Picture this scene. It’s your first post-Christmas family get-together, and everyone in your family is helping to get the meal ready to eat. To help speed things along, Grandma decides to delegate tasks, and without a moment’s hesitation, she looks at you with those serious grandmotherly eyes and says, “Set the table.” Even if you’ve never set a table before, you know as well as anyone that you don’t disobey a command from Grandma. Table setting, for better or worse, is now your challenge. While Grandma heads into the kitchen to finish putting the final touches on her world-famous candied yams, you look at the dining room table. All of the dishes and silverware are stacked neatly into piles, but you have no idea where anything goes. As you stand there dumbfounded, you wish you paid attention to those etiquette lessons in elementary school.
Have you ever been in this situation before? We have, and we’re going to teach you how to set the perfect table, so you don’t have to turn a napkin into a white flag.
- Dinner plates
- Small butter plates
- Silverware (forks, knives, spoons)
- Optional: salad bowls
How to Set the Perfect Table
- Center a large dinner plate before each table setting.
- Place the forks to the left of the plates. If there is more than one fork for each setting, place the forks in order of use. The fork closest to the plate should be the last one to be used. If you have a salad prepared before the main course, place the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork. The idea is to order silverware from the outside in.
- Place the knives to the right of the plate, with the cutting edge facing the plate. If there is more than one knife, place the knife that is to be used last closest to the plate.
- Set the spoons to the right of the knives.
- Napkins can be neatly folded and placed in one of three places. Napkins can go either to the left of the fork or on top of the dinner plate. If you’re at a premium for space, napkins can also be placed underneath the forks.
- Butter plates are placed above the forks and to the left of the dinner plate.
- Glasses are placed on the right side of the dinner plate and just above the knives. If there is more than one glass for each table setting, you can arrange them based on what order they will be used (first to last) or by size (small to large).
- If you have a small appetizer plate or a salad bowl to be eaten with the meal, place these dishes on top of the dinner plate. Otherwise, appetizer and salad plates should be placed left of the forks.