How To Set The Table Properly

For special occasions or when you have guests over, setting the table properly can add to a meal's charm. With all the extra utensils and tableware, though, it can be hard remembering where exactly everything should go. Here are some guidelines for proper table setting.

Lizzie Post, great great granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post offers the video above for how to set a family dinner table based on your menu. She points out that you can place the dessert spoon to the right or at the top of the plate, and that the fold of the napkin should be closest to the plate.

The basic rule of thumb for all place settings is to "begin at the outside and work in" - utensils should be placed in the order they're served, from the farthest away from the plate to the inside. So the smaller appetizsr fork would be furthest from the plate on the left and the dinner fork right next to the plate.

This cheat sheet from Rachel Ray Magazine shows the anatomy of a place setting for when you're dining out and don't know whose goblet is whose, but it can also help you remember setting a table properly.

Tips to remember include:

  • The bread plate goes to the left of the plate - touching your index finger and thumbs together, your left hand forms a "b" shape for bread. (Oz editor note: my simpler method to remember is that, contrary to expectation, it's not the side where your knife is.)
  • To the right of the plate should be the knife and spoon - both have five letters, just like the word "right." On the left, four letters, is the fork area.
  • The knife will point to the water glass, with wine glasses to the right.

Another table-setting piece of etiquette is that the knife edge should always face the plate.

Finally, your place settings may vary by what you're serving (so if you're not having soup, don't place a soup bowl). Bright Settings has a form you can use to check the items you'll be serving and get back an illustration of how to set the table. Here's an example of a really formal setting that includes everything:

Have any other tips for setting a pretty table or remembering proper settings? Share them with us in the comments.


    this is sooo old fashioned. Go chinese you only need a pair of chopsticks!

    For all these info-graphs, and in the video, you use the cutlery from the inside out (as I have always thought), not the outside in as you have mentioned in the article!!

      you work your way from the outside in...

      so soup-entrée is outside the main course knife etc.

      We got taught to eat from outside in. We got taught from Parliament House.

        Absolutely. Outside in is correct.

    you have made an error , unless practices have changed dramatically, you have neglected to place 2 knives . There should a knife for the main course and a butter knife, you have placed it on the plate, or , at the head of the main plate , as in the first image ,i was taught in no uncertain terms that the butter knife was to be presented alongside the main knife, love to hear your thoughts

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