How to Properly Set a Table
Where does the napkin go? Which side does the spoon go on? Left or right? Simply Fresh is here to help!
When hosting a more formal event, from dinner parties to holiday dinners, a buffet to feed your guests can seem like the less stressful option. But hosting a seated, plated dinner doesn’t have to be difficult. It might seem intimidating to get all the details right, so when in doubt, turn to the pros. We create unique table settings for all our seated events, so we have a ton of experience- here is a nice guide to get you going!
Things to remember:
- Polish your silverware! Wear latex gloves, and use a solution of water and a tiny bit of white vinegar and a soft cloth to polish any smudges or fingerprints off. This won’t leave any harsh chemical taste, not even a vinegar taste (and eco friendly!).
- Knife blades always face in towards the plate. No great dinner party starts with someone cutting a finger tip
- Use your thumb to set the standard how close to the edge of the table your utensils and plate should be. This way each setting is aligned the same
- Position the handle of your coffee cup towards the edge of the table, and slightly angled to the right, making it easy and comfortable to pick up
- If possible, use a coffee cup with a saucer. Not only does it look a nicer, it also saves your tablecloth from some of the drips
- Use a short centerpiece. This allows guests to interact with people across from them in addition to the people on either side of them
- Take your time. Don’t rush through courses. Give your guests time to enjoy each other’s company, and of course the food!
- Plates are probably the easiest part of setting a table. The biggest plate, used for the entree, is the main plate. Stack on top and center the salad plate. The plates are the centerpiece of each place setting, so build the rest of the setting around the plate. If soup is being served, place a soup bowl on top of the salad plate.
- Utensils get placed in order of use, starting from the outside, and working in. Traditionally, a soup course is first, followed by an appetizer (that normally doesn’t require a utensil), then a salad, an entree, and finished with a dessert (dessert plates and utensils are normally placed after everything else is cleared following the entree). So following the “order of use” rule, your salad fork and your spoon should be farthest from the plate, and your dinner fork and knife be placed closest to the plate, because they will be used later in the meal. Forks are on the left, knife and spoon on the right. A handy trick it to remember FOrKS, F for fork, O for the plate (it’s round. Get it?), skip the r (we didn’t make this up), K for knife, and S for spoon. This is the order the plate and utensils should be if you look at the table setting from left to right, as if you were reading it.
**Even if you don’t plan on serving a soup course, always include the spoon. That way each place setting looks symmetrical, and its available if someone needs it. If they have coffee, they can use their soup spoon to stir it.
- Bread and Drinks. Taking your hands, put your index finger and thumb together on each hand, as if making the “OK” signal, keeping the rest of your fingers straight. Your left hand should be forming a “b”, while your right hand is forming a “d”. Could that be a cheat to remember that the bread plate goes on the left (left hand, forming a b, get it?) and the drink glasses get placed on the right (right hand…forming a d…for “drinks”…)? It is! Both of these items should be placed above the utensils on their respective sides, with the butter knife placed across the bread plate. Cups should be arranged with the coffee cup and saucer directly above the knife and spoon, then working inwards, your water and wine glasses. When it comes to your water and wine glasses, place your water closets to the edge, and your wine glasses towards the middle. This way people are more likely to reach for the water more often, preventing overconsumption. If you’re not offering coffee with the meal, just exclude the cup and saucer, and shift the other glasses over so the water glass is directly above the knife and spoon.
- Napkins. You can use paper disposable napkins, or you can opt for the fancier cloth napkins. If folded flat, these are placed either on the plate, or to the left of the setting, next to the forks. Follow the “order of use” rule, and place the napkin on the outside, as placing a napkin in your lap is the first thing you should do when sitting down. If you decide you want something a little more original, you can always do some fun napkin folds (and place them in the middle of the plates). Some ideas are a swan, a rose, a tree, a crown, or a turkey.
- Clear the plates and utensils from each course before starting the next. Have dessert plates and utensils ready to go when you clear the entree plate, fork, and knife. At this point in the meal, all the plates and utensils should be off the table. Taking the time to collect everything that’s dirty and replace with dessert plates and utensils is a great time to go slowly and give your guests a moment to digest a little, and also a great time to refresh drinks.
**All rentals pictured courtesy of Select Event Rentals Ltd.