christmas Tea is among the biggest events the church organizes each year; it has been held by the women's ministry for 17 years in a row, and this year they were expecting over 2,000 women to attend!

After sending invitations and receiving commitments, we were ready to start thinking about decorating. In the hostess packet I received, there was a page listing the parameters for the table: a) The centerpiece must include lighting, as the event hall would be dimmed at dinner to create a more intimate feel. b) There could be no open flames ie. no candelabras. c) The caterers preset the salads and desserts, so there needs to be room for them. d) The table is a 60" round and has to fit 10 people. 

Sixty inch round tables generally seat 8, so I knew 10 was going to be a bit of a tight squeeze, especially with the silverware and all of the accouterments needed for a properly "set" table. And with preset desserts vertical of the dinner plate, the centerpiece couldn't be huge or it would be sitting in cheesecake!

This was the challenge we faced.

We used our dining table to play around with the centerpiece and place setting. This summer, for our one-year wedding anniversary, James surprised me with a beautiful 12 piece set of china by Silverie, which he had seen on one of our random trips to a local antique store. He said it made him think of our wedding colors, and I just love them! In my family growing up, we never had anything like china; we didn't even have real place-mats, using kitchen towels in lieu of them on those special occassions like Thanksgiving and Christmas when we ate dinner together. So finding myself the owner of a whole set of delicate china made me feel like I had arrived as an adult in many ways.

The china has a beautiful floral filigree pattern in silver, grey, pink. blue, and yellow. I insisted on using it for the table, although the color scheme did prove challenging at first. Arguably a more spring-time color palette, we had to figure out how to include pink and yellow in a wintry tablescape. After visiting seven different home goods stores for ideas, we came up kind of scarce, although we did find some fantastic round, silver place-mats with a geometric snowflake design. They serve a dual purpose, working as a place-mat while having the illusion of a charger (adding a real charger to the table would have left no room for the silverware - remember, 10 people here!).

Just as we wondered what we were going to do for a centerpiece, we went to the craft store Michaels and came across the perfect decoration that suddenly made the vision come together: little decorative Christmas berries in greyish blue, pink, and yellow. They were the perfect thing to go with our china. The Lord is amazing to have led us to these. And what does one do with Christmas berries sticks? Put them in a wreath, of course! (Well, actually decorating wreaths wasn't something I did growing up either, but I've since learned from my husband's mother, aunt, and grandmother that everything can be more "Christmas-fied.") So we picked out a lightly "snow dusted" wreath with pine cones, sparkly sprigs in pink and blue, pastel glass ornaments, and these fantastic rhinestone votive candle holders. A perfect balance of greenery, light, and sparkle. 

To add height to the table, as well as incorporate even more light, we purchased a large, footed, clear glass vase. Although it is somewhat tall, its being clear made it easy for guests to talk across the table without feeling obstructed. We nestled inside a large candle, which we decorated with sparkly stickers, and added some clear "confetti" crystals to fill the bottom.

Photo pre-"confetti" crystals.

A large rhinestone band, along with blue and white snowflakes and silver crystal scrolls give a lot of texture and interest to a plain white candle. If attempting a similar project, be sure to use a hot glue gun to adhere the stickers after you've figured out placement, as they have a tendency not to stick to the wax.

Not having enough of our own every day glassware for the table, we found gorgeous, mouth blown amber goblets and tall teal tumblers at Pier 1. The effect you see called "crackle glass" is believed to have been invented by Venetian glassblowers during the 16th century. Filled with drinks, the delightful effect looked almost as if the table were so cold as to have "cracked" the glasses, perfect for our wintry tablescape. (And isn't it wonderful how the foot of the goblet sits perfectly in the center of that snowflake?)

Something we realized while playing around with the table is that the silver place-mats, with the transparent snowflake design, takes on a lot of the color of whatever is underneath it. Placed on a darker surface, like my shawl for example (see above LOL), it looks fantastic; I mean the design just pops! But placing them on white (which is the color tablecloth the venue was providing) completely dulls them out and the pattern becomes indistinguishable. So we went online and ordered a 90" round polyester tablecloth and matching dinner napkins in charcoal from Bright Settings.

With all of the pieces in place, our mock up table was really coming together just in time for the big night!


Before revealing the finished table, I want to share pictures of a few of my favorite tables from the dinner (alas, this is before all of the decorative Christmas lights were turned on and the candles were lit - they were even prettier that way).

I was glad to see this Santa Table. We also have a large Santa collection, so I was pleased to see someone else with more than just a few of their own. And the napkin rings of Santa riding a reindeer are adorable.

I was impressed with the centerpiece on this table. When the lights were dimmed, a beautiful green glow came from the snowflakes, lighting up the white reindeer from below. This was probably the tallest centerpiece of the evening.

This table sat right behind us. The jewel tones of the centerpiece and tablecloth were gorgeous. Lots of textures going on here with the rhinestone Christmas trees, the metal embellishment on the cross, the shine of the cloth, and the feathers. Very pretty.

When I saw this table, my face lit up. What a delightfully Christmas-y candy house. It looks like it comes right out of Dr. Seuss. And the colors are so bright, like summer, yet very fitting to the festivity of the season. Well done!

Can you look at this table and not think it's just fun? Although I've never decorated using a candy cane theme, I have always liked them, and this table is as cute and fun as the little elf who looks like he's gorged himself on candy.

Not only has this reindeer taken Santa's seat, but she (see the tutu?) is surrounded by a bunch of girlfriend reindeers wearing Christmas tree skirts. Too cute. 

This table had one of the prettiest nativities I've seen. Simply elegant.

I just loved this table. Grandma has a set of carolers that take their position every year on the mantle place, and it reminded me of them. I walked around this one, and there wasn't a bad side to sit, because each character faces a different direction. The burlap, gold, green, red, and black was just gorgeous. And when the lights dimmed, the street lamps turned on. So pretty!


And here's how our table turned out! 

Full of color and mixed with sparkle and glass, it captures many of the elements that I love about a Christmas tree, without being too literal. From the ribbons and wrapping on the gifts to the large rimmed goblets to the glass baubles in the wreath, the table captured the euphoria of whimsy mixed with the excitement of a party combined with the class of a finely set table.

We had to cut the teal tumblers because of space (10 people!), but we managed to get our coffee cups and saucers on the table by placing the plastic dessert plate on top of the saucer and nestling the coffee cups next to the cheesecake, which I think "filled" out the plate very nicely since the slices were long and narrow.If the salads didn't have to be preset, I would have like the table to look like this, with our guests' presents, which also served as place cards, sitting on top of the dinner plates. But instead we simply put each gift in a seat with the night's program.

I just love searching the bins and picking out pretty gift wrapping paper. My husband says I'm particularly good at it, which I attribute to the fact that growing up we only ever used the same five mega rolls year after year. I love taking the time to look at the different designs, walking away with a roll in hand only after I find a gorgeous pattern like this one from Target. I added a simple name tag, which I designed on the computer and printed on heavy paper (some kind of cardstock or picture paper is good to have on hand for these kinds of projects). No need to get overwhelmed if you're not a graphic designer; just pick a template on Microsoft Publisher, and you can customize it from there. For these, I searched the pre-loaded Clip Art files until I found a set of 10 coordinating Christmas trees, added names, and after printing and cutting they were ready to go! (I'll post about the contents of the gifts in the next few days!)

For the night's attire, I thought it would be fun to coordinate with the table by wearing a grey, one shouldered dress with a sparkly strap from Belk. James looked sharp in a black suit with a blue, black, and white striped tie as he helped serve the ladies at our table (so sweet!).

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  1. Thanks for sharing these photos - it's so much fun to see how different people interpret the theme. I love setting table and making it look pretty, it's one of the best things about having people over for dinner! x

    1. Hi Gillian! So glad you enjoyed the post. It was really fun seeing people be so creative! I've really been enjoying our guests' reaction when seeing a set table, too. I've found since it's a less common practice (at least here in the states), guests really do like it. It is a lovely art form. :)