What Side of the Plate Do You Place the Napkin on When Setting a Table?

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When you are setting a table, whether for a casual family dinner or a formal event, knowing the proper place to put the utensils, plates, glasses and napkins ensures you have a pleasing and welcoming table for your guests. While there are many variations when it comes to setting a table, traditionally, napkins go on the left side of the plate under the fork or on top of the plate.


Proper Napkin Placement

When setting the table for an everyday dinner or a casual meal, ‌the napkin should be placed on the left side of the plate‌, underneath the forks. The napkin should be about 1 inch away from the plate, and the folded side of the napkin should be on the right, facing the plate. You can also roll the napkin and put it in a napkin ring and place it on the table to the left of the plate and the fork.

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For a formal dinner, you will typically place the folded napkin on top of the plate. This placement is also acceptable for more casual place settings.

An easy way to fold the napkin is to fold it in half three times. The first fold turns the square napkin into a rectangle. The second fold makes the napkin a square shape, and the third fold makes the napkin a rectangle again. You can also experiment with other more decorative folding techniques for your napkins.


Finish Setting the Table

Setting the table for a casual meal is quite simple. The plate goes in the center directly in front of the guest. The fork is placed to the left of the plate, often on top of the napkin. To the right of the plate, place the knife with the sharp edge facing the plate. The spoon goes to the right of the knife. Finally, place the glass above and to the right of the plate.


Formal place settings can be a bit more complex, but they follow the same basic pattern. Add a salad plate on top of the dinner plate in the center of the setting. The water glass goes on the top right of the place setting with the wine glass set slightly behind the water glass. On the top left of the setting, position the bread plate.


Forks go to the left of the plate with the salad fork positioned to the left of the dinner fork. Position the knife and spoon as you would a casual place setting. Finally, place a dessert spoon horizontally directly above the dinner plate.

Napkin Etiquette During a Meal

Once you have properly set the table, you are prepared to impress your guests and enjoy the meal and the company. As a part of good table manners, there are some tips when it comes to using your napkin during a meal.


When you sit down, place the napkin in your lap. Unfold the napkin until it is folded in half. The folded part of the napkin should be at the top toward your waist, with the open end toward your knees. Use only the top half of the napkin as needed. If you leave the table, place the napkin on your chair until you return. When you finish your meal, place the unfolded napkin to the left of your plate.


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