How To Properly Set a Formal Table for a Dinner Party


A proper formal dinner setting should not be an intimidating affair. Much like a home cooked meal is comprised of ingredients, a formal dinner setting is similarly comprised of individual components: silverware, tableware, glassware and napkins.



The general rule of thumb: you want to lay the utensils out in the order they will be used – silverware that will be used first should be set to the farthest left and right sides of the plate.

  • Steak knives and spoons should be placed on the right side of the plate
  • Forks should be placed on the left side of the plate.
  • Steak knives should be positioned with their sharp edges faced towards the dinner plate.
  • If your meal requires a butter knife, it should be laid flat on the bread plate.
  • Desert cutlery should be placed parallel above the plate.



Otherwise known as your plates and bowls.

  • If the meal you are serving includes bread, the smaller bread plate should be placed to the top left of the dinner plate.
  • The soup bowl should be placed on top of the dinner plates.



  • Water glasses should be placed to the right of the dinner plate, above the knife.
  • Wine glasses should be positioned along side of the water glass, framing the rest of the table and silverware.
  • Coffee cups and saucers, if applicable, can be placed on the right of the setting, to the right of the knife and spoon.



Depending on how formal you intend your table to be, napkins can be placed:

  • Directly on the plate or to the left of the forks; (more casual).
  • Inside of the drinking glass or folded neatly under the dinner plate; (more formal)


Other nice touches to consider.

  • Name cards. If you choose to include a name card, it should be placed above the dessert utensils and to the left of the glassware.
  • Charger plates. A charger plate is a larger base for your dinner plate and soup bowl to be placed on top of. The charge plate is not meant to be used to serve food on, but instead to add a decorative element to your table. If the charger plate is patterned, the patterns should face your diner.

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