How To Set Tableware: A Detailed Guide

By Bridget Reed

Feb 24, 2022

How To Set Tableware: A Detailed Guide

 May 2022 be the year of wonderful dinner parties with your beloved friends and family.


After having to spend so long at home separated from those that mean the most to you in life, it is such a wonderful feeling to have the opportunity to gather everyone around the dinner table again.


This is even more exciting because you get a chance to show off the skills you have learned from the recent online cooking class you took. And while there are quite a few intricate steps to making a fabulous meal, there are equally important steps to take when it comes to being able to create the ultimate tablescape.


In fact, many of the best chefs will all agree that the presentation of the food is just as important as the cooking process itself. And this just does not mean serving it up on the best dinnerware. But it means that you need to actually learn how to set a table for the type of culinary experience you want to produce.


And there are so many different tableware essentials that you will need to incorporate into your own table layout. Formal table setting requires plenty of key components: the tablecloth, glassware, soup spoons, and flatware are just a few. It can at times feel a bit overwhelming to know where you start. You have already done so much prep in the kitchen that you want to make sure the food gets the justice it deserves when set on the table.


So we are here to help share the ultimate guide on formal table setting, casual table setting, and everything in between. This way you can confidently break out your tableware and create a dream table setting that will wow those at your dinner table as much as the food itself.


Here is everything you need to know about setting your tableware for every occasion.


The Everyday Dinner Setting

Chances are you eat at least the majority of your meals at home. So you will need to have your go-to dinner setting down pact so that it is simple, clutter-free, and makes for a nice way to wrap up your day. Basic table setting should involve the following.


1. Lay Out the Placemats

These simple yet practical pieces of fabric instantly elevate every meal. Pick ones that are easy to clean and make for a cheerful ambiance. Opt for formal place settings for fancy dinners and special occasions.


2. Dinner Plate in the Middle

You likely will not need a lot of tableware for the everyday meal. But you will need at least the dinner plates. Make sure that this goes in the very centre of the placemat. The knife should be on the right side of the plate and the fork should be on the left. We’ll cover more about laying out utensils below.


3. Sort Out the Utensils

Based on what you are serving up for dinner, select the appropriate utensils needed. Chances are you will at least need a fork and knife. The knife always goes to the right of the dinner plate, with the fork always going to the left. If you do use a spoon too, this goes on the right-hand side with the knife.

Certain meals might require extra utensils, from a teaspoon or dessert fork to less common items like a fish forkfish knife, or an oyster fork. If you’re sticking with an informal table setting, you shouldn’t have to worry about these.


4. Include a Water Glass

At the very least, include a water glass at the table too. At a formal dinner table, the glass will go to the right corner at the top of the plate and sit above your dinner knife. Of course, you can add a wine glass to the left of your plate too, should wine be required at dinner (at the very least, you survived the day so it is well deserved).


5. Don’t Forget the Napkin

No matter how casual dinner is, you do not want to be wiping your hands on your clothes. So take the time to lay out the napkins as well. This can either go on top of the dinner plate or underneath where your fork is. When you sit down, it will go on your lap anyway — so the choice is yours.


The Fancy Dinner Party

Now, the main principles for laying out tableware will likely be the same for fancy dinner parties. The only difference is that you will actually be using more tableware — so there are more steps to consider and space to allow for. Here is how you should go about preparing your table for the fancy dinner party.


1. Get Out Your Finer Table Cloths

For a formal dinner party, the table cloths can really set the tone for the whole table arrangement. So get out the best table cloths you own and make sure they are crisp and clean.


2. Add a Charger to the Mix

You will still have the dinner plate on top of the table cloth. But you may want to add some texture and layers to your tableware set up by adding a charger underneath the dinner plate. This will not only allow you to play with colour and design but help elevate the arrangement of the table even more.


3. Bring Out the Bread Plates

When you are serving up a multi-course meal, you will want to ensure that the bread plates are included in the set-up. Nothing starts a meal off better than freshly baked bread and butter. So put the bread plate to the left of the dinner plate and lay the butter knife across the plate in a horizontal manner.


4. Sort Out All the Utensils

Unlike your casual everyday tableware arrangement, you will be bringing out all the different varieties of forks, spoons, and knives for the meal. This means that you will have your dinner fork to the left of the plate still, but then add a salad fork to the left of that. Your knife and spoon will still be placed to the right of the plate, but with the addition of a dessert spoon to the top of the dinner plate.


5. Organize All the Glasses

You will be wanting to show off all your glassware for this fancy occasion. This means you will have your water glass, white wine glass, and red wine glass to the righthand corner of each place setting. Sorted in a practical row, the water glass will be placed closest to the guest, with the white wine next in line and followed up by the red wine glass.

6. Include a Napkin

You want to ensure that all your diners can feast eloquently, so napkins should be included in each of the table settings. To really make it special, try doing a special fold with your napkins or putting a beautiful napkin ring around it before placing it on top of the salad plates. The details really make a difference when it comes to table settings for a formal occasion.


7. Don’t Forget the Place Cards

You have spent so much time organizing every place setting that you want to put the same effort into strategically seating all your guests. The best way to do this is with a place card at each seat, so guests automatically know where they sit. This is typically placed right above where you laid out the dessert spoon.


8. All the Extra Glam Additions

There are other tableware essentials that you simply need to bring out for the formal settings. This includes beautiful bouquets of flowers, candles, and other theming accent pieces that can transform a standard everyday table into a magical formal dinner setting.


Additional Tips for Setting the Tableware

While the above are the general rules for setting a table, there are some other tips to consider when figuring out your design. 


1. Don’t Be Scared To Mix and Match

Remember that your tableware does not all have to be identical. There is something both inviting and unique about using a variety of colours and designs for your dinner plates, chargers, and bread plates. While all different, they can all come together to create a masterpiece.


2. Remember the Dessert Tableware

No special meal is really complete without serving up dessert. So make sure to have your dessert tableware on standby for the final course of the night, even if it is not included in the table setting right away. 

Usually, the dessert is brought out on a special tray with coffee or teacups. When you do this, make sure to clear the other tableware out of the way so the dessert has its time to shine.


3. Design for the Size of the Table

Remember that you want your place settings to actually work with the table you are having your meal at. So keep that in mind when deciding just how much tableware to bring out for the evening and what is absolutely essential to enjoy the meal. Sometimes more really is less when it comes to creating a beautiful table setting.


4. Bring Out All the Wine Glasses

There is no better excuse to dust off the beloved wine glass collection than for a dinner party. So why not give them all a reason to shine that night? It is the perfect time to match each course with a different wine so that even your port glass has a turn in the spotlight.


The Table Is Set

Setting the table is easy when you follow this simple guide. No matter how you decide to do it, just make sure the food is the focal point so that all your hard work from cooking classes and prep in the kitchen has its moment to be appreciated at the table. Banquist offers the best kitchenware, from chef-approved knives to dinner plates. Check out our incredible selection.




How to Set a Table: A Guide to Table Setting | Architectural Digest


Setting the Table 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Creating a Tablescape for Any Type of Gathering | Martha Stewart


How to Shop for Dinnerware | Reviews by Wirecutter| NY Times





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