How to Fold Napkins for a Formal Dinner Party


Well-folded napkins add a touch of elegance and style to a table set for formal dining. Although there are many folding styles from which to choose, some, like the pyramid and fan, are more popular than others. The folding styles vary in complexity and some are elaborate enough to require more than one napkin. Napkins that are square and properly starched provide the best folds.


  • Lay the napkin flat in the shape of a diamond with the seams facing up. Fold the napkin in half by bringing the bottom point to the top point so that it becomes a triangle.

  • Take the left corner of the triangle to the top point. Repeat with the right corner. The napkin should look like a diamond again with a line down the center.

  • Turn the diamond over. Fold it in half by taking the bottom corner to the top point. The napkin should look like a triangle again.

  • Pick the triangle up and fold it in half along the line in the middle with the loose edges to the inside. Place the napkin on a plate on its base and release the sides so that the napkin remains standing. It should look like a pyramid.


  • Place the napkin on a flat surface with the seams facing up and fold it in half vertically from right to left. The fold will be on the right side.

  • Form 1-inch accordion pleats by alternating folds over and under with the bottom two-thirds of the napkin. Leave the upper one-third free.

  • Fold the napkin in half, from the right to the left side, with the pleats on the outside. Hold the pleats together with your left hand.

  • Fold the whole thickness on the top left corner down diagonally with your right hand. It should extend past the napkin by about 1 inch. Tuck this excess fabric under the fold to make a supportive wedge for the fan to rest on.

  • Place the napkin on a plate or on the dining table resting on the wedge. Release the pleats so they fan out. Note that the more pleats the napkin has, the more it will resemble a fan.


  • Fold the napkin in half vertically with the seams facing in, then in half again horizontally.

  • Place the napkin so that the three free points are at the bottom and the folded point is on top.

  • Fold the top point over so that it is in the center of the two points at either side.

  • Fold the left point a little past the center, over the middle point. Fold the right point over, also a little past center and over the left point.

  • Turn the napkin over and place it on a plate.

Goblet Fan

  • Lay the napkin flat with the seams facing up. Fold the napkin in half from right to left.

  • Form 1-inch accordion pleats by alternating folds over and under from the bottom to the top of the folded napkin.

  • Pick the pleated napkin up and fold the left side in about one inch. Place the napkin in a drinking glass, folded part first. Spread the pleats out so the napkin looks like a fan.

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  • "The Simple Art of Napkin Folding: 94 Fancy Folds for Every Tabletop Occasion"; Linda Hetzer; William Morrow Cookbooks, 2001
  • Bright Settings: Napkin Folding
  • Photo Credit Diner image by daly from Red table setting with wine image by jeanniner9 from wedding flowers with cup image by Allen Penton from
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