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    Creating Holiday Tabletops on a Budget: Revelry for Less

    By Annie Tucker Morgan for DivineCaroline.com
    December 19, 2012, 7:42:05 AM EST

    It’s the holiday season again, folks, and you know what that means. No, not free food and booze at random parties, followed by crippling self-loathing brought on by rapid weight gain. It’s a chance to prove your worth as a party planner! And who says you have to take out a bank loan to set a festive table like a pro? All you need is a good imagination, an available dining room, and a hungry mob. Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to revel with your loved ones and buy them Christmas gifts this year.

    Tableware If you have dozens of Waterford crystal glasses and Lenox china place settings, congratulations. For the rest of you, don’t worry about being too matchy-matchy or buying all new plates and bowls--simply focus on achieving a complementary palette. For a Thanksgiving gathering, browns, reds, oranges, yellows, and ivory capture a harvest aesthetic. Silver, gold, and porcelain create a gleaming effect.

    A combination of white, cream, and glass pieces is always elegant. And you can never go wrong with all-white dishes, which are best for making food pop.

    A hodgepodge of serving dishes, bowls, and trays is both eye-catching and convenient. Furthermore, holiday parties represent an opportunity to present food in unexpected receptacles: cocktail glasses can hold olives or mixed nuts, a trifle bowl is ideal for showcasing layered dishes, and a glass cake dome can keep dinner rolls fresh.

    For even more festive accents, place holiday-themed wrapping paper or autumn leaves beneath the glass of a large hanging picture frame, and use it as a serving tray for food, or transform a simple autumn wreath into a charger by laying it flat on a table and placing a serving plate on top of it; this technique adds both height and color to your food display.

    Tablecloths A plain white or off-white tablecloth will suffice at any holiday gathering; it’s the decorative flourishes you add that will make the difference between a simple dinner and an elegant celebration. Buy low-priced fabric remnants at a fabric store, fold over the raw edges, and iron them in place (no sewing required), then add contrast in the form of a table runner, placemats, or napkins.

    If you’d prefer to forgo a fabric tablecloth altogether, unrolling a thick, good-quality themed or metallic wrapping paper to cover the length of your dining table creates an instant, inexpensive runner (and no laundering required!).

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