How To Set a Table

An elegant table setting can make your dining room or special occasion radiant. Spending a few moments on table presentation will allow you to create a soothing atmosphere for any event. Follow these simple steps to set a table with grace and simplicity.


  • Flatware setting for 8 - dinner fork, salad fork, soup spoon, dessert spoon and knife.
  • Dinnerware or fine china setting for 8 - dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, bread plate, coffee cup and saucer (optional).
  • Stemware setting for 8 - water goblet, wine glass.
  • Table cloth.
  • 8 Napkins.
  • Centerpiece - simple vase with long-stemmed roses or 3 round candles.


  1. Choose the dinnerware and coordinating flatware and stemware. Your selection of dinnerware sets the tone for the remainder of the table setting, so choose wisely. You can use fine china or everyday dinnerware; either can create a beautiful dining experience. If using an heirloom set or heavy stoneware set, be aware that the colors and patterns may overwhelm your guests, so complement these with simple table décor. Flatware and stemware do not have to match the dinnerware, but they should have some style or accent in common so they coordinate.
  2. Arrange the centerpiece. Center a vase with fresh flowers or if you prefer a romantic candlelight ambiance, create a centerpiece with three candles. You can place a single candle in the center of the table, then place each of the additional candles 10" - 12" away from the center candle, one on each side. This arrangement works best for a longer, rectangular table. For a round table, cluster the candles in the center of the table with some decorative elements such as flowers.
  3. Place the tablecloth. You don't want the cloth to stand out like a sore thumb. Make sure the table is covered with a cloth that enhances your dining design. Place the cloth on the table and center so it drapes evenly on all sides of the table.
  4. Set the dinnerware on the table. Starting with the dinner plate, center the plate at each place setting. Place the salad plate on top of the dinner plate. Then place the soup bowl on top of the salad plate. Place the bread plate to the left of dinner plate but leave room for flatware in between the two. If you are using a cup and saucer, place the cup onto the saucer, then place the set to the top right of the dinner plate.
  5. Arrange the flatware. Starting with the forks, place the larger dinner fork directly to the left of the dinner plate. Then place the smaller salad for to the left of the dinner fork. Place the soup spoon above the top of the dinner plate with the handle facing to the right. Place the knife to the right of the dinner plate with the cutting side facing the plate. The dessert spoon is placed to the right of the knife.
  6. Set the stemware. For this setting you are using a wine glass and water goblet. Set the wine glass to the top right of the dinner plate, above the cup and saucer. Then set the water goblet behind the wine glass, approximately 2" to the right of the wine glass.
  7. Arrange the napkin. Linen napkins are excellent display tools, should you choose to use them as such. You can shape and fold the napkin into a fan design and place it above the dinner plate or fold a fan shape and set it into the soup bowl on top of the dinnerware. If you prefer to hide the napkin, fold it to a smooth rectangle and place it under the knife and dessert spoon.
  8. Step back and admire your beautiful table setting.

The setting of a table creates dining ambiance. Take the extra time to coordinate and set a stunning table and your guests will remember it for weeks to come. Enjoy the setting as part of your dining room's décor or use it for special occasions. Have fun with the linens and table setting for all your events.


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I enjoy setting my table and I use all kinds of centerpieces such as salt and pepper pottery or interesting pieces of glass, pottery or wood and these often become conversation pieces as well.

By Mary Norton