Divine Dinner Party

Need a Creative Buffet Table
Setting Idea or Two?

Slabs of meat with congealing grease. Dried-out chunks of underripe watermelon. Ick. So how do you make your buffet dinner special? All you need is a good buffet table setting idea, and, of course, good food. But sometimes that's not as easy as it sounds.

I'm sure you've noticed how buffet dinner parties can range from brilliant, bizarre, boring, to just plain… blah. And I'd guess that those buffet table settings that made you go "wow, that looks tasty" had a creative flair, something different to set them apart. But how do you accomplish that?

Truth is, while good food is a very important part of achieving that "wow" factor, using a creative buffet dinner setting idea or two is also totally key.

Setting up a buffet table? Check out our practical buffet table setting idea page here.


Setting Up a Buffet Table with Creative Flair

But setting up a creative buffet table is easier said than done, right? Sometimes it might seem impossible to come up with an interesting buffet table setting idea. After all, how many variations can there be on that table-full of food platters? The answer? Probably more than you think. Read on to find a buffet table setting idea or two (or eight, actually!) that will help you with setting up a buffet table that gets a wow.

Use lots of color. Skip that white tablecloth. Even if you have nice, polite, clean guests (instead of slobs like the ones I usually have over), it'll get dirty and start to look sloppy pretty quickly... especially if you're serving dishes with lots of sauce. Go with a colored tablecloth and contrasting colored napkins for a look that really pops.

Skip the tablecloth. Another good buffet table setting idea is to skip that boring tablecloth altogether. Instead, arrange different colored cloth or paper napkins (depending on your budget) to create a bold and fun colorblock look.

Colorblock Buffet Table Setting

Wooden Bowls Buffet Table Setting Extra dishes. This is a simple but often-overlooked buffet table setting idea. If you're serving any dishes that come with a sauce --say, chicken skewers with teriyaki sauce-- think about setting the buffet table up with teeny bowls for your guests. There's nothing worse than a gooey pool of sauce covering your entire plate. Keep those sauces where they belong! And hey, little dishes also look pretty when stacked together on the table.


Bold baskets and bowls. For bread and other dry foods, use a boldly colored basket. The same porcelain or silver platter gets boring. Think about using colored baskets for napkins or even salad greens (without dressing of course!). Also, try using wood or metal bowls in unexpected ways-- say, filled with ice for a seafood platter.

Wooden Bowls Buffet Table Setting Creative skewers. This is a great buffet table setting idea that I'm sorta crazy about. Want to serve a fruit or vegetable garnish? Want a creative way to serve, well, just about anything? Put unexpected items on skewers. This makes it easy for your guests to take what they want without holding up the buffet line. Skewers are also fun to eat and great to look at. Your guests will love it.

Skip the platter. Sometimes you don't need a platter at all. Check out the pic above to see how things like banana leaves and bamboo mats can be used in place of traditional plates and platters. Adds a fun flair when setting up a buffet table!

Mismatch. I can't belive how old this makes me sound, but... remember Monica's kitchen on Friends? (I really miss that show!) I always loved her mismatched chairs and fun kitchen colors. Try that look for your buffet table! Choose mis-matching platters and dishes. Things don't always have to match to look great. Green with yellow with purple with a bold flower print-- it’ll look really bright and fun! A good place to look is your local thrift shop-- after all, they almost never have things that match.

Buffet Table Setting with Small Dishes Small portions. There's something about that huge platter of fish fillets that makes them seem... well, not so appealing. Portion out bits of your meal, Japanese-style. Little glass bowls and cups are cheap to buy, and can totally transform your buffet table. They also help guests to keep their plates clean and foods separate. You don't really want your salad running together with your mashed potatoes. This also helps to make sure that each serving of a dish is just right-- not all onions or all tomatoes, but a perfect balance.

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