Whether you are having an elegant dinner party, casual breakfast, romantic date, or lively family buffet, setting a table properly can truly elevate the experience. The team at HowLongtoCook.org has created a visual guide to how to set a table properly according to the occasion. Proper table setting etiquette may seem frivolous, but it is carefully crafted to enable diners to enjoy their meal to the fullest.
Different ways to set a table include basic, casual, formal, and buffet. With this table setting guide, you will learn how to set a basic table, how to set a casual table, how to set a formal table (including how to set a five-course meal table), and how to set a buffet table.
Here are the basic table setting rules and guidelines for table setting etiquette.
Cutlery is set in order of use working from the outside in. Outer utensils, such as the salad fork, go on the outside because they will be used first. The innermost set should be reserved for the main course.
Forks always go to the left of the setting. The only exception is the oyster fork, which in formal settings is placed alongside the knives on the right.
Knives always go on the right side of the setting. The only exception is if you have a bread plate. The bread plate goes on the top left of the setting, with the butter knife on top of the plate.
Glassware is set above the knives in the top right corner in a cluster.
Napkins can be placed either to the left of the forks or underneath the forks. If space is limited, it is appropriate to place the napkin in the middle of the setting or on top of the charger.
Only set the table with utensils that will be used.
All knives should have their cutting edge facing the plate.
Allow around 28 inches for each place setting.
Here are quick basic table setting instructions:
Place the plate in the center.
Place the fork to the left of the plate.
Place the knife and spoon to the right of the plate.
Place a water glass above the knife.
Place a folded napkin under the fork.
Setting a casual table is similar to a basic table setting with a few extra pieces and more elegant flatware and linens. Here is how to set an informal table with etiquette:
Use place mats for each setting.
Place a dinner plate on top of the place mat and a salad plate on top of the dinner plate.
If soup is being served, place a soup bowl on top of the salad plate.
Place a napkin to the left of the setting with a dinner fork on top.
To the right, place a dinner knife closest to the plate, then a soup spoon.
Place a water glass directly above the knife. To the left of the water glass, place a wine glass.
How do you set a table fancy? To set a formal table, you will need a fine tablecloth, chargers, dinner plates, soup bowls, salad plates, bread plates, napkins, dinner forks, salad forks, knives, soup spoons, dessert spoons, butter knives, water glasses, white wine glasses, and red wine glasses. Here is how to set a formal table step by step:
Cover the table with a tablecloth. This is preferable over place mats for a formal dinner.
Set a charger at each place. Place a dinner plate, salad plate, and soup bowl on top of the charger.
Place a dinner fork, fish fork, and salad fork to the left of the plate from inside to outside.
Place a dinner knife, fish knife, and soup spoon to the right of the plate from inside to outside.
Place a water glass directly above the dinner knife, then a red wine glass to the right of that and a white wine glass to the farthest right.
Place a dessert fork and spoon above the plate.
Place a bread plate above the forks with a butter spreader on top of it.
For a casual meal, stemless glassware is acceptable. However, paper napkins are not: Use cloth ones.
When you’re setting a formal table, use your best tablecloth. It should drape about a foot down from the table, about at lap level.
Stemmed wine glasses are a must for formal table settings.
If you’re using candles as part of a centerpiece, use unscented candles to avoid disrupting the aroma of the food.
When serving a five-course meal, add a name card for each guest.
Related: How long to cook a whole turkey, how long to cook salmon filets, and how long to cook a whole chicken