Setting the table for Shabbos:
When to set the table: One is to set up the Shabbos table [including its chairs] on Erev Shabbos in preparation for the Friday night meal. [The silverware and china are to be clean and polished for the meal. There is no need however to set up one’s bed on Erev Shabbos.]
Placing a tablecloth on the table: It is customary for there to be a tablecloth spread over one’s [dining] table throughout the entire Shabbos. One may not swerve from this custom. There are those who have the custom to spread two tablecloths over the [dining] table [and so is the widespread custom today]. [It suffices to use a white tablecloth and a plastic over it in order to fulfill this custom, however some use two white tablecloths as was done in past times prior to the plastic covering being used.]
Q&A on setting the table
Who should set up the Shabbos table; the husband or the wife?
One who comes home and sees the table is not yet prepared: Even in families in which the custom is for the wife to set up the table on Erev Shabbos, if upon coming home from Shul the husband sees that the table is not set, extra care must be taken not to voice anger at one’s wife, and one must rather judge her favorably to the point he feels no resentment in his heart.
Should one eat specifically on a four legged table?
The Arizal was very careful to only eat on a four legged table, to emulate the table of the Tabernacle. This law however was omitted by Admur.
Q&A on the tablecloths
Should one cover other tables of the house?
One is to cover all the tables that are within the room that the meal is eaten in. It is likewise proper to cover the tables of the other rooms of the house.
What color tablecloth is one to use?
The age old custom is to use a white tablecloth to cover the dining table.
When after Shabbos may the tablecloth be removed from the table?
Some write one is not to remove the Shabbos tablecloth until after Havdala.
Covering the tables in Shul:
It is likewise customary to cover the tables in Shul with a white tablecloth.
 Admur 262:1
 Admur 262:1; Michaber 262:1; Tur 261; Rebbe Yossi Ben Rebbe Yehuda in Shabbos 119b
 See Q&A regarding preferably who is to set the table, the husband or the wife.
 Aruch Hashulchan 262:1
Analysis: The ruling brought in Shulchan Aruch regarding setting up the beds on Erev Shabbos was referring to the table seats of back then, which were in essence beds which the diners lied on while eating. [Admur 262:1; M”A 261; See Aruch Hashulchan 262:1] There is thus room to learn that today there is no longer a need to set up the chairs being that they do not entail much work as do the setting up of the sitting beds of back then. The Aruch Hashulchan ibid however learns differently.
 The reason: This is done out of honor for Shabbos, so that when he returns from Shul he finds everything already set and organized. [Admur ibid] The Talmud states that upon returning home from Shabbos two angels escort him to his home, and when they find that the table is set up, a good angel blesses him and the bad angel answers Amen.
Having the table set throughout the entire Shabbos: The above statement of Admur follows the ruling of the Michaber ibid. The Rama comments on this ruling of the Michaber that one is to keep his table set throughout the entire Shabbos. He concludes that so is the custom and it is forbidden to swerve from it. Admur ibid learns that the Rama’s comment was not referring to leaving the table set with its dishes and the like, but rather to leave it covered with a table cloth, and on this Admur rules that it must be covered throughout the entire Shabbos and one may not swerve from this custom. [So also learns Kaf Hachaim 262:22]
 Aruch Hashulchan 262:1
 Admur ibid, based on M”A 262 specifically mentions setting the beds of the dining room, and omits adding the beds of sleeping, despite that the Bach adds as well the beds of sleeping. [See Peri Megadim A”A 262:1] The M”B 262:2 however adds that one should also set the beds of one’s room, and so seems to be the leaning opinion of the Peri Megadim ibid, and so rules Kaf Hachaim 262:18; Aruch Hashulchan 262:1.
 Likkutei Maharich; See Q&a regading other tables of the house.
 See previous footnotes
 Admur ibid; M”A 262 in name of Rashal and Mateh Moshe
This is besides for the cloth which covers the bread. The reason for this custom is because they want to ensure that the table remains constantly covered throughout the entire Shabbos, and hence even when they need to shake the [upper] tablecloth to remove crumbs from it, the table will still remain covered. [ibid] There is however no Ohel prohibition involved in having only one tablecloth which one shakes and replaces on Shabbos, as is explained in Vol. 2 “The Laws of Ohel”. [Admur in 315 and M”A 262:1 unlike Bach]
 See Piskeiy Teshuvos 262 footnote 2
 Kaf Hachaim 262:21
 Chesed Lealafim 262:2
 The reason: As it is a Mitzvah upon the husband to prepare for the meal [Chesed Lealafim ibid]
 Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeira 17 based on Tikkunim Tikkun 24; Kaf Hachaim ibid
 The reason: This is based on Kabala. [ibid]
 Kaf Hachaim 583:1
 Brought in Magen Avraham 262:1. See Kaf Hachayim 262:1
 Biur Halacha 262 “Yisader”, brought in Ketzos Hashulchan 73 footnote 13; Elya Raba 262:3; Peri Megadim M”Z 262:1; Makor Chaim 262; Likkutei Maharich
 Aruch Hashulchan 262:2 rules that all the tables of the house are to be covered throughout the entire Shabbos, and it is considered a great shame for the Shabbos if the table becomes uncovered. However see Kaf Hachayim 262:22 which brings that there is no need to cover the other tables of the house which one is not eating on, as the Divine blessing only rests on the table which one eats on and says Birchas Hamazon.
 Drashos Mahariy Even, student of Rashba; See Maharshag 2:82
 M”B 262:4 in name of Elya Raba and Aguda
 Makor Chaim 271:9