04/01/2015 08:30 am ET Updated May 31, 2015

How to Host a Memorable Easter Dinner

Easter Sunday is a time for family and friends to gather and enjoy a special meal together. If you are hosting this meal at your home, you are probably focused on making sure that the foods you cook and bake will be items that everyone will enjoy. But, you also need to remember many details beyond the food to truly be a hospitable host.

In addition to preparing a delicious meal, it's also good to know how to properly set the table and prepare a comfortable atmosphere for your guests. Here are some etiquette guidelines to follow.

Know how to set the table.

A place setting is like a road map to your meal, therefore it is important to know the proper placement of all of the items your guests will be using. To save time, set your table the night before. All forks go to the left of the plate except the dessert fork, which goes above the plate. Solids are always on the left and liquids are on the right. In other words, the bread plate is always on the left of the main plate and the drinking glasses are always to the right of the main plate. The linen napkin may be placed on top of the dinner plate or to the left of the plate, underneath the forks.

Plan your seating arrangements.
Avoid the overly casual "just sit anywhere," statement because this can put people in an awkward position. Pay special attention to the chemistry between your guests. If you know your guests well, you'll have a sense of who will blend well with whom, and that's why place cards are a great option, especially if you have six or more guests. The nice thing about place cards is that everyone knows where they should sit the minute they approach the table. Place each card on top of the napkin or at the top of the plate.

Do your homework.
It's best to choose food items that you think your guests will enjoy. Find out ahead of time whether any of your guests have food allergies or other dietary restrictions. If they do, be sure to plan your menu accordingly or prepare a buffet with a variety of items. While adhering to dietary restrictions, also be sure to keep it simple and serve what you know. Tried-and-true recipes are best. Don't attempt to serve something you've never served before.

Have a variety of beverages on hand.
The mark of a good host is to have a few bottles of red and white wine on hand, along with plenty of non-alcoholic beverages for the teetotalers in the group. Don't forget juice and milk for the kids and provide plenty of water for each guest. Be sure to remember to set up your coffeemaker ahead of time and put cream, milk, sugar and sweetener in decorative containers.

Iron your linens.
Linen napkins can add a touch of elegance to any meal. Save the paper napkins for more casual occasions. Remember to clean and iron your linens before you neatly arrange them on your table. If you plan to serve cocktails, provide linen cocktail napkins or, at the very least, use decorative or themed paper cocktail napkins.

Set the mood.
Candles are an easy, inexpensive, quick way to make any home more inviting. Scented candles should be placed around the house, and a few unscented candles should go directly on the dinner table. Don't forget the tunes. Create a dinner party playlist on your iPod or iPhone or preset your CD player so there's music in the air when your guests arrive and keep it playing throughout the evening.

Make time for yourself.
Allow plenty of time to shower, get dressed, and look your best for your dinner party. You'll want to greet your guests at the door with a relaxed smile on your face. The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel, and the better time you'll have at your own party.

Easter dinner is about connecting with family and friends. Following these etiquette guidelines can help you relax and enjoy your hosting duties, while also making your guests feel welcome so everyone has a memorable day.

For more tips on etiquette and entertaining, visit Jacqueline Whitmore's blog or "like" her Facebook page.