Table-Setting Tips for Your Next Party

Table-Setting TipsHolidays can be stressful especially if you’re hosting a party. If you’re planning on entertaining this season, take a few tips from Rosemarie Burns and Linda Reed, authors of “Which Fork Do I Use? Confident and Comfortable Dining.”

Here’s some of their advice on the basics of setting the table:

A well-dressed table enhances the dining experience. Setting the table is like getting dressed. You select an outfit that suits the occasion. In the same way, you choose a place setting that is appropriate to your menu.

Tasteful accessories complement your attire and express your individuality; likewise, linens and your centerpiece enhance the table’s appearance. Your desired result — a stunning look that sets the dining mood.

Choose your menu first: The menu determines what dinnerware, glassware and flatware you set at each place setting. If, for example, you are not serving champagne at your brunch, eliminate setting the champagne flute.

For the place setting: Align it so that the middle of the dinner plate or charger is centered in the middle of each chair, set one inch away from the table edge. Allow a comfortable amount of space for each place setting; 24 inches from the center of one plate to another is adequate.

(Place setting, also known as a cover, is the individual diner’s section of the table that contains drink glasses, flatware, plates and napkin. Place-setting items may be all one pattern or mix-and-match.)

Napkins may be cloth or paper, and are part of each setting. Place napkins on the left side of the forks (if folded, the crease faces the plate), under or on top of the dinner plate.

You may place the napkin under the forks on the left side of the place setting if you are restricted by space or setting the table outside where the wind might blow the napkins away. It is confusing to diners as to whose napkin is whose if you place napkins in a drink glass.

No. 1 table-setting rule: Place flatware on the table in the order it will be used. Flatware used first is on the farthest left and farthest right sides of the plate. Forks are placed on the left of the dinner plate and knives and spoons are placed on the right. The diner will work from the outside in as the courses are served.

Common mistakes:

  • Placing a teaspoon on the table when it will not be used for any part of the meal.
  • Setting a salad fork as part of the place setting when salad is served on the same plate as the rest of the dinner. For example, a salad fork is not necessary when the salad, steak and baked potato are all served on the same plate.

Rosemarie Burns and Linda Reed, owners of Manners Simply, are certified to instruct in several areas related to etiquette and dining and have been teaching seminars to all sorts of audiences. For more dining etiquette, whether you’re the host or the guest, check out “Which Fork Do I Use? Confident and Comfortable Dining.”

This article has been adapted from excerpts from "Which Fork Do I Use?" (reprinted with permission).