Prepare your table carefully
Setting a Formal Dinner Table
1. Put down the placemat. Put a placemat in front of each of the chairs you’ve set up for your guests.
For a true formal dinner setting, you should have enough matching placemats for all of the guests, and the placemats should also match the tablecloth.
2. Place the napkin on the left side of the placemat. Fold the napkin into halves or fourths, depending on the napkin. The napkin should be ideally made of cloth. You can also fold your napkin to the left of the forks after you put them down.
3. Place the plate in the center of the placemat. It should cover just the right side of the napkin. If you want to have a fancy setting, use ceramic plates.
4. Place the dinner fork and salad fork on the napkin. The dinner fork should be very close to the plate without touching it, and the salad fork should be just a centimeter or so to the left of the dinner fork. The tines of the forks should be pointing away from the diner.
- If you forget where each fork should go, just think of the order in which you would eat your meals. You would have your salad before your dinner, and you should eat from the outside in, using the utensils from left to right, so the salad fork would go to the left of the dinner fork.
- Remember that you should be eating with the utensils from the outside in, starting with the ones on the outside of the plate and working your way closer to the plate until the end of the meal.
5. Place the knife to the right of the plate. The knife should be pointing away from the diner and the cutting edge should be facing the plate.
- If you mix up where the forks and knife should go, just think of how a right-handed person would use a fork and knife to cut something. If you sit down and mimic the gesture, you’ll see that you would pick up the fork with your left hand and the knife with your right, so that’s where each utensil should go.
6. Place the teaspoon to the right of the knife. The teaspoon will be used for stirring coffee or tea at the end of the meal.
7. Place the soup spoon to the right of the teaspoon. Do this if the first course will be soup so that this will be the first utensil you pick up when you have your soup.
- Note that in some traditional settings, the soup spoon is actually larger than the teaspoon.
8. Place the wine glass on the top right corner of the placemat. To place an additional glass for water, just position it above and to the left of the drinking glass. The tip of the knife should be pointing to the water glass.
9. Add any additional plates and utensils that you may need. If your meal includes more courses or items, you may need to add the following additional plates and utensils:
- A bread and butter plate and knife. Place this small round plate about five inches above the forks. Place a small knife horizontally over the plate, with the blade facing to the left.
- A dessert fork and spoon. Place the small dessert fork and spoon horizontally a few inches above the plate, with the spoon on top of the fork facing left, and the fork facing right.
- A coffee cup. Place the coffee cup over a small saucer a few inches above the outermost utensil on the left and a few inches to the left of it.
- A red and white wine glass. If you have two different glasses, then the white wine glass will be the one closer to the guest, and the red wine glass will be slightly above and to the left of the white wine glass. You can remember this because guests should move from white to red wine.