3 crucial mistakes to avoid when setting your Christmas table, according to an interior stylist

Set the scene for festive dining in style while making sure to avoid these common Christmas table decorating mistakes

Compilation of Christmas dining tables to highlight three common Christmas table decorating mistakes to avoid
(Image credit: Future | Claire Douglas)

Setting the Christmas table is one of the most joyful elements of dressing the house for the holidays, but it turns out there are a few common Christmas table decorating mistakes stylists see all too often.

Whether you're incorporating this year's Christmas tree theme into your tablescaping or keeping it simple with a paired-back Christmas centrepiece idea there are three crucial elements to consider when styling your Christmas table for 2023. 

Aside from the professional styling mistakes below it's also worth considering our top Christmas hosting tip that suggests setting the table for Christmas dining the day before, to ensure you have one less thing to worry about on the day.

3 common mistakes to avoid when setting this year's Christmas table

We've spoken to professional interior stylist Claire Douglas to seek her advice on the most common Christmas table decorating mistakes and how to avoid them – having spent all year setting Christmas tables for various projects and clients, there's nothing she doesn't know about tablescaping and styling.

Claire Douglas headshot
Claire Douglas

Claire is a DIY and home interior writer specialising in budget room transformations, creative DIY projects, and resourceful home styling. Claire runs the popular home interiors blog ClaireDouglasStyling and shares all her DIY tips, tricks, and behind-the-scenes styling insights on her Instagram account.

1. Overcrowding the table with decorations

Collage of two Chritsmas dining ones, one in dark green and one in white but bothe with decorations suspended above the table

(Image credit: Future | Dominic Blackmore)

While you want to wow your guests and make the table feel suitably festive, it's important not to go overboard. You don't want to overcrowd the table, or it'll be style over substance. 

Claire explains: "I love creating festive tablescapes with loads of foraged foliage, but you have to be careful not to use up too much precious space with decorations as the table needs to hold more food than your typical dinnertime on Christmas day."

"Try and keep the table arrangement or garland centrally located, or better still use the space above the table for your show-stopping decorations by creating an on-trend flower cloud or using a clip-on table stand." 

We highly recommend the Gold Up & Over Table Frame priced at £65 at Rockett St George if you plan to elevate a garland above the table. You can, of course, use a strong garden twine to hang lightweight decorations from light fittings above the table but be wary of anything heavy putting strain on the cables and pendants.

Elevating decorations is what has led to the incredible popularity of this year's surprising curtain pole Christmas decoration trend.

2. Creating an antisocial setting

Composition image of two christmas dining tables with rustic table decorations

(Image credit: Future | Dan Duchars)

Keep the height sociable. Decorating the table is important but so is the art of conversation, so be careful not to let on-trend elaborate Christmas decor ideas interrupt the flow of the table. 

"Don't build up the table decorations too high or they can form a barrier between guests seated opposite each other," says Claire. "Guests need to be able to see and talk to the person opposite them without having to stand up or peer around a mountain of foliage and a candelabra." 

You want to add height to break up the tablescape, but just ensure tapered candles and other tall elements are thoughtfully placed to avoid blocking anyone's view.

3. Overspending on festive themes

Close up details of two Christmas dining tables with neutral colour schemes and rustic table decorations

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

You can set the scene for Christmas without having to overindulge in table decor that you can only use once a year. We say avoid festive patterns and detailing for better value and keep decorative touches smaller and more considered.

"Using tableware that can be used all year round makes it even better value for money," suggests Claire. "Avoid linens or tableware with obviously festive patterns or detailing like snowmen or Christmas puddings and stick with more generic designs then you can eek out a lot more use from for example green or neutral-coloured linen."

“Creating an inviting space when you are hosting guests at Christmas is extremely important," says Emma Coleman, Christmas buyer at Fenwick. "Decorating your Christmas table as you would with your tree creates a unique and sophisticated addition to the home.”

We have unearthed the easiest way to tie a perfect bow with ribbon, which is sure to come in handy when styling your place setting.

“When it comes to the place setting, play around with layers and colours. Stack plates, add folded napkins and top with decorative pieces such as a tree decoration or piece of foliage.”

“Finally, wreaths are not just for the front door, adding one to the centre of the table with a candle lantern in the middle creates a great focal point. Alternatively, add a touch of colour with a garland running down the centre of the table.”

Tamara Kelly
Lifestyle Editor

Tamara is a highly experienced homes and interiors journalist, with a career spanning 22 years. Now the Lifestyle Editor of womanandhome.com, she has spent the last 17 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, and it’s with these award-winning interiors teams that she gained a wealth of knowledge and honed her skills and passion for styling and writing about every aspect of lifestyle and interiors.

A true homes and interiors expert, Tamara has served as an ambassador for leading interior brands on multiple occasions, including appearing on Matalan’s The Show and presenting at top interior trend forecasting events such as the Autumn Fair and Spring Fair.