The 3 Table Settings You Need to Know

Whether it is knowing how to set the table properly or being knowledgeable of your place setting at an event, learning these three traditional types of table settings will help you in any dining situation!

Basic Table Setting

Photo Credit: Emily Post

Basic Table Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This table setting is to be used on an everyday basis. Whether hosting a casual luncheon or setting the table for your family dinner in the evening, this is perfect!
  • An easy way to remember the placement is B – M – W
    • The Bread plate (or salad plate) is to the left of the main plate.
    • The Main plate is in the center of the place setting.
    • The Water glass is to the right of the main plate.
  • Use a simple 3-piece flatware setting – Fork to the left of the plate. Knife and Spoon to the right of the plate with the knife closest to the plate (blade facing it).
    • A butter knife should be added to the bread plate if rolls are being served.
  • Always remember your Essential Table Manners!

Informal Place Setting

Diagram Credit: Emily Post

Informal Place Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This place setting is used for informal three-course dinner (soup/salad, main course, dessert).
    • (a): This is where the plate will be placed.
    • (b): Two Forks – The smaller fork to the outside is for salad. The larger fork to the inside is for the main course.
    • (c): Napkin – Once seated, place the napkin on your lap.
    • (d): Knife – The knife is placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate). You may use this knife throughout all courses, but not for your bread and butter (review (h)).
    • (e): Two Spoons – The rounder, larger spoon to the outside is for soup. The spoon to the inside is for dessert.
    • (f): Glassware: The water glass is to the left. The wine (or alternate beverage) is to the right.
    • (g): Salad Plate – If salad is served as the first course, this plate will take position (a). If salad is to be served during the main course, you do not have to set a separate plate, you can put it on the dinner plate. NOTE: Some people prefer to have their salad on it’s own plate so the dressing does not get on the other food; therefore, a salad plate is a good idea!
    • (h): Bread Plate and Knife – Be sure to use your butter knife to spread the butter, not your dinner knife (d).
    • Dessert Flatware – Not shown here. Typically, a dessert fork and teaspoon will be provided prior to dessert being served. If you prefer to set the table with the dessert flatware out, place both pieces of flatware above the dinner plate with the spoon on top (handle facing to the right) and the fork below (handle facing to the left).
    • (j): Coffee Cup and Saucer – This does not have to be placed on the table for the entire meal. If you prefer it is, place it to the upper left of the dinner plate on the outside of the glassware and flatware. If you prefer to bring out the coffee after the meal, set the cup and saucer in that place then pour the coffee.

Formal Place Setting

Diagram Credit: Emily Post

Formal Place Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This place setting is used for the most formal of occasions which typically have several courses.
  • NOTE: This is just one example of a formal place setting. Depending on what food is being served, and how many courses this place setting and the utensils may vary. The guiding rule for flatware is: set the flatware so you “work from the outside, in.”
    • (a): Service Plate or “Charger”: This plate is stationary throughout the early courses and serves as an underplate for all courses prior to the main course. When the main course is served, the charger will be removed for the main dish to take it’s place.
    • (b): Bread Plate – Sometimes, individual butter slices/balls will already be placed on this plate.
    • (c): Dinner Fork – Use this for the main course.
    • (d): Appetizer/First Course Fork: Depending on what is being served, the smaller fork to the outside is used for the first course(s).
    • (e): Salad Fork: If the salad is served following the main course, it is set to the inside of the dinner fork (as shown above); however, if it served prior to the main course, it should go on the outside.
      • Dinner Order: Salad, First Course, Main Meal – Set the forks in the order listed (Left to Right) with the salad fork the furthest to the left of the plate and dinner fork closest to the plate.
      • Dinner Order: First Course, Main Meal, Salad – Set the forks as the diagram shows.
    • (f): Dinner Knife – Use this for the main course. The knife is placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate).
    • (g): Fish Knife – Only include this in the table setting if fish is being served.
    • Salad Knife: Not shown here. Just like the placement of the salad fork with the others, this depends on order of the courses.
      • Dinner Order: Salad, First Course, Main Course – Set the knives with the salad knife the furthest to the right of the plate and dinner knife (blade facing in) closest to the plate.
      • Dinner Order: First Course, Main Course, Salad – Set the knives with the salad knife the closest to the right of the plate and first course knife furthest from the plate.
      • All knives should be placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate).
    • (i): Soup or Fruit Spoon – Only include this in the table setting if soup or fruit is being served as one of the initial courses.
    • (j): Oyster Fork – Only include this in the table setting if oysters are being served. This is the only fork placed to the right of the charger, all others forks are always placed to the left.
    • (k): Butter Knife – Be sure to use your butter knife to spread the butter, not one of the other knives.
    • (l): Glassware
      • (la): Water Glass
      • (lc): Red Wine Glass
      • (ld): White Wine Glass
      • (le): Champagne Flute or Sherry Glass: Only include this if there will be a champagne toast or if a desert wine is being served.
    • (m): Napkin – Once seated, place the napkin on your lap.
    • Dessert Flatware – Not shown here. Typically, a dessert fork and teaspoon will be placed prior to dessert being served. When placed, both pieces of flatware go above where the plate will be placed with the spoon on top (handle facing to the right) and the fork below (handle facing to the left).
    • Coffee Cup and Saucer – Not shown here. This will be served after the meal and set to the upper right of the dessert plate.

I know that seems like a lot, but just remember to review these on a case-by-case basis! For occasions involving both informal settings and formal settings, review my 8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips!

As I mentioned, there will be changes to these place settings. What variations to place settings have you seen?

Last, but not least – A little added fun, perfect for this topic! Check out this lovely “Preppy Fixins” Tee by Lauren James!

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

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