How to Set a Table the Proper Way

Impress your guests with how to set a table, no matter the occasion. From a weekend breakfast to hosting a formal Thanksgiving dinner, we’ve got you covered. Below you will find instructions for the proper way to set a table in three different situations.

Basic table Settings

For casual events, you can use a basic table setting: a placemat, cutlery, a dinner plate, a water glass, and a napkin. This table setting is easy to master and comes in handy at home and at restaurants.

Start by laying the placemat on the table. To help you remember the order of plates and utensils one trick is to picture the word “FORKS.” The order, left to right, is F for Fork, O for the Plate, K for Knives, and S for Spoons. The knife should have the blade pointing in toward the plate, and the bottoms of the utensils and the plate should all be level.

Once the utensils are set, the water glass goes slightly above the plate to the right, between the plate and the utensils. Generally, your napkin goes to the left of the plate, under the fork. One more basic table setting tip, holding your hands in front of you, touch the tips of your thumbs to the tips of your forefingers. Your fingers will make a lowercase ‘b’ with your left hand, and a lowercase ‘d’ with your right hand. This tip reminds you that “bread and butter” go to the left of the place setting and “drinks” go on the right.

Casual Table Settings

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll be ready to host an informal three course dinner party. You will take what you learned from the basic table setting and add a few more elements. The casual table setting does not use a charger, just a dinner plate and a placemat, which is usually square. Here you only set the glassware, tableware, and flatware that you are going to be using.

The salad plate, if used, is placed on top of the dinner plate. If you’re starting with a soup course, place the soup bowl on top of the salad plate. To the right and slightly above the water glass, place the wine glass or a glass for another beverage.

The dinner fork will be the larger of the two forks used. The forks are arranged according to when you need to use them, following an “outside-in” order. The dessert spoon and fork are placed horizontally above the dinner plate. The napkin is folded or put in a napkin ring and placed either to the left of the forks or on the center of the dinner plate.

Formal Table Settings

The formal place setting is generally used at home for a meal of more than three-courses, such as a dinner party or a holiday meal. The biggest difference between a casual table and a formal table is the use of chargers, also known as presentation plates. Formal tables also typically forgo placemats. A formal table setting includes many other elements like a tablecloth, bread plates, red wine glasses, and white wine glasses. While the list of glassware, tableware, and flatware might seem overwhelming, if you have mastered the basic and casual table settings, it will be a simple step forward.

Begin by laying a starched and ironed tablecloth on the table. Set a charger at each seat. In a formal table setting instead of stacking dinner plates, salad plates, and soup bowls on one another, they are brought out one at a time and then cleared after each course. The first course will be the soup course, so you should start with a soup bowl in the center of each charger.

The bread plate goes to the top left of the charger, and you should lay a napkin to the left of the charger. All vertical flatware, the salad fork, dinner fork, knife, and soup spoon, should be spaced evenly. The white wine glass should go to the right of the water glass and slightly downward, while the red wine glass should go to the right and slightly above the white wine glass. If you are using place cards, set them above the dessert spoon.

table linens

Everything on your table should be crisp. Placing a terry cloth towel on your ironing board can make starching and ironing table linens easier. While white linens are still considered the most formal, colored or patterned tablecloths or placemats, and napkins can be just as elegant. Tablecloths should hang evenly on each end and on the sides. While the average drop is 12 to 18 inches, it may be a little long or short; you just don’t want it hanging too low where it will end up in the diners’ laps.

Setting a table is not as difficult as it may seem, just follow our tips to properly set a table no matter the occasion. Remember, utensils are placed in the order of use, from the outside in. And forks go on the left while knives and spoons go on the right. Using Oxford & Wells will ensure that your table linens are always crisp and beautiful. Visit our website to learn how our fine care products can enhance your quality linens.