How to Set a Table: Where Do the Plates, Forks, Spoons, Etc. Go?

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A proper table setting is simple to complete.
A proper table setting is simple to complete. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Preparing to dine at a table that has been properly set is almost magical. Whether or not you are a “foodie,” you can still appreciate the way a table looks when its plates, bowls and utensils are laid out on the table for you to enjoy. Part of the beauty of sitting down to a proper setting is that it tells you a bit about what you are going to eat, since seeing certain utensils and plates can give you an idea of what is on the menu. Fortunately, setting a table is rather simple and can be quickly completed when guests are coming or even just when it's dinner for one.

Things You'll Need

  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Forks
  • Knives
  • Spoons
  • Glasses
  • Napkins

Place a charger plate in front of each chair, about ½ inch away from the edge of the table. Also called a show plate, the charger is often used to serve one course, such as the appetizer or main dish, and then it is removed. Chargers aren't required; however, they prevent guests from sitting down to a bare table. Place the soup or salad bowls on top of the chargers.

Place the forks that will be used last — the main course forks — closest to the left sides of the plates, about ½ inch away from the plates. If you are serving additional courses, such as a salad, place those forks to the left of the main course forks. Set the dessert fork above the plate with its prongs facing to the right and the dessert spoon above it, with the spoon end pointing toward the left. Situate the knives next to the right sides of the plates, with their blades facing the dishes. Place the spoons to the right of the knives. If you are serving soup, place an additional spoon to the right of the existing spoon at each setting. Guests will know that if they see two forks and two spoons at their settings, they are likely about to dine on both soup and salad with their meals.

Place a small bread plate to the top left of each main plate if you are serving rolls or another bread item. Lay a small knife across the plate if butter or another spreadable substance will be offered.

Set the glass to the top right of the plate, directly above the knife. If you are also serving a hot beverage, place the cup and saucer to the right of the glass. If you are serving wine with the meal, place the wine glass to the left of the water glass. If you are serving two types of wine — both red and white — the white wine glass goes next to the water glass, and the red sits next to the white.

Tips & Warnings

  • Either place each napkin on top of the plate or fold it and place it underneath the forks.

References

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