Fresh Ways to Dress Up a Table
Create a Drinkable Centerpiece
Assign Seats with Chalkboard Place Mats
Dinner is all fun and games with reusable chalkboard place mats. Write guests' names on them (with nontoxic chalk) and they double as B-I-G place cards. You can check attendance and keep track of everyone's hangman scores. Should things get out of hand, wipe the mess away with felt erasers, set like coasters under the chalk cups. O.R.E. Chalk-a-Doodle place mats (with four pieces of chalk and eraser), $17 each, thestoragestore.com.
Light Your Spread with Lots of Votives
Stash Candies in a Vase
Instead of a regular candy dish on your buffet or drinks table, use a large footed vase for a display that's hard to miss and even harder to resist. Shiny, foil-wrapped treats add a sweet sparkle.
Personalize Guests Mugs
Help guests avoid drinking from the wrong cup, and give them something to remember your party by. ZIG permanent markers are designed for use on ceramics and come in a range of colors (the ink should not come in contact with food, though, so restrict your handiwork to the outsides of the cups). ZIG Painty Markers, $3.50 each, markersupply.com.
Wind Decorative Rubber Bands Around Place Settings
Separately stacked plates, silverware, and napkins take up precious buffet-table real estate (plus someone always ends up with two forks and no knife). Eliminate the fuss with oversize rubber bands that wrap a complete place setting―including the plate―and come in playful patterns that add a splash of color. Russell + Hazel rubber bands, $8 for two, russellandhazel.com.
Float Apples in Vessels of Water
Put Pencils and Paper to New Use
Initiate the festivities with a little free verse. Bendable striped pencils serve nicely as napkin rings, while oversize, swirlable notepads can be arranged as fun and functional centerpieces. Encourage guests to pass notes, play word games, and doodle (flattering!) portraits of one another. Twist Pencils, $1.50 each, pylones.com.
Turn Limes into Festive Place Cards
Make Edible Napkin Rings
Wrap Place Settings in Parchment Paper
Bring Foliage Indoors
Mark Guests' Spots Using Notebooks as Place Cards
Display Fruit in an Unconventional Way
Decorate Plain Napkins with Bold Stickers
Make Lollipop Bouquets
One part holiday spirit, two parts Willy Wonka, lollipop bouquets inspire childlike cheer at any table―and never shed petals. Pack a bucket with dry sand and arrange colorful pops in a loopy bouquet. The sand will keep them standing steady through dinner (unless a sweet tooth gets to them first). Twist Lollis, from $2.75, Hammond’s Candies, hammondscandies.com.