Which Side Does the Fork Go on Again? Table Setting 101

Even the best entertainers forget how to set a table. For old pros and novice entertainers, we put together a quick primer on how to set a table.

With any big holiday or celebration, we know you want to have your table looking as good as possible! Along with the candles and centerpiece, setting the table can set the scene for a great dinner party so we put together some handy tips for getting it right.

Formal vs. Informal Place Settings

If you've forgotten how to set a table, you first need to determine how fancy your dinner is going to be. Typically, the more courses your dinner entails, the more special flatware and plates are required. That said, you shouldn't put out every piece of cutlery that you have; just put out the utensils you need for the foods you're actually serving.

Getting Started: Spacing

You want your guests to be comfortable at the table, and part of making them comfortable is giving them enough space. It's important to leave about two feet of space between the center of each place setting and the next, so each of your guests has an ample amount of elbow room. Since the main dinner plate is the center of the place setting, use that plate's position as the center marker for measuring the distance.

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Basic Table Setting

The bare-bones, basic table setting is: Single plate in the middle, the fork to the left of the plate, the knife to the right of the plate and the spoon to the right of the knife. The blade of the knife should face the plate. The best way to remember this is by the brand stamp on the knife. The stamp should always face down so you can't see it. That places the blade of the knife toward the plate — if it's in the right position and you remember it's on the opposite side of the plate as the fork, you'll at least know where the fork and knife go.

Formal Place Setting

Though the formal place setting seems complicated (and sometimes overwhelming), it's actually very practical. What you need to remember about the formal place setting is that the utensils are arranged in the same order as courses, starting on the outside and working their way in. This way you're not knocking around your forks and knives and dropping them on the floor. They can also be cleared away without friction.

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The above image illustrates how a formal place setting should look. From the left side to the right side, the napkin is on the left (1) followed by the salad fork (2) and the dinner fork (3). The dinner plate (4) is the biggest plate and should be on the bottom of the stack of dishes, with the salad plate (5) topping it and the soup bowl (6) on top of that. To the right of the stack of dishes is the dinner knife (7). Next is the the salad knife (8) arranged next to the dinner spoon (9), and finally the soup spoon (10).

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Above the traditional place setting are the extras. The butter knife (11) tops the bread plate (12) which is positioned above the dinner plate and to the left. Directly above the plate are the dessert spoon (13) and dessert fork (14). If the formal setting is too cumbersome, you can provide the dessert fork and spoon when dessert is served. Also remember that if there's something you're not serving, you shouldn't put out the utensil that goes with it (No soup? Don't put out a soup spoon.).

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Cups And Glasses

Drinkware should be placed on the upper right-hand side of the place setting, with the largest glass placed closest to the center of the setting. The water glass is the biggest (15) followed by the red wine glass (16) and the smaller white wine glass (17). Like with the plates and utensils, put out only the glasses you will be using. That means if you're not serving white wine, you don't need to put out the white wine glass.

Recipes For Your Celebratory Dinner

Now that you've got the table ready to impress, put out some fancy dinner napkins, pop a few bottles of wine, and let your dinner do the talking! Here are some great free recipes for a celebratory dinner party:


unsalted butter, large eggs, all purpose flour, warm water, kosher salt and 2 more
water, levain, kosher salt, bread flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour
active dry yeast, all-purpose flour, salt, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and 2 more


bulk sausage, wonton wrappers, ranch salad dressing, shredded pepper jack cheese and 1 more
balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, peaches, extra-virgin olive oil and 3 more
proscuitto, cantaloupe, basil leaves, black pepper


granulated garlic, baby arugula, grated Parmesan cheese, olive oil and 3 more
grapefruit, roasted beets, fresh mint, goat cheese, EVOO, hazelnuts and 2 more

Main Course

bone-in ribeye (rib) pork chops, black pepper, dried thyme leaves and 3 more
salt, grape seed oil, veal chops, pesto
grated Parmesan cheese, olive oil, parsley flakes, fish fillet and 2 more

Side Dishes

tomatoes, salt, olive oil, garlic, fresh parsley, cauliflower and 3 more
black pepper, olive oil, fresh brussels sprouts, salt, garlic powder and 2 more
turmeric, salt, onion, grated Parmesan, goat cheese, olive oil and 4 more


coconut oil, sea salt, raw cashews, vanilla extract, almond milk and 2 more
sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil, milk, vanilla, salt, eggs and 5 more
vanilla, mascarpone, powdered sugar, milk, caramel sauce, sliced almonds and 1 more