Themed Table Setting Ideas

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Any time you serve a meal, you have an opportunity to display your creativity with your table setting. When entertaining, an appealing, creative and functional table is even more important. You can easily create fabulous table settings for any occasion without spending a fortune by mixing in decorative paper plates and disposable silverware from your local party store whenever needed. Your family or guests will feel even more special when they see the delightful display you have created just for them.

Tropical Themed Table Settings

Create a colorful, tropical table setting perfect for a summer party or backyard celebration. Start with a bright tablecloth in green, pink or yellow. Trim the edges of the table with grass skirt material, fastening it to the table edge with tape. Serve on plates decorated with tropical themes like hibiscus flowers, flamingos, colorful fish, palm trees or toucan birds. Match your flatware to a bright color in your plates. You can use disposable cups that match your plates, or buy plastic cups decorated with a tropical theme. Be sure to have small paper umbrellas to decorate drinks, and serving bowls in bright colors, or shaped like palm leaves, pineapples, tropical fish or seashells. Top off your tropical table with a large bowl filled with tropical fruit like mango, pineapple, papaya and kiwi. Palm fronds can easily replace traditional floral arrangement greenery.

If you would like to purchase a set of glass or ceramic plates and glasses in a tropical theme, choose a subtle but theme appropriate shade like tan or green. The tableware can still be used outside the tropical theme, saving you money, but will fit perfectly with the color scheme of palm trees and jungle foliage.

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Western Themed Table Settings

Perfect for young children’s birthday parties, Father’s Day or any backyard, summertime celebration, a western theme is a casual, fun look. Start with a tablecloth in a black-and-white cow print, or a paisley, bandana-inspired design. For a more subtle take, look for a simple faded red or blue one. Pick up paper plates with a bandana design or a cowboy theme. Choose disposable cups in a solid color that matches your plates to avoid an overdone, clashing appearance. Flatware should also be a single, bright color that complements the plates. Purchase inexpensive bandanas at a party store for use as napkins. Find an old cowboy boot at a thrift store, and fill it with a bouquet of sunflowers for a western themed centerpiece. If you can’t find a boot or don’t want flowers, set a western-themed piñata in the center of your table.

If you want to buy a set of glass or ceramic western tableware, select one in simple red, white and/or or blue. Avoid any metallic or floral detailing, which would be too formal for this laid back style.

Retro Themed Table Settings

A retro theme is great for any casual, fun, get-together. Shop your party store for a tablecloth with atomic or retro looking circles, paisley or shapes in turquoise, burnt orange, avocado green, brown and gold. Or go bright with a groovy tie-dye design. Stick with plates in a solid, retro color that matches the tablecloth to keep the table from looking too busy. Any of the colors listed above will work well. Go with cups having the same design as your tablecloth to keep the funky feel going strong. Solid color flatware in a color that complements the cups, as well as solid color napkins will keep the look fun, not dizzying. Set two or three battery-powered lava lamps in the center of your table, and surround each with a circle of brightly colored carnations. Remove the stems from the flowers so they will lie flat, creating a cheerful wreath around the lava lamps.

If you want to buy a set of glass or ceramic retro tableware, green is likely your best bet. Green will fit the retro theme well, but can also be used for Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter.

Nautical Table Setting Ideas

There’s nothing like a day at the beach. Use this theme to celebrate the last day of school, summertime, a retirement party or a birthday. Start with a tablecloth in solid ocean blue. Layer it with a blue, red or green and white striped, beach towel. Look for plates with seashells, starfish, anchors or waves as the design, or use plain white. Keep the cups and flatware solid to avoid an overly busy table. Napkins should match your plates, or the blue used in the tablecloth. Use serving bowls and platters shaped like seashells or starfish. Scatter a bag of small seashells along the center of the table, along with a hurricane vase filled with sand, seashells and small candles. You can also use rope as a decorative, nautical touch to the edge of the table, around the hurricane centerpiece, or coiled in a basket.

If you want to purchase a set of glass or ceramic nautical tableware, a simple solid white or white and blue design is perfect, and can be used in a variety of settings outside the nautical theme.

Asian Table Setting Ideas

An Asian theme is a great style for an indoor party with a bit more of a formal feel, a birthday, anniversary or any dinner party get-together. Start with a white tablecloth. Top that with a red table runner with gold Chinese characters, dragons, pagodas or other Asian designs. A red table skirt adds a little more formality to the scene, and continues the theme. Use red plates with Chinese characters in black and gold, or switch the colors around. Napkins in white or black, and clear or red plastic cups add grace without being distracting. Black flatware will look best. If you want to add even more festive flair, fold the napkins into origami shapes, and set a figure on each plate. Top your table with Asian lanterns glowing with battery-powered tealights. Surround the lanterns with small bowls of chrysanthemums or carnations.

Glamorous Table Setting Ideas

Glitz and glamour are the keywords for your party celebrating the Academy Awards, a graduation or promotion party, or just for an evening of dressed up enjoyment. Start with a white tablecloth, and purchase a yard or two of deep purple, black or gold velvet or satin to use as a table runner. Circle the table with a black or white table skirt. Give a rich feel to your table with silver plates set on black placemats. Use black napkins and flatware, and champagne glasses for each setting. Scatter a handful of star-shaped glitter down the center of the table, and then set a large centerpiece of all-white flowers in a silver bowl or vase in the middle. Simply spray paint a plastic or glass vase silver for a quick and cheap solution. Flank the flowers with white taper candles in silver holders (which can also be painted if needed).

Whatever the occasion for your event, a theme adds to the fun. It is easy to create table settings for your theme without spending a fortune. A little creativity and a visit to your local party supply store will provide everything you need for a party your guests will remember.

Last Updated: March 7, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening and home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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