How to Set a Proper Table Setting

Don’t you love those friends that you can let your hair down with?  The ones that don’t care if you serve them sweet tea out of crystal or a red solo cup?  Those are our favorite kind of friends!  But as much as I like casual and laid back I also want to know how to set a proper table, even if I rarely do it.

What if you go to some formal event and you have no idea what to do with those 5 forks in front of you?  Ahhhh!!  Well in our home it never gets more formal or complicated than the picture below.  We don’t serve too many courses since the chef, sous chef, hostess and clean up crew is little ol’ me.

How to Set a Proper Table Setting

There are many levels to the formality of setting a table.  Technically the plate should be 2 inches from the edge of the table but none of my friends carry rulers so I don’t bother with those details.  The basic idea with all the utensils is that you eat a meal beginning with the outside silverware and work your way in towards the plate.  If the salad is served first followed by the main course, then the salad fork would be on the outside and the dinner fork would be closest to the plate.

On the left you would place all your forks.  The dinner fork should be placed to the left of the plate and the salad fork to it’s left.   The dessert fork goes horizontally above the dinner plate and the dessert spoon goes directly above the dessert fork.  The tines of the dessert fork face towards the dinner knife.  The dessert spoon faces the forks.  Honestly, where the dessert fork and spoon are supposed to face always trips me up and really it’s not a big deal, but like with anything else…it’s good to know!

How to Set a Proper Table Setting

You can have quite a few glasses per person, depending on how many drink varieties will be served.  You can begin with the water goblet above the knife and then to the right of it white or red wine glasses, followed by champagne flutes if you do an opening toast.

In our home I rarely place wine glasses on the table, as we usually are already drinking wine by the time that we sit at the table, so everyone already has their glass in hand.

The napkin can be placed on top of the salad plate, folded lengthwise beneath the salad plate, beside the forks or below the forks.

Bread and butter plates would be above and to the left of the dinner plate.  If the dinner plate was the center of a clock, the bread plate would be at 10am. In this case (and in every case in our home) I omitted the bread and butter plate.

The dinner knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate.  Knife blades always have the cutting edge facing the plate.  If soup is served, a spoon may be placed to the right of the dinner knife.

How to Set a Proper Table Setting


I leave you with one of my favorite tips!  You know when you are seated at a restaurant (especially the round tables) and you can’t figure out which is your glass and which is your bread plate?  Simply position your hands in the “ok” sign and you will instantly know which is which.  Your right hand will form a “D” and your left a “B”.  Bread and Drink – easy as that!

How to Set a Proper Table Setting

It’s the effort to set a pretty table that your friends appreciate, not a table setting that needs rulers and protractors to measure silverware spacing.  Entertaining is about opening your home and making your friends feel welcome.  We can do that in so many different ways – by setting a pretty table or by making something from scratch or ordering in and chatting on the couch (with our feet up, of course)!  There are many ways to make our friends feel special and a well set table is just one of them.

Pinky up!


Other related Graceful Order posts:

Mother’s Day Table Setting

Setting a Beautiful Table on a Budget

The Thanksgiving Table

Fall Table Setting



  1. says

    I love this post! So many people have no idea which glass, fork or spoon to start with. We always used food & left each have 4 letters, and right and drink have 5. Your way is much more fun for kids! Pinning)


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