Whether you’re inviting friends and family over for a casual evening meal or hosting a more formal dining event, keep the attention on great food and enjoying your evening without worrying about table setting etiquette with these five simple steps for how to set a table:
How to set a table:
- Dinner plates should sit in the centre of the place setting. Set cutlery on the table in the order of use, starting from the outside, working inwards with each course.
- Forks should be set to the left of the plate, with knives placed to the right, blade edges facing inwards. Soup spoons should go to the right of the knives.
- Dessert forks and spoons should be laid above the plate with the fork prongs facing right and the spoon bowl facing left.
- Side plates always go on the left of the dinner plate.
- Glassware should be set above and to the right of the dinner plate; red wine, white wine and water glasses.
How to dress your table:
Once you’ve mastered the basics you can elevate your dining table with the addition of a few extra accessories:
Nothing says ‘special occasion’ more than a crisp white tablecloth. A table cloth should fall at least a foot below the top of the table and no less than 15cm above the ground. Before spreading the tablecloth, it’s a good idea to a lay a fleece over the table to prevent spillages or hot dishes marking it.
Put placemats in front of each chair that will be used for the dinner party. Try and leave 30cm between guests for comfort. Use a combination of cloth and chargers to add a new dimension to your formal dining table.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to napkins. If you are simply folding a napkin in half then placing it to the left of the plate, underneath the forks, is perfectly okay. For more ornately folded napkins, the centre of the dinner plate is the location of choice. High quality paper napkins are more than acceptable for a casual affair, with linen and cotton the choice for formal table settings. For a buffet, cutlery can be wrapped in a napkin.
Always set the coffee cup and saucer, along with a suitable stirring spoon, a few centimeters above the outer most utensil on the right.
Bread and butter plate:
This small round plate should be set about 10cm above the forks. Place a small butter knife or butter blade horizontally over the plate, the blade facing to the left.
There are plenty of specialist eating utensils available for more exotic menus. Oyster forks, lobster picks, snail tongs and fish knives and forks can all be added to the formal table setting if you’re planning to serve up something different. Just remember to place them in order of use and you can’t go far wrong.
The really fun part of setting a table is the accessorising! Candles, flower, name card holders, runners and napkin rings can all be added to dress up a table for a whole range of events. Setting a colour palette is a good way to start, then you can build up a collection of little extras to make the table shine.