The utensils, glasses and plates go in the order in which they’ll be used. For example: a starter may have cutlery on the outside, the main course cutlery goes inwards. The dessert spoon and fork could be placed above the dinner plate but if you're serving coffee after dinner you may prefer to have a coffee cup with saucer resting on top of the dessert spoon and fork as this is more convenient than having it on another side plate.
Determine what you are serving. Are you serving an elegant dish that will be plated on a plate by a chef? Are you serving buffet style and need to set up stations for people to be able to serve themselves? Or are you just putting out finger foods so that guests can mingle and graze throughout the evening?
Set up your serving stations before the guests arrive. If you have a caterer, they should handle the actual food prep, but they will likely appreciate it if they have everything ready to go before they arrive.
Have separate food and drink areas! I know it's tempting to stick them both on one sideboard or bar cart, but if someone has to move their drink every time they want more food, it's really inconvenient.
The next step to perfecting your table is to decorate! Traditionally, the main decorative elements for a table are linens and candles. You could also consider using flowers as part of your centerpiece. Either way, plan to add colour and texture to the table by layering items on top of your placemats.
As you choose the colours you will use in these items, keep in mind that certain colours have some associations that might be important for your meal—however, these aren't hard rules. Red can mean love or anger; white can represent marriage or purity; black can be a somber colour or a sign of sophistication. Green and blue colours generally have very positive associations with nature and growth that are easy for any mealtime setting!
In addition to colour, pay attention to the different textures you'll incorporate into the table's decorations. This will help make everything look more appealing and professional. For example: Instead of placing a vase right on top of a place mat, put it on an element with more height—like a stack of books—and put something else down first on top of the place mat underneath it all—a small bowl with dried beans at the bottom would work great! Make sure your candles fit well within their holders before adding them as decoration too--if they don’t then they should either be replaced or removed entirely because an uneven candle height ruins everything else around it; like when there’s only one person out dancing during 'Dancing Queen' at prom night.