Are you throwing a dinner party and wondering how to set a table that will wow your guests? With dessert spoons, soup spoons, teaspoons, and more, no wonder you’re curious! We’re sharing everything you need to know for setting a table!
Displaying thoughtful etiquette and good manners is essential for three crucial reasons. (Besides that they singlehandedly enhance the social dining experience!)
First, your place settings set the tone for the evening, whether that be formal or casual. Second, it shows people how much effort you’ve put in which makes them feel important to you! And last, it makes your food looks great.
So, if you’re wondering how to create the perfect ambiance, look no further. We’ve compiled a guide that covers both casual, formal and modern table settings. If you have any questions, consult this list for all your answers!
Types of Table Settings
How to Set a Table for a Casual Dinner
Maybe you’re throwing a birthday party or a semi-casual Mother’s Day bash. Whatever the excuse (and who needs one?) casual dinner parties have their place in the world of proper etiquette!
Let’s assume by now you’ve got your RSVPed guests collected. Use that number to gather the appropriate amount of supplies per person:
- A chic placemat and/or beautiful napkin
- A dinner plate
- A salad plate, if you’re serving salad
- A soup bowl, if you’re serving soup
- A dinner fork and dinner knife, as well as a salad fork and soup spoon
- A water glass
- A red or white wine glass
- A cocktail glass
It’s essential to plan your courses ahead of time so you know what equipment you need. If you’re skipping the salad or soup, feel free to do everything on the list but those.
Steps to Setting
First, put down your placemat if you’re using one.
Set the dinner plate in the center of the placemat (or directly in front of the seat, if no placemat).
If you’re having salad, set the salad plate atop the dinner plate in the center. If you’re having soup, place the soup bowl atop the salad plate.
Your napkin can either sit atop the dinner plate or on the left of the dinner plate, where you can place silverware on top.
The fork always goes to the left. Imagine your guests are cutting a piece of chicken or steak typically they’d hold the meat steady with the fork in their left hand while carving with the knife in their right hand. Thus, the knife always goes to the right.
The knife always points at the water glass with the blades facing the plate. Place your water glass directly above the knife’s point. If you’re serving wine, the wine glass will sit closely and diagonal to the water glass on its right side.
For serving soup, place the soup spoon to the right of the knife. If you’re serving a salad, put a salad fork to the left of the dinner fork.
The ‘main’ silverware stays closest to the dinner plate for the ‘main’ dish.
As each course is completed, you’ll take away the cutlery that was used. After the soup, you’ll remove the soup bowl and spoon, exposing the salad plate. After the salad, you’ll remove the salad plate and expose the dinner plate.
How to Set a Table for a Formal Dinner
A formal dinner set-up requires the same essentials as a basic dinner, plus a few extras.
Again, this depends on the number of courses you plan to serve. Fancier dinners usually have a light dessert and/or a bread and butter plate, too. For this, you’ll need a little more supplies:
- Bread plates
- Butter knives
- Dessert spoons (or cake forks)
- Charger plates (decorative base settings used on formal occasions)
- Optional: individual salt and pepper shakers and/or a place card with the guest’s name
Once you’ve gathered the supplies, let’s move on to setting the table!
Steps to Setting
First, lay your placement directly in front of the guest’s seat.
Atop the placemat, you’ll place your charger plate. This is also optional it’s like a placeholder for the dinner plate while your guests have the soup and salad. If you choose a charger plate, you can replace it with a dinner plate after the first two courses, or you can place the dinner plate on top of it.
On top of the charger or dinner plates, you’ll place your salad plate and then soup bowl layers of harmony!
To the left of your dinner plate, place your dinner fork. To the left of that, your salad fork. On the right side, you’ll have your dinner knife and then your soup spoon.
Napkins are usually on the left side as well, with the dinner fork and salad fork atop them.
Again, place the water glass directly above the knife’s point on the right side. Put your white or red wine glasses (or both!) near the water glass, forming a tight triangle.
If you’re doing dessert, place your dessert spoon or cake fork horizontally right above the dinner plate. Its horizontal position relays the message that that utensil is for later in the meal.
The bread plate is on the top left of the arrangement, mirroring the glasses on the other side. Atop the bread plate is the butter knife, which should always lay horizontally and parallel to the dessert utensil.
If you’re using place cards, put them right above the dessert utensil. Write the guest’s name on both sides of the card. Individual salt and pepper shakers will bookend the place card salt on the left, pepper on the right.
How to Set a Modern Table
Printable Table Setting Guide
Furthermore, we created a very handy modern table setting guide that you can download, print or pin for reference! A quick glance and you can see where to place everything on the table.
You’re ready to host a dinner party!
Frequently Asked Questions
Where does the napkin go when setting a table?
You can get creative with napkin placement! Place it in the center of the plate or in a napkin ring to the left of the forks. You can also place it under the salad plate or folded under the forks.
How do you set a table with wine glasses?
When serving red and white wine, place the wine glasses below the water glass and down in a line. Start with water glass, then red wine glass, then white wine glass and continue for as many wine glasses as you need. Place the glasses in order from what wine you’re serving. Start with the wine glass closest to the water glass.
What is the proper way to set silverware on a table?
We covered this above, but here is a quick recap:
- Fork to the left of the plate.
- Knife to the right of the plate with the blade facing the plate.
- Spoon to the right of the knife.
- Small salad fork to the right of the fork.
- Dinner fork and spoon at the top of the plate.
And there you have it how to set a table for your loving guests.
Your friends and family (and you!) will love the extra effort you’ve put in to provide a wonderful experience. Your dinner parties will be unforgettable, and so will the memories that come out of it.
Now it’s time to get down to the specifics. What food and drink will you serve your attendees?
We can help there, too. Check out our recipes here!
Check out this list of ten delicious wines (under $30!) that you can all enjoy on a special day.
Also, our wine guide is perfect for learnings me basic tips for serving wine!