About the Different Types of Table Settings

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Take the guesswork out of setting a table by following the rules of either a formal or casual table setting. Both types of settings have their own rules for placement of plates, cutlery and glasses. Preparing for a buffet has its own set of guidelines.

Types of Table Settings

Three types of table settings are prevalent, and certain rules apply to all three. Position each place setting 1 inch from the table's edge and allow between 24 and 30 inches for each place setting.

If the place setting is crowded with items needed for the entree, wait until it's time to serve dessert to provide dessert plates and cups for tea or coffee.

Tip

  • It's perfectly acceptable to use a combination of different plates should you not have a full matching set as long as the different plates complement each other.

Formal

  • Position the charger -- 

    the underplate for the plate on which the first course is served -- in the center of the table setting.

  • Place a butter plate on the left of the plate and above the forks. The butter knife is laid on the diagonal on the butter plate.
  • Lay the dinner fork on the left side of the plate. Other forks placed to the left of the dinner fork may include the fish and salad forks.
  • Lay the dinner knife on the right side of the dinner plate. Other knives, placed to the right of the dinner fork, may include the fish and salad knives.
  • Lay the fruit or soup spoon on the right of the knives, if fruit or soup or to be served as the first course.
  • Place glasses on the top right of the place setting. If serving wine, the glass should be above the tip of the knife. Provide three glasses: one for water, one for white wine and one for red wine.
  • Use your discretion when placing the cloth napkin; it can either be on the left of the forks or on the dinner plate.

Tip

  • Always place cutlery in the order in which it is used and always work from the outside in.

Remember

  • If serving shellfish, lay the oyster fork on the right side of the spoons. The oyster fork is the only fork on the right side of the plate.
  • Think of the acronym “FORKS” when creating the proper order for the place setting: F is for Fork, O is for the round shape of the plate, K is for Knives, and S is for Spoons.

Casual

  • Place the dinner plate in the center of the place setting.
  • Position two forks, a dinner fork and smaller salad or appetizer fork, on the left of the plate.
  • Paper napkins are appropriate, but they should be folded and placed beneath the forks.
  • Place the dinner knife on the right of the plate with the blade facing the plate.
  • Lay the spoons to the right of the dinner knife in the order the spoons will be used, such as the soup spoon for the soup course, followed by the teaspoon for stirring coffee. The dessert spoon will be used last and will be closest to the dinner knife.
  • Place two glasses on the top right of the place setting, one glass for water and another for wine.

Tip

  • Use a place mat for each setting. Not only will it look more appealing, but the mat will make it easier to position the plate, glasses and utensils.

Remember

  • The salad plate is always on the left side of the forks.
  • If serving any sort of bread, serve it on its plate, which is positioned above the fork(s). Lay the butter knife on the bread plate at a diagonal with the blade facing downward.

Buffet

The rules for buffet table settings aren't as stringent, but you should adhere to a few guidelines when setting your buffet table:

  • Place the stack of plates and then the side dishes, main dish, salad, bread and condiments.
  • Place the utensils at the end of the table. Wrap a fork, spoon and knife in a napkin and secure them with a napkin ring.
  • Set the glasses, cups and dessert items on another table. This will avoid congestion.
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