The big day is two days away (whaaaaaat) and a lot of us are thinking about Christmas table settings. I got a little fancier with my Thanksgiving table setting decor, so I wanted to bring it back down to Earth for my Christmas table decor. We’ve all spent probably spent more money this holiday season that we’d like… so let’s not break the bank on table settings, ok?
I asked my friend, Jane Evans Bonacci, to share her and her mother’s method for how to set a gorgeous, rustic Christmas table without spending a single penny. Jane writes over at The Heritage Cook and recently released her very first book, called The Gluten-Free Bread Machine Cookbook. If you’re gluten-free or know someone who is, Jane knows her stuff!
When I was growing up we didn’t have grand and glorious decorations all over our house. We may have had a string of lights on the garage and a Christmas tree, but we didn’t have a lot of money to buy a lot of decorations for Christmas table settings. Even then our house was beautiful thanks to my mother’s creativity and ingenuity.
She would send us out into the yard to gather acorns, colorful leaves, red pyracantha berry sprigs, small branches from bushes and trees, etc. Everything could be turned into the most beautiful, natural decorations. We would go to the tree lot and ask for any discarded branches they had cut off trees which added the beautiful aroma of pine to the house. My brothers would climb into our huge oak trees and cut down mistletoe which became gifts for our family friends when tied with red yarn.
While we were outside hunting for pretty pieces of nature, our mom would pull out old family quilts to use as tablecloths or to drape over the piano, adding color and rustic beauty to ordinary items. Sometimes we kept it even simpler, with just a plain white tablecloth and a collection of items from around the house, anything with a touch of red in it. When combined with the greens from the Christmas tree lot and some of the yard gatherings, it was always beautiful.
Here are some ideas for you to make your own homespun decorations, creating beautiful Christmas table settings with very little money!
Christmas table settings — rustically pretty on a budget
- You don’t need to spend a lot of money to create a festive home. Look at the things you already have in your home and you may be surprised what you can create with them. Old wooden boxes, silver serving pieces, antique bowls, old pitchers, small glass milk jars — anything can be repurposed. Think about using cake stands to create height and interest on the table or sideboard and can be used for decorations or food. Repeating colors or patterns makes anything look like a collection.
- Figure out the theme for your Christmas table settings — by color, subject, etc. — and follow it throughout the house. Red and white kitchen towels become napkins, red apples in a bowl interspersed with shiny silver and gold glass balls are a centerpiece, green ivy is a garland. Try cutting large letters out of cardboards to spell “Joy,” cover with glue and glitter, then hang on the wall as a welcome to everyone entering your home.
- Use some of your ornaments and decorations on the table instead of the tree. A few nutcrackers or a collection of tree toppers for the centerpiece, accompanied by shiny glass balls, tinsel, and greens can all make for festive Christmas table settings. Consider using a grapevine wreath to contain your items and make them look cohesive. Wind some lights around the wreath, tuck in some sprigs of greenery and leaves, add a little height in the center and everyone will love it.
- You can easily set up a holiday tablescape using a rustic theme from items around the house. Look around for wooden items, burlap, copper cookware, cast iron (a small skillet would make a great wine caddy), child’s toys (especially dolls and blocks), stacked old books, dish towels for napkins, mason jars for glasses, unmatched serving pottery pieces, etc. When the theme is rustic, anything that falls into that descriptor works together. And don’t forget, nothing needs to match!
- Small bare branches from trees in your yard can become small trees when stood upright and glued to a paper plate or cardboard circle. You can also use earthquake putty to temporarily attach them to small plates. Anchor them if needed so they don’t fall over. Instead of a tablecloth, think outside the box with an old quilt like my mom did, or maybe a stadium blanket. It doesn’t have to cover the whole table to add texture, color, and interest.
- Pinecones, acorns, fresh cranberries, unshelled walnuts and pecans, boughs from trees, red pyracantha berry clusters, brightly colored leaves, and hand-cut white snowflakes, all add texture and interest to your decorations. You can scatter them which is always fun, or use small bowls and baskets to hold them for more concentration of color.
- Use a variety of mixed plate styles — everything does not have to match to be beautiful. Keeping within a given color scheme, like red, white, and gold, no matter what the pattern or design, everything will look wonderful together. Using a plain white plate between differing patterns can help break them up.
- A length of festive holiday ribbon or a long strip of red and white cloth running down the length of your table makes a plain white tablecloth instantly seasonal. Add some old fashioned village buildings that normally are under the tree and candles and you have a beautiful winter scene for your Christmas table settings.
- Wrap small boxes wrapped with bright paper and bows and scatter them down the length of the table, or set one at each place with a name tag on them to use as place cards. If you want, you can fill them with an assortment of homemade candies or caramel corn for your guests to take home with them. Using a metallic ink pen to write the names adds a touch more sparkle and fun.
- Add sparkle to your Christmas table settings by way of glitter, metals, sequins, crystal, mirrors, or anything else that reflects candlelight. Small strings of lights woven into greens, through ribbons, or around your light fixtures make everything more fun.
- A can of metallic spray paint can work wonders on ordinary objects. Lightly coat the edges of pinecones or pears and sprinkle with a little glitter to turn them into something special and beautiful. Add a light coating of sparkling paint to burlap for table runners or placemats. NOTE! Just be sure to make these a few days ahead and leave them in the garage to air out before your party.
- A long wooden box can become the perfect place to arrange a collection of holiday decorations. Stagger tall, medium and short candles to create interest. Candy canes standing in a glass suddenly become a special treat to add color to the table and entice the children. If the kids are extra good during dinner, they will get one for dessert!
- If you have thick tree branches from tree trimming or gardening projects, cut crosswise into slices about 2-inches thick and use them as bases for your candle pillars. Add other rustic elements, lots of votive candles down the length of the table, winding garland or strings of popcorn around candlesticks, the wooden bases, or centerpiece and your Christmas table setting is done.
- Bright napkins, decorated gingerbread cookies, peppermint candies in a cup or bowl, antique dolls, poinsettias, and fresh flowers can all make a table magical.
- Keep your candles safe by setting them into glass containers — like hurricanes, old lanterns, or mason jars — and anchor them with glass pebbles, fresh cranberries, sugar, water, or anything non-flammable to protect them and the rest of the decorations from the flames.
It doesn’t take a lot of money or effort to make your Christmas table settings look incredible. With a little creativity and a handful of household items, your rustic table will outshine anyone’s with a large budget!