How To Set a Table for Fine Dining

Table setting for fine dining

Do you want to set up a fine dining table at home for your next special occasion?  If you have the right equipment, it’s easy to create a formal table that you and your guests will enjoy. If you have eaten at a fine dining restaurant before, you will have noticed that all the elements on the table go together, including the placement of the menu and even the furniture.  The service is very formal and proper dining etiquette is required.

Whether dining buffet style, serving gourmet food or setting up for bar dining, a formal place setting is a wonderful way to make your guests feel special.  Even cheap hotels and restaurants should know how to set up a fine dining table.

Fine dining tables are geometrically arranged with the centerpiece serving as the exact center of the setting.  All elements should be at equal distances and flatware should be balanced.   Fine dining requires the following:

Tablecloths and placemats.  Use placemats to show off your beautiful tabletop.  Otherwise, use a traditional white tablecloth.  Plain-colored or lace cloths may be used, but never cloths with fussy patterns.  The cloth should cover the whole table with at least a 6” overhang on all sides.

Dinnerware or china.
Dinnerware is composed of soup bowls, bread, side, salad, dinner and dessert plates.   Traditionally, all dinnerware should match.  However, fine dining rules have relaxed a bit allowing formal dining set-ups with a mix of china from different collections for as long as there is a common theme.  Start with charger plates, large decorative plates, positioned an inch away from the edge of the table.  This is where your appetizer, soup or salad plates rest.  It is removed once the main course is served.

Flatware. Fine dining flatware is traditionally made of silver, hence the term silverware. There are many different types of spoons, forks and knives used in fine dining.

  • Spoons for soup, fruit, dinner and dessert
  • Teaspoons
  • Forks for salad, dinner, fish, dessert, and oysters
  • Knives for butter, salad, fish, and dinner

Flatware is placed according to the order of their use starting from the outside going in towards the plate. For the first course, the fork farthest left and the knife farthest right should be used. The blades of the knives must point towards the plate.  Spoons are positioned on the right side after the knives, again in the order of their use.

Dessert silverware is placed horizontally above the plate or brought in together with the desert. Only the oyster fork is to be placed on the right side after the farthest spoon.

Glassware of stemware. These should match. The exceptions to this rule are the water goblets, brandy and liqueur glasses.  A total of five different glasses can be placed on the table, with the smaller ones positioned in front of the larger ones.  The water goblet is placed above the tip of the knives.  Wine glasses are placed at the lower right of the goblet. If serving champagne, the champagne flutes should be placed to the right of the water glasses.

The napkins should always be made of cloth and should match your tablecloth.  They are placed on top of the charger plate.

You can also set up place cards to show the guests their place.  Small salt and pepper shakers are a nice touch as well.  Add fruits and other items to traditional floral centerpieces to showcase your creativity.

Fine dining is a great experience even at home.  It’s one way to make good use of all the beautiful wedding gifts that you received and create a special dining experience.


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