Tip of the Day: Properly Setting the Table

This is a question that I am often asked as people host their first more formal dinner party. It is actually quite simple and practical.


Everything goes in the order that it would be used.

Start by placing the dinner plate at the center of that guest’s place setting. Place the salad plate on top (this could also be a charger underneath the dinner plate, either way). Next place the napkin to the left of the plate (the napkin could also be placed on top of the plates) with the dinner fork closest to the plate, then the salad or appetizer fork on the outside. On the right, the knife goes closest to the plate and the spoon on the outside. Water and wine glasses go above the knife with the wine glass closest to the guests right hand (just think, you want them to drink more wine so you put the glass in a more easily accessible place).

The bread and butter plate and butter knife go either above the forks or to the left of the forks. As for dessert cutlery, the easiest way to remember is that the pieces would slide down into the correct position for usage by the correct hand. Meaning, the bottom of the dessert fork is on the left and the bottom of the dessert spoon is on the right.

For a more elaborate table setting from the Emily Post Institute,

The below illustration is from The Emily Post Institute


  1. Service Plate: This large plate, also called a charger, serves as an underplate for the plate holding the first course, which will be brought to the table. When the first course is cleared, the service plate remains until the plate holding the entrée is served, at which point the two plates are exchanged. The charger may serve as the underplate for several courses which precede the entrée.
  2. Butter plate: The small butter plate is placed above the forks at the left of the place setting.
  3. Dinner fork: The largest of the forks, also called the place fork, it is placed on the left of the plate. Other smaller forks for other courses are arranged to the left or right of the dinner fork, according to when they will be used.
  4. Fish fork: If there is a fish course, this small fork is placed farthest to the left of the dinner fork because it is the first fork used.
  5. Salad fork: If salad is served after the entrée, the small salad fork is placed to the right of the dinner fork, next to the plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the forks would be arranged (left to right): salad fork, fish fork, dinner fork.
  6. Dinner knife: The large dinner knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate.
  7. Fish knife: The specially shaped fish knife goes to the right of the dinner knife.
  8. Salad knife: (Note: there is no salad knife in the illustration.) If used, according to the above menu, it would be placed to the left of the dinner knife, next to the dinner plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the knives would be arranged (left to right):dinner knife, fish knife, salad knife.
  9. Soup spoon or fruit spoon: If soup or fruit is served as a first course, then the accompanying spoon goes to the right of the knives.
  10. Oyster fork: If shellfish are to be served, the oyster fork is set to the right of the spoons. Note: It is the only fork ever placed on the right of the plate.
  11. Butter knife: This small spreader is paced diagonally on top of the butter plate, handle on the right and blade down.
  12. Glasses: These can number up to five and are placed so that the smaller ones are in front. The water goblet (la) is placed directly above the knives. Just to the right goes a champagne flute (lb); In front of these are placed a red (lc) and/or white (ld) wine glass and a sherry glass (le)
  13. Napkin: The napkin is placed on top of the charger (if one is used) or in the space for the plate.


Filed under entertaining, Food, Home Keeping, How To, Tip of the Day

15 responses to “Tip of the Day: Properly Setting the Table

  1. Nancy

    Thanks for the advice on how to place the dessert fork/spoon. I’ve never been able to remember which one faces which direction. Now I’ll always remember.

  2. Eileen

    I noticed you reference The Emily Post Institute for your images of formal table settings. What did you have to do get permission for the images? Thanks, Eileen

  3. Georgina

    I really appreciate this information. It is very
    necessary all women to know the proper table setting, good manners protocol, etc.
    I was very lucky to attend to one of the best schools in my country and I started learning it when I was in third grade.
    It was an important impact in my adult life to the point that I owned a catering service for 20 years
    and it was run with a lot of success
    Thank you, Eileen

  4. Robbie

    Recently I’d seen a gentleman show how to postion the dinner knife. He had placed it blade out opposite to your diagrams. Is this correct or not. I had someone ask me that question when we were setting up for a large dinner.
    Thanks for you help with this.

  5. Forks are never place on top of the napkin. It forces the guest to have to move the fork(s) to access the napkin, which is used first.

  6. I’ve been looking for this precise info on this topic for a while.

  7. Pingback: The Elegant Setting | The Elegant Blog

  8. thank you for the tips you have shown on the table settings.:)

  9. samantha

    i really i like to know about table setting

  10. Corning made wine glasses seem to be the best! they are tough and have great designs .

  11. those thick and heavy borosilicate wine glasses are the best but they are very expensive ,:, `~.

  12. Ronnal

    A well set dinning with good ambiance coupled with taste food makes a good Hotel. Hotels should really be well set. Hotel setting should also be a standard for rating.

    Please provide more printable information that can be used by Hotel and catering Institutions. I would appreciate if i received some of that information as well.

    This is really good information that Hotels need to use to style up.

  13. Oh! i’m glad to see your webpage i’ve been looking for it for a long time i love your picture and your table set it’s amazing how you colocate all the cups and cutlery i love your website.
    we are in contact send me an e-mail 😉

  14. Thank you for your description, we are very happy to read this in our english class.
    we are a group of students of vocational studies in Catering in Barcelona, now we are practising how to set a table in english ( we are Spanish people ) so thank you very much.
    Why do people never think about left handed guests?
    This is our question for you.

    bye, we’re in contact.

  15. Hello, Could someone help me with this question please. When I set a formal table, I use stemmed water, champaign,red, and white wine glasses for the place setting. However, some people like to have ginger ale or soda. Should I use a highball or an old fashion glass or a stemmed water or ice tea glass. Thank you for your help Theresa

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