My favorite silversmiths are Jean Puiforcat and Georg Jensen. Both of their firms offer sterling and silver plate. While it is not possible to see the difference, it is possible to feel the difference. The weight of the items is not different, but the feel of the sterling spoon in your mouth is buttery, whereas the silver-plated spoon is much firmer – almost intrusive. This is because the silver is plated on a base metal that is much harder.
For china, I almost always prefer white. It goes with everything and foods looks so great on a white plate. And for linens, I prefer oversized, white, hem-stitched linen. Now for glassware, I use a mixture of inexpensive and moderately expensive glasses. With linens so easily soiled beyond future use, and for glassware which is so breakable, I do not believe in using very expensive selections.
Flowers should be low enough to see over and should never have any discernible fragrance as that interferes with the enjoyment of the food and wine being served. Candles are a wonderful addition to any night time dining. They serve as an indication that the evening is still young, or that the evening is almost over.
As for the food and guests, you are on your own.
-MICHAEL M. MERRILL ASID, NKBA, CID