How to set the table properly
Learning how to set the table properly is a timeless skill
The best China and dinnerware will do a lot of things – make a strong first impression on guests, verify a suspicion that you’re descended from royalty and even become a cherished family heirloom – but it won’t set itself.Oddly enough many of us never learned how to set the table properly, or we’re not sure. Perhaps your spouse’s parents are coming over and you think everything looks right, and then doubt creeps in. You’re happy just to have fine dinnerware and good food, but there will always be those occasions when you want everything to be perfect.
A well set table creates a special tone for the whole meal. Break this task down into steps and its nothing you can’t cross off the to-do list! Think geometrically: the silverware should be straight,equal spacing between each piece and the center piece belongs in the center.
How to set the table properly
- The service plate is the largest one. It goes directly in front of the diner’s seat. If there’s a pattern, it should face the diner.
- Lay the forks to the left of the plate. The forks should be placed in the order they'll be used with the first one set furthest from the plate. For example, if the first course is salad, the outermost fork will be the salad fork. The meat or main course fork should go directly to the left of the plate.
- Lay the dinner fork to the immediate right of the plate.
- Lay the spoons on the
right of the dinner fork. The tea spoon goes by the knife and the soup
spoon goes beside it to the right.
- Place the water glasses to the back right of the plate (the front of the plate being the side closest to the diner).
- Wine glasses go to the right of the water glass. If you’re serving both white and red, place the red glass on the inside because it’s larger.
- Bread plates go behind the plate to the left with the bread knife laid diagonally across it. Adjust the placement to be parallel with the forks. Bread plates are optional, but generally used with formal settings.
- Dessert silverware goes directly behind and centered with the plate. Adjust glasses to the right and bread plate to the left so every piece is equally spaced. If you’re short on space, bring out the dessert silverware with the dessert plate before dessert is brought out.
- The napkin goes either on the plate or to the left of the forks. Fold it, roll it or show off your napkin origami skills.
What would be fine home dining without a cup of coffee or tea to finish things off? The cup and saucer typically come out after dessert, but if your table is big enough, setting it out beforehand makes things a lot easier. They go to the right of the spoons.
Dining Tips and Last Minute Touches
- Always use silverware from the outside in.
- Position the knives so the cutting side faces the plate.
- Line up the handles of silverware.
- Use cloth napkins. You’re going to the trouble of serving multiple courses. Cloth napkins are a small detail that makes a difference.
- Place a bin for dirty dishes in the kitchen. After each course, use it to clear dirty silverware before serving the next course.