How To Set Your Table



Setting the table is often a hurried and last-minute task that can leave you wondering about the correct placement of the plates, napkins and glassware.

Minimise stress and keep the focus on the food and guests, with these super easy table setting ideas.

Start with a basic setting to dress up the table and set a casual mood for your dinner. For a more formal setting, add more pieces and a centre piece. 

Basic Table Setting

A basic setting is appropriate for most occasions.

The dinner plate is positioned in the center of the place setting and everything else is placed around it. Then, the flatware is arranged around the plate in the order in which it will be used:

  • To the left of the plate is the fork.
  • To the right of the plate is the knife and spoon. The knife is placed to the right of the plate with the sharp edge toward the plate. To the right of the knife is the spoon.
  • A water glass goes above the knife.

 Napkins can be placed under the forks or on the plate for an informal setting.


Informal Dinner or Luncheon Table Setting

Simply start with a Basic Setting and add to it with these items:

  • If a salad is to be served, the salad fork is placed to the left of the dinner fork. Eliminate the salad fork if no salad is served or place it to the right of the dinner fork to use as a dessert fork if appropriate. (The dessert fork can also be brought to the table when dessert is served.)
  • If soup is served, set the bowl on the plate and a soup spoon to the right of the beverage spoon.
  • Salad or bread and butter plates go to the left of the forks. Position butter plates above the forks with the butter spreader placed across the plate.
  • Cup and saucer go above the spoons with the handle toward the right. Wine or water glasses can be positioned to the left of the coffee cup.


Formal Dinner Table Setting

Begin with the setting for an informal dinner or luncheon and add to it using the following ideas:

  • White and red wine glasses (if necessary) along with the water glasses are positioned to the left of the coffee cup.
  • The beverage, soup and/or dessert spoons are to the right of the knife or can be brought to the table when soup or dessert is served.
To dress it up more, place a charger plate under the dinner plate.

Other Helpful Tips For Setting The Table

  • The lower edges of the utensils should be aligned with the bottom rim of the plate, about one inch up from the edge of the table and they should be laid approximately one inch away from the plate's side.
  • Butter should be waiting on butter plates, salt & pepper in easy to use grinders or shakers, the glasses filled with water, and the wine ready to be served before the guests are seated.
  • Ensure that there are no fingerprints on the handle, by hold flatware at the "waist,"  which is the area between the handle and the eating end of the utensil.
  • Place knives with blades facing the plate.
  • Do not place over three pieces of flatware on either side of the plate at one time.
  • Decent elbow room requires a minimum of 15 inches between place settings, or approximately 24 inches from the centre of one place setting to the middle of the next.
  • When an uneven number of people are seated, the odd-numbered place settings are laid opposite the middle of the even-numbered place settings.
  • Everything must be geometrically spaced.
  • The centrepiece is in the actual centre, the places at equal distance, and all utensils balanced.
  • It is also a good idea to have a table theme which would include a matching table cloth, serviettes and centrepiece.
  • A crowded table is uncomfortable and also will impair the dines enjoyment of the meal.

    Setting a Buffet Table
    Consider flow and ease of collecting food

    Do pre plan dishes for the food

    Pre-set with flowers etc. to check heights and to ensure your table is going to be interesting and appealing.

    Elevating platters from the table helps to set the mood.


    The Right Centrepiece

    Now is not the time to create a large, over the top centrepiece. For one, something elaborate takes up prime real estate you’ll need for platters, dishes, napkins, and flatware. Secondly, you don’t want anyone worrying whether they’re going to light their shirt sleeve on fire as they’re grabbing the gravy boat.

    We like something small but impactful. A flower arrangement in bold colours has a lot of look in a little bit of space.

    Prep Work

    Set out everything you’ll need at least the morning of the event so you can see how much space you’ll have and how many platters you can fit. Be sure to put out the stacks of plates, napkins, and flatware so you aren’t left squeezing those in at the last minute! We like to use sticky notes to map out where everything will go.


    Each place should be set with all the glasses that will be used during dinner (except dessert-wine glasses, which may be brought out when the dessert is served). The water glass belongs to the right of the plate, just above the knife. Wineglasses should be set to the right of the water glasses in the order in which they will be used.

    1. Water glass.
    2. Red-wine glass.
    3. White-wine glass
    4. Champagne flute
    5. All-purpose glass

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