Setting a formal table shouldn’t have to be that hard, don’t you agree? I don’t have the need to do so often, but once in a while it’s nice to host a fancy dinner complete with all the elegant details. It turns out I’m not alone in my quest to figure out how to do it just the way it’s supposed to be done. Who knew there were so many types of forks? If you want some tips for setting a formal table, you’ve come to the right place. Check out these steps and you’ll be good to go!
One of the first and most confusing rules for setting a formal table has to do with the utensils. When you set your flatware, it goes on either side of the plate, but the outside pieces are the ones you use first. You then work your way in toward your plate as you progress through the meal, says Martha Stewart. That means soup spoons and salad forks are the outside and dessert utensils are on the inside.
Typically, you see the napkin placed next to the plate and under the silverware. Not so for a formal setting. You’ll be using cloth napkins and they’ll be laid on the plate until people sit down. Then, the napkins go directly on the laps of the diners. You can fold or roll the napkins so the edges don’t hang off the plate. Try some fancy origami napkins for a fun look on your table.
Ever heard of a service plate? They are also called a charger. They are placed on the table to represent the plate that your entrée will arrive on, but you don’t actually eat off the service plate. When the meal is served, it’s already on the plate and will simply be set on top of the charger plate. Easy right?
Most people are right handed so you want to place your glassware up and to the right of the charger plate. That makes it easy to reach for beverages during the meal without getting in the way of the other diners. If you have left handed guests, place them at the ends of the table so they don’t bump elbows the right handed people sitting near them. This rule applies to all glasses, even if you’re setting out more than for each place setting.
Back to the silverware. It’s funny how such a small item requires so much attention when you set a table formally. When you place the knives on the table in their appropriate places, be sure the blades are pointed in toward the plate. This is etiquette, but also cuts down on the risk of anyone getting cut when they reach for their utensils.
Here’s an important rule of thumb when you set out the silverware. There should be no more than three of the same implement at one time. That means if you have a salad fork, an oyster fork and an entrée fork, you can’t place the dessert fork. Who knew? In that case, you’ll serve dessert with a clean fork when the time comes.
If you plan to offer bread and butter as part of the first course, you must have a separate plate and knife. The plate is placed up and to the left of the charger with the butter knife laid diagonally across it. No big deal, right?
These are the basics of setting a formal table. There are other rules that apply based on whether you’re serving soup, fish or seafood. Do you have any major tips to add?
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