How To Set Up a Formal Table Setting

Remember how Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson gulped with intimidation upon the sight of the elaborately arranged formal dinner before him? There were too many silverwares and formal manners to observe and he was far from ready. Assembling a formal table setting is not as laborious as it appears, however. Just keep in mind that the combination of elements is arranged for the diner’s convenience. Here’s how to prepare a formal table setting:

  1. Use only linen table cloth for formal tables. White is preferred by most but, if you wish to veer away from the convention, make sure that it complements the place and the decorations.
  2. Always place the plates first. Chargers, the decorative resting place for the plates, are optional. The plate should be in the center of the table place allotted for each diner and two inches from the table’s edge. All plates should be set equidistant from each other. If you opt to use chargers, place the soup and melon bowls on top. Then remove the charger before serving the main course.
  3. Put the folded linen napkins in the center of the plate.
  4. The diners will begin with the farthest utensil from the plate then work their way in. Hence, the first course silverware will be placed farthest and the last course will be the nearest. The forks will occupy the left side then the knives and spoons on the right. The forks should be arranged in this order from left to right: fish fork, dinner fork and salad fork. For the knives and spoons, on the other hand, service knife on the left, fish knife in the middle and the spoon on the farthest. Make sure that the blades face the plate and all silverware are situated an inch from the table’s edge.
  5. Arrange the glasses in order of use, above the knives. Place the water goblet, white wineglass and red wineglass, respectively, in a straight row diagonally facing downward from the left. In case you are not serving wine, you can replace the wineglasses with glass for iced tea, mug for beer or flute for champagne – in that order.
  6. If salad will be served, place the salad plate above the fork. If bread will be provided to the guests, put the bread plate on the left of the glassware yet higher than the salad plate. Lay the bread knife across the bread plate, slightly slanting from left to right, with the blade facing the edge of the table. However, if there is no salad course, the place the bread plate should take the space above the fork.
  7. Dessert spoons and forks are supposed to be brought in before serving the dessert and should be placed on top of each other above the plate. If you intend to serve coffee, the coffee cup and saucer should be placed on the farthest right with the coffee spoon on the right side of the saucer. Coffee mug is never acceptable in formal table setting.
  8. Finger bowl is optional. Place it on the dessert plate after the meal.

Still find this as information overload? Just remember that the silverware and glassware in a formal table setting are placed in order of the courses to be served so that you can work your way in. The rest for you to work on will be the rewarding act of enjoying your sumptuous meal.


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