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How To Set a Table: Your Official Table Setting Guide

Should forks go on the left or right side of the plate?

You aren’t the only one who questions how to set a table for dinner party the proper way. With so many dishes, glasses, and cutlery to place, the proper placement can get confusing! Whether it’s a basic, casual, or formal dinner setting, there are some simple tips you can follow to get it right each time! Let’s explore them now.

A beautiful meal has been prepared in the kitchen and now it’s time to set the table for the occasion. Give your food the attention it deserves! Regardless of whether you are setting a basic, casual, or full-out holiday party spread, there are some basics regarding how to set a table that hold true no matter the occasion.

Do people really care about the proper way a table is set? It’s better to show up over-dressed than under-dressed, right? The same applies to a table setting – meaning that a little bit goes a long way! Let’s explore some tips so that you can understand how to set a table like a pro, no matter the occasion.

How to Set a Table – The Basic Set-Up

Don’t over-think it. A basic table setting will feature a fork, knife, spoon and one napkin beside a plate. And the placement is typically based on which hands you use to handle the utensils. For example, we hold our knife in our right hand and fork in the left. Therefore, the fork goes on the folded napkin about two inches to the left of the plate. The knife is placed to the right – and make sure the blade is facing the plate! The spoon goes to the right of the knife. When it comes to glassware, always keep right! One glass to the right, above the knife. Pretty simple right? With these basics, you can create both casual and formal table settings.

The Casual Table Setting

What distinguishes basic from casual? Using some more flashy or formal dishes here can amp up your place setting from basic to casual. The good thing is that you just take the basics of how to set a table and build from there. Remember that dishes, plates, bowls, and other pieces have the power to not only enhance your meal but showcase your personal style. Since this is a casual table setting, just go with what feels right!

Try these extra touches for that added oomph: Arrange the napkin in an elegant way – folded, tied or secured with a napkin ring on top of the plate. Add another plate underneath the main plate, as well as a soup or salad bowl on top. And of course – add a wine or additional drinking glass just a bit to the right and up from the water glass. It’s as easy as that!

What Type of Dinnerware is Appropriate for a Casual Table Setting?

Not sure if you have the right dishes for a casual setting? There’s nothing wrong with keeping it classic with a white porcelain or bone china set. No matter your home décor, a classic white set can be a timeless and chic option for any occasion. You can sneak in colours into other spots such as napkins or placemats.

Do you think it’s your time to start shopping for new dinnerware? Check out our blog, dedicated to simple tips on how to choose the right dinnerware set for your style and needs.

Porcelain and bone china dishes are appropriate for everyday use, so long as they are cared for properly. Don’t shy away from using them even for casual settings! Bone china is a favourite due to its elegance and strength. It’s also chip-resistant so you shouldn’t hide it away and only use it a few times a year. Release your elegant pieces from the cabinet and consider using them more often. They will shine at both casual parties and of course, the more sophisticated dinner parties. Which leads us to our next point! 

The Formal Table Setting

It’s time to shine! Besides a beautifully prepared meal, be sure to provide your guests with everything they will need on the table. Building off the casual setting, add a smaller salad fork next to the regular one. Similarly, add a soup spoon next to the regular spoon. A dessert spoon goes above the plate and is placed horizontally. Did we mention that a more formal table setting requires more cutlery? This is to be expected, due to the multiple courses that come with a formal dinner. You can modify the formal table setting based on how much, and what you plan to serve.

If you are offering various wine options, remember to have specific red and white wine glasses. These have their designated spots too: the white wine glass is placed below the red wine glass. Along with the water glass, these three should form a triangle shape. If you choose to serve bread, add a bread plate and knife above the napkin. Forget where that napkin goes? We did too – it’s to the left, with the forks! Go the extra mile and place a name card with your guests name above the dessert spoon. It’s all about the small details when it comes to formal table settings.

In today’s busy world, some of us have forgotten or overlooked the art of how to set a table and serve a formal dinner party. Lucky for you, it’s quite straightforward if you have the right dinnerware and a useful table setting guide. Impress your guests by adding thoughtful touches throughout your table setting.