Test drive the table
Once you’ve planned your table setting, take it for a test drive. You don’t have to do the full monty but you might like to check some of these aspects:
- Do the tables really fit in the space you’ve allocated to them?
- Can you get all the chairs around comfortably?
- Is the table cloth long enough?
- Are your decorations going to work? Will you be able to see over the centrepiece? What will you suspend hanging things from? Will you have enough space in the middle of the table?
It’s also a good idea to lay out one full place setting and take a photo of it for later reference.
Christmas Day 1970: “We’ll open the presents after church,” our parents had said but we soon found they didn’t mean “immediately after church”: first we had to get out of our good clothes (and back into our lightest tops and shorts because it was already hot and it was going to get a lot hotter). “There’s just so much work to do on Christmas Day!” groaned four year-old Matthew who had now changed three times before lunch but it didn’t impress Mum who was calculating how many potatoes she would have to peel for twenty people.
 Spilling out into a corridor may be acceptable. Spilling out into a cupboard probably won’t be.
 This just means “Will you achieve the artistic effect you’re aiming for” unless you’re running the Christmas Express down the table, in which case you’ll also need to test the batteries and calculate if you have enough track to loop around the cranberry sauce.
 Particularly if someone else is going to set the table on the day. (My son Jeremy, for example, doesn’t seem to be able to remember which side a fork goes on, or to think about serviettes long enough to put one down on a plate, but he can follow a diagram (and he’s easily bribed with Christmas sweets).)