Setting The Table - A Guide to Proper Place Setting

While it may feel intimidating, setting the table is not as difficult as it seems! If you’re hosting a dinner party, with a few simple rules your dining room will be guest-ready in no time. Arrangement and creativity are key to a pretty place setting.

Flatware may be the trickiest part. If you’re confused about where to place your utensils, just remember to arrange around the plate in order of use. You start with the outermost pieces, then work your way in as the meal proceeds.


Basic Place Setting – a simple, informal setting appropriate for everyday use.


Here’s how we set this casual table:
  • Place your dinner plate one inch from the table’s edge. It can be centered on a placemat and should sit squarely in front of the chair. 
  • Dinner fork belongs on the left side of the plate.
  • The knife is placed on the right, closest to the plate, with the blade facing in. 
  • Spoon goes to the right of the knife. 
  • Put a water glass or mug above the knife.
  • Place a napkin under the fork/on the plate.

Formal Dinner – add to your basic place setting for a three-course dinner. Menu typically includes soup, salad and bread, entrée, coffee and dessert.

  • Start by placing your dinner plate in the middle. If you like, place a charger or service plate underneath for decorative purposes.  
  • Place your forks to the left of the dinner plate (1/2 inch from the plate). The larger fork, used for the main course, is closest to the plate. If you’re serving a salad, place your salad fork to the left of the dinner fork. 
  • Dinner knife sits immediately to the right of the plate, cutting side in. 
  • Spoons go to the right of the knife. If the soup is being served, place the soup spoon on the outside and the dessert spoon in the middle. 
  • Dessert spoons or forks can also be placed horizontally above the dinner plate, European-style (the spoon on top with the handle facing right and the fork below with handle facing left). You may also bring them out to the table with the dessert plates.
  • If the soup is served, set the soup bowl on the dinner plate. 
  • The salad plate sits above the fork, and the bread plate sits above the salad plate. If the soup is not being served, the salad plate can sit on top of the dinner plate. Lay butter spreaders horizontally across the bread plate. 
  • Cup and saucers go next to the spoons with the handle facing right. 
  • Drinking glasses – water, wine – are positioned above the spoons. The wine glasses sit to the right of the water glass (first red, then white). A champagne flute can sit behind the two wine glasses if necessary.
  • A napkin may be folded underneath the forks or put in a napkin ring. 
  • Feel free to add name cards or place cards and/or a centerpiece!