How To Set a Table Properly

Photo of table and chairs

If you are looking to create a more formal atmosphere at the dinner table you can start by setting the table. If dinner previously has been a free for all in front of the television, don’t worry, you can fix that. By providing an elegant table setting for the family or dressing it up even more for a dinner party or holiday meal, you can set the tone for any gathering. Follow these steps to set a table.

  1. Decide how many guests you will have. Once you know how many guests you will expect, make sure your table can seat them. Then arrange the chairs to suit where everyone should sit. Gather the place settings for the number of guests you expect.
  2. Decide what courses will be served. Will you serve just a single course family style? Or maybe you are planning a formal meal with several courses? This needs to be decided before you can set the table with the appropriate dishes and silverware.
  3. Lay the tablecloth flat on the table. The tablecloth is optional but preferred when setting a table. Choose a freshly laundered tablecloth that is large enough to hang off the sides of the table without dragging on the ground.
  4. Add placemats and centerpiece (optional). Placemats and a centerpiece are not required but can help create a formal atmosphere. You can also create a theme or a fun table with pretty candles, ornaments or objects d’art that inspire conversation among your guests.
  5. Place the center dinner plate. Place the plate in the center of each place setting. This is the dish that every other piece will be set around.
  6. Place the dinner fork to the left. The dinner fork is the largest of three forks (dinner, salad/dessert and seafood). Build the place setting in the order the utensils will be used. Since the salad comes before the main course, the salad fork is on the outside and the dinner fork on the inside, closer to the plate.
  7. Add the salad fork. Place this fork to the immediate left of the dinner fork.
  8. Place the knife to the right. The knife should be immediately to the right of the plate. If you have a regular knife and a steak knife, the steak knife is placed closer to the plate, then the other knife.
  9. Add the dessert spoon on the right. The spoon is placed to the immediate right of the knife.
  10. Place soup spoon or seafood fork above the plate. The starter course utensil should be above the plate on the table. If there is a soup course and seafood appetizer then the soup spoon is immediately above the plate with the seafood fork above that. You may have a dessert fork that is placed above the plate between the plate and the soup spoon but many prefer to provide the dessert fork with the dessert course.
  11. Place the salad plate above the dinner plate. The salad plate should be centered onto the dinner plate.
  12. Set out the wine and water glasses. Glasses should be placed in the upper right corner of the place setting with the wine glass in front of the water goblet.
  13. Finish with a folded napkin atop the plates. The napkin adds a decorative touch to the plate and should be the first thing the guest reaches for so it is on top of the place setting,

There are several ways to set a table. How you design your table will often depend upon what you are serving. By keeping your meal and these steps in mind, you can set a table that is both elegant and functional for any meal.


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