Table Setting 101

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 guests will 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 the courses of the meal, starting on the outside and working their way in. This way guests aren't fumbling over their forks and knives, and utensils 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:


honey, all purpose flour, warm water, active dry yeast, large eggs and 2 more
rye flour, kosher salt, bread flour, whole wheat flour, water and 1 more
active dry yeast, salt, sunflower seeds, rye flakes, all-purpose flour and 2 more


Sargento Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese, shredded pepper jack cheese and 3 more
balsamic vinegar, red onion, salt, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil and 3 more
black pepper, cantaloupe, proscuitto, basil leaves


baby arugula, granulated garlic, olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese and 3 more
EVOO, roasted beets, hazelnuts, balsamic vinegar, goat cheese and 3 more
salt, mixed greens, pears, olive oil, dried cranberries, blue cheese and 3 more

Main Course

black pepper, brown sugar, dried thyme leaves, allspice, coarse salt and 1 more
grape seed oil, pesto, salt, veal chops
grated Parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, paprika, olive oil, ground black pepper and 1 more

Side Dishes

garlic, salt, Italian seasoning, olive oil, pepper, cremini mushrooms and 3 more
breadcrumbs, fresh brussels sprouts, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and 2 more
turmeric, olive oil, onion, arborio rice, salt, dry white wine and 4 more


coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, almond milk, sea salt and 2 more
eggs, sugar, milk, butter, baking soda, vegetable oil, flour and 5 more
pineapple, powdered sugar, caramel sauce, milk, vanilla, mascarpone and 1 more