Basic Table Setting
If you’re getting things ready for an everyday dinner or a weekend breakfast, you might want to know how to set a table properly. For casual events, one needs just a basic table setting: a place mat, cutlery (fork, knife, and spoon), a dinner plate, a water glass, and a napkin.
Basic Table Setting Instructions
- Lay the place mat on the table.
- Put the dinner plate in the middle of the place mat.
- Lay the napkin to the left of the plate.
- Place the fork on the napkin.
- To the right of the plate, place the knife closest to the plate, blade pointing in. Place the spoon to the right of the knife. (Note: The bottoms of the utensils and the plate should all be level.)
- Place the water glass slightly above the plate, in between the plate and the utensils, about where 1 p.m. would be on a clock face.
Basic Table Setting Etiquette Tips
If you prefer, it is acceptable to set the napkin on top of the plate in a basic table setting, though some think this can create a more formal feeling.
Casual Table Setting
Knowing how to set a casual table will come in handy when you’re tasked with knowing how to set an informal table for a get-together or a laid-back dinner party. Essentially, the basic table setting, above, and the casual table setting are nearly identical, but in a casual table setting, there is the addition of a soup bowl and a dinner plate. As a general rule, only set out the glassware, tableware, and flatware that you’re going to be using. If you’re not having a salad course, all you need to set is a dinner fork. If you’re only serving white wine, a red wine glass is not needed. And if there’s no soup course, skip the soup bowl and spoon.
Casual Table Setting Instructions
- Lay the placemat on the table.
- Put the dinner plate in the middle of the placemat.
- Place the salad plate on top of the dinner plate.
- If you’re starting with a soup course, place the soup bowl on top of the salad plate.
- Lay a napkin to the left of the charger.
- To the left of the plate, place the fork on the napkin.
- On the right of the plate, place the knife closest to the plate and then the spoon.
- Directly above the knife, place the water glass.
- To the right and slightly above the water glass, place the wine glass or a glass for another beverage.
Casual Table Setting Etiquette Tips
If using individual salt and pepper shakers for each guest, place them at the top of the place mat. Otherwise, place them near the center of the table, or, if using a long, rectangular table, place them in the middle of each end.
Formal Table Setting
If you’re hosting an elegant dinner party, you might want to know how to set a table for a three-course meal.
The biggest difference between a casual table and a formal table is the use of chargers, also known as presentation plates. Traditionally, formal place settings also tend to forgo placemats, but she says you can opt to use a round placemat underneath a charger for an even more formal look.
A formal table setting includes many pieces: a tablecloth, chargers, dinner plates, soup bowls, salad plates, bread plates, napkins, salad forks, dinner forks, knives, soup spoons, butter knives, dessert spoons, water glasses, red wine glasses, and white wine glasses. Though this may sound overwhelming, if you know how to set a casual table, it’s a very easy leap to knowing how to set a table with charger plates.
Formal Dinner Table Setting Instructions
- Lay an ironed tablecloth on the table.
- Set a charger at each seat.
- In the center of the charger, place a soup bowl.
- Place the bread plate to the top left of the charger (between 10 and 11 p.m. on a clock face).
- Lay a napkin to the left of the charger.
- On the left of the charger, place the salad fork on the outside, and the dinner fork on the inside. You can put the forks on the napkin, or for roomier settings, directly on the tablecloth between the napkin and the charger.
- On the right of the charger, place the knife closest to the charger (blade facing in towards the charger) and then the soup spoon. Note: All vertical flatware (salad fork, dinner fork, knife, and soup spoon) should be spaced evenly, about half an inch away from each other, and the bottoms of each utensil should be aligned with the bottom of the charger.
- Place a butter knife horizontally, blade facing inwards on top of the bread plate with the handle pointing to the right. (Note: In all place settings the blade will face inwards towards the plate.)
- Directly above the charger, place a dessert spoon (a teaspoon) with the handle pointing to the right.
- Directly above the knife, place a water glass. To the right of the water glass and about three-fourths of an inch downward, place the white wine glass. The red wine glass goes to the right of—and slightly above—the white wine glass. (Note: Since people traditionally drink more water than wine during dinner, the water is kept closer to the diner.)
- If using individual salt and pepper shakers for each guest, place them above the dessert spoon. Otherwise, place them near the center of the table, or, if using a long, rectangular table, place them in the middle of each end.
- If using a place card, set it above the dessert spoon.
Formal Table Setting Etiquette Tips
After the soup course is complete and the bowls are cleared, a salad plate will take the soup bowl’s position. Traditionally, a charger holds the spot for the dinner plate, and is removed after the salad course so the place is never bare. If you do not want to clear the table after the soup course and bring out dinner plates, you can place a dinner plate on top of the charger.