How to Set a Table

July 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Food & Drink

how di I set a formal dining tableSetting a table properly involves much more than a fork, spoon, knife and plate. A formal table setting is complex with up to sixteen or twenty different items per setting. There are two basics rules to follow with much technique to follow depending on arrangements and the actual food items to be served.
Basic Rules of Table Settings

The first rule to remember is that utensils are placed in the order they will be used. This means you set a table from the outside in. Also, forks will always be placed on the left and spoons and knives are placed on the right.
The Basic Table Setting


The basic table setting is much like the word FORKS. You place the fork on the far left side followed the O-like plate. Ignore the R, and then place the knife for K and the spoon for S. The knife should be facing in toward the plate. Make circles using your thumb and forefinger. On your left is a “b” This is to remind you that the bread and butter plate goes on your left. Your right hand forms a “d” to remind you that the drink is placed at the upper left. Napkins are placed on the left of the plate or on the plate itself.

The Traditional Formal Table Setting

The formal table setting has the same bones as the basic with FORKS helping you place items in the correct area. The formal table setting includes more items however. Place the dinner plate in the center, in the same “O” space as before. On the left of the plate, you’ll now place two forks. The dinner fork is largest and goes next to the plate with a smaller salad fork just outside the dinner fork. Additional forks would be placed outside the salad fork in the reverse order they would be used based on courses.


To the right of the plate you’ll find the dinner knife (blade in), then spoons in the reverse order of courses. The dessert spoon will be next to the knife with a soup spoon on the outside right of the arrangement. Above the spoons and knife, you’ll arrange any drinking glasses.

A salad plate is placed at the far outer left of the setting outside the forks and is used if salad is not to be eaten with the meal or if the main course contains gravy or another runny option. The bread plate is placed above the forks with the butter knife lying diagonally across the plate, blade facing down and handle on the right.

The dessert spoon and fork can be placed diagonally above the plate forming a roof over the plate with the spoon on the right and knife on the left, or they can be placed in the utensil lineup. If they are placed with other forks and spoons, they will be closest to the plate as they are used last.

If coffee is part of the meal, the setting is arranged with the coffee cup and saucer at the upper right of the arrangement – outside the glasses and diagonally above the spoons and knife.

Easy Step By Step

  • For a basic table setting:
  • Place the dinner plate in the middle of the setting.
  • Place the fork on the left side of the plate.
  • Place the knife on the right side of the plate, blade in.
  • Position the spoon on the outside of the knife.
  • Glasses go about the spoons.
  • The bread plate goes above the forks
  • The napkin is placed on the plate or on the far left side of the arrangement.

Warnings, Advice, and Suggestions

In addition to place settings, be sure you know other rules of etiquette to host an effective dinner party. This includes the positioning of dirty knives (never on the table) as well as the art of serving. Serve from the left side with the left hand and remove plates with the right. Serve the oldest lady present first. All ladies are served before men in descending age order as well.

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