September 27, 2019 | Tips & Style

The Ultimate Table Setting Guide

If you’re always looking for ways to make everyday family dinners more special, or if you’ve always wanted to throw a full-on, formal dinner party, then this table setting guide can be your new friend.

Of course, no table can be properly set unless your table linens are clean and wrinkle-free. We at Parker’s Dry Cleaners know how good it feels to present a beautiful dinner table and we take great care in cleaning your fine linens, tablecloths and napkins.

here's the ultimate guide to table setting

Basic Table Setting Guide

This one gives even a Monday night dinner of Sunday leftovers a nice touch. Learn these points and you can finally say you know how to properly set a table.

  1. Use FORKS – Yes, of course you’ll have a fork as part of your setting, but that’s not the one we mean here. A quick way to remember the setting order of plates and utensils, from left to right, is to think of FORKS.
    • F – Oddly enough, it stands for “fork(s)” which go to the left of the plate
    • O – Represents the plate (O = the shape of the plate!)
    • rK – Is for knife(ves) which go to the right of the plate (yes, we know we snuck the “r” in there without a role, we’re working on it!)
    • S – Tells you that spoons, for soup or dessert, go to the right of the knife
  2. Make “OK” Signs with Your Hands – Bear with us here! Have you ever sat down at a place setting and wondered if the nearest bread plate or water glass was for you or the person beside you? You’ll never worry about it again after this tip.With your hands straight out in front of you, make the “OK” sign with each hand by touching the tip of your thumb to the tip of your forefinger, leaving your remaining fingers stretched out.Now your left hand should be in the shape of a lower case “b” and your right hand should be in the shape of a lower case “d”. The “b”read plate goes on the left and the “d”rink glasses go on the right. Nifty, eh?
  3. Other Things to Remember
    • The knife blade always faces the plate
    • Napkins go to the left of the fork, or on the dinner plate
    • A butter knife is optional for the bread plate
    • The base of the handle on all the utensils should be in line with each other across the entire setting. Plates should be centered between the utensils, both left and right and forward and backward.

Informal Table Setting Guide

Interestingly, in the world of table settings, the placements that are most common at weddings and corporate functions are known as informal settings. Using many of the guidelines for a basic setting, an informal table setting for a three-course dinner menu can include the following:

  1. Utensils & Dinnerware
    • Dinner Plate – The dinner plate is always placed first as the “anchor” for the entire set.
    • Two Forks – Placed in the order of how they will be used, from the outside of the setting in towards the plate, the larger dinner fork is placed closest to the plate and the smaller appetizer or salad fork placed to the left of the dinner fork.
    • Napkins – They are either folded, or inserted in a napkin ring, and placed to the left of the forks or on the plate. Napkins may also be folded and placed under the forks.
    • Dinner Knife – Placed in the same way as a basic setting, you may substitute a steak knife when meat is part of the main course.
    • Spoons – Placed to the right of the knife, spoons are also set in the order that they will be used, with soup spoons placed the furthest right and dessert spoons next to the knife.
    • Drinking Glasses – These can include a water goblet, soft drink glass and/or wine glass. They are placed off the top edge of the knives and spoons. They should be placed in the order they are most likely to be used, from right to left.
    • Other Options – Depending on the menu, your place setting may need the following.
      • Salad Plate – If the salad is not to be included on the dinner plate, a salad plate should be placed to the left of the forks.
      • Bread Plate & Butter Knife – The bread plate should be set above the forks. The butter knife is placed diagonally across the plate, with the handle extending over the right edge of the plate at about the “4 o’clock” position. Its blade should face the forks.
      • Dessert Fork – Both The dessert fork and dessert spoon may be placed horizontally across the top of the dinner plate, parallel to each other, with the spoon the furthest away from the plate. The fork’s handle should point to the left, and the spoon’s handle should point to the right.
      • Coffee/Tea Cup and Saucer – If coffee or tea is served during the meal, the cup and saucer should be set above and to the right of the knives and spoons. If coffee and tea are served following dinner, the cup and saucer should be brought to the table at serving time.

Formal Table Setting Guide

Formal settings are similar to informal settings. Formal settings are used to accommodate the placement of added utensils for a meal of more than three courses. In addition to the guidelines already discussed for basic and informal settings, the following should be included for a formal table setting.

  1. Overall
    • No more than three of each type of utensil should be placed, unless an oyster fork is needed and three other forks are also required. If more than three courses will be served before dessert, then utensils for the fourth course should be served with the course.
    • Dessert spoons and forks are served with the dessert course.
  2. Charger Plate – As different courses are served, a charger plate can be used as an underplate for each of the course plates before the entree, at which time the charger plate is removed. Alternatively, a charger plate may be used as the main plate for the courses that the first course and precede the entree.
  3. Fish Fork – If a fish course will be served, a fish fork should be added to the left of the dinner fork as it will be used before the entree.
  4. Fish Knife – Similarly, if it’s needed, a fish knife would be placed to the right of the dinner knife.
  5. Salad Knife – If required, the salad knife should be placed to the right of the dinner knife. Whether the salad or fish course is served first will also determine the placement of the salad knife relative to the fish knife, with the one needed for the first course placed furthest from the plate.
  6. Soup Spoon or Fruit Spoon – Whichever one is required according to the menu, it should be placed to the right of the knives. If both are needed, the soup spoon is placed furthest from the plate as it will be used first.
  7. Oyster Fork – When shellfish are served, an oyster fork is required. It is placed to the right of the spoons and is the only fork that is placed on the right side of the setting.
  8. Napkins – You may place the napkin either on top of the charger; in the space where course plates will be placed; to the left of the forks; or under the forks.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have your tablecloths and napkins professionally cleaned from time to time. Regardless of how perfect your table setting may be, there’s no better finishing touch than perfectly pressed table linens. It’s all in the details!

If you enjoyed this post, check out our recent article with 5 tips for hosting an outdoor dinner party.

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