Hosting 101: A Guide to Proper Place Setting
May 18, 2021
Christner’s understands the value of an exquisite dining experience at our restaurant or at home. Whether you’re hosting a formal dinner or an impromptu gathering, it’s fun to treat guests with a stunning tablescape. Table setting may seem complicated at first. There are a number of ways to place flatware, plates, napkins, and glassware. It’s tough to know where to begin. Christner’s is here to help ease the stress of hosting. Our easy guide to elegance lets you focus on what is really important: food, family, and friends.
Etiquette enthusiasts and prospective super-hosts, look no further. Here are our instructions for setting a basic, casual and formal table.
“Once you realize table setting is based on logic, things become less intimidating,” says etiquette consultant Pamela Hillings.
Before going into different layouts, let’s start with the basics. Even experts were once beginners too.
Utensils Are Placed in the Order of Use
Guests should begin eating their meal by using flatware from the outside, working their way toward the plate as the meal continues.
Forks on the Left, Knives and Spoons on the Right
The rule does come with an exception—the oyster fork—which is placed to the right of the setting if needed for the meal.
Only Set the Table With Utensils You Need
Serving fish as your main? You probably won’t need to include a soup spoon on your display.
As a general rule, only set out the glassware, tableware, and flatware that you’re going to be using. It isn’t ideal for the table to be overcrowded with unnecessary utensils.
The next step is to consider the formality of the occasion, as this finalizes your choice of setting: basic, casual, or informal.
The basic setting is perfect for an everyday dinner or weekend breakfast. You have seen it before, whether it be in a diner or a family restaurant, making it the most appropriate for casual events.
Sometimes including an attractive placemat or a coffee placement, the basic setting welcomes your guests with open arms while giving them the utensils they need.
- Place the dinner plate at the center.
- Arrange the flatware around the plate.
- Remember to position the fork on the left, the knife on the right (with the sharp edge facing the plate), and then the spoon to the right of the knife.
- Set the water glass in the upper, right-hand corner, above the knife.
- The napkins can be placed underneath the fork or on top of the plate. Expert Advice: Choose to put it on top of the plate (when guests pull napkins underneath forks, they create a lot of noise).
Casual Table Setting
Similar to the layout of the basic setting, the casual (or informal) setting is commonly used at banquets and luncheons. You may have seen it before, whether it be at a wedding table or in a more contemporary, casual restaurant. This setting enhances the dining experience, making it ideal for a more spontaneous get-together or more laid-back dinner party.
The casual setting is designed for three courses. The flatware provided will be enough for a soup or salad, main course, and dessert.
- Place a serving plate in the middle of the table.
- Position the bread plate at the top left of the serving plate. A butter knife should be placed on top of the bread plate. The blade should face downward, with the handle toward the right.
- On the left of the serving plate, place the salad fork on the outside and the dinner fork inside.
- On the right, work from the outside in, setting the teaspoon, soup spoon, and then finally a dinner knife.
- The water glass should be just above the dinner knife.
- Position the wine glass to the right of the water glass.
Formal Table Setting
The epitome of elegance, the formal table setting can be found in fine dining restaurants and more proper events (think black-tie and ball gowns).
Though this may sound overwhelming, you have already learned the format of a casual table. Now, all you need to do is apply your new knowledge and add in just a few more steps to achieve a formal look.
A key difference between a formal and casual table setting is the use of charger plates – a large, decorative base setting on top of which other dinnerware is placed.
This setting is the best option for a six-course meal and caters for an appetizer, soup, salad, a starch, a protein, and, of course, a decadent dessert.
- Place a crisp tablecloth on the table (the colors of formal dining are white, ivory, ecru and sometimes pastel). Expert Advice: For continuity, match the color of the napkins to the tablecloth.
- Follow Step 1-3 for a casual setting.
- Place silverware on the right side in this order, from the inside out: a dinner knife, salad knife, soup spoon, and teaspoon.
- All flatware should be evenly spaced, and the bottoms should line up with the bottom of the serving plate.
- The dessert spoon should be placed directly above the serving plate, in horizontal alignment with the handle facing the right.
- Place a water glass above the dinner knife.
- Place the white wine glass below the water glass and slightly to the right.
- Place the red wine glass above the white wine glass and slightly to the right.
- A cup and saucer should be placed above the soup spoon and slightly to the right.
Make It Your Own
It’s time to use the finest china and host your special occasion.
Now that you understand the fundamental format, you can add your individual touch—whether it be folding napkins decoratively, adding colorful glassware, or matching plates creatively. The result? A beautiful tablescape, which is enhanced and appreciated by good food and even better company.