Basic Table Settings

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Whether you will be entertaining guests or cooking a quiet dinner for two, it is nice to know the proper rules of etiquette concerning a basic table setting. Surprisingly, not everyone knows how to set a table appropriately, or even which side of the plate the dinner fork should reside, for that matter. So, if you are unsure of how to set a basic place setting, look no further. And no, the napkin does not rest under the fork to the right of the dinner plate.

Things You'll Need

  • Dinner plates
  • Dinner forks
  • Soup spoons
  • Dinner knives
  • Salad forks
  • Bread plates
  • Water glasses
  • Beverage glasses
  • Napkins
  • Napkin rings
  • Begin by placing the dinner plate in front of each seat at the table. The dinner plate should be dead center and approximately 1 inch away from the edge of the table.

  • Place the dinner fork to the left of the dinner plate, with the dinner knife directly at the dinner plate’s right. If you will be offering soup with dinner, place the soup spoon to the right of the dinner knife. Salad forks are placed on the left, outside the dinner fork.

  • Pour water glasses three quarters of the way full, and place them directly above the dinner knife of each place setting. If you will be serving an additional drink such as soda or wine, these glasses remain empty until the guests are seated and should be placed just above the water glasses.

  • Set any small bread plates directly above the forks, to the left of the dinner plate. Although the bread plate is not a requirement in a basic place setting, it is convenient and guests do prefer to use it if it is available. A butter knife can also be added to the basic table setting by placing it directly on top of the bread plate.

  • Finalize your basic table setting by adding a napkin to each place setting. A napkin either folded in half to form a rectangle or a triangle can be draped neatly on top of the dinner plate. If you would prefer to make your basic table setting a bit fancier, you could choose to place each napkin into a napkin ring before setting it on top of the dinner plate.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you will be serving a fish appetizer, the fish fork should be placed to the right of the spoons.
  • Bear in mind as you add more silverware to your table setting in order to accommodate additional courses that there should be no more than three pieces of silverware on each side of the dinner plate. Any more than this is considered excessive.
  • Photo Credit Jonae Fredericks
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