Table Setting

To welcome friends and family we don’t normally go to too much trouble, but when we invite a new boss or our new in-laws come to our table we like to stretch ourselves a little more. To be sure to impress them without making a big mistake here are a few rules to dress a pretty dining table.


They are placed in the order that they will be used from the out in towards the plate. If you plan on serving soup, fish, then meat you will have on the right side of the plate, starting on the right and moving to the left: a tablespoon, a fish knife, and a meat knife.

The fork goes on the left with tines facing the table if the silverware is engraved on the outside, in England and the US when silverware is engraved it is usually on the inside so tines and spoons will face up.

The knife is placed on the right, with the cutting edge towards the plate. Knife holders are only used for informal meals, as their use indicates you do not intend to change silverware between dishes. If you do use holders do not place the knife on them when setting the table.

Dessert forks and cheese knives are placed above the plate, the handle to the right.


There are placed from the left to the right, from the largest to the smallest. Don’t forget to wipe them first in order to remove fingerprints.

The water glass is usually the largest, it is on the left.

Wine glasses are then set moving to the right, sometimes with a slight diagonal. You can but do not have to plan a glass for each kind of wine served.


Put ½ to ¾ inch from the edge of the table.

The charger plate is optional, it is used to set plates on and is removed only when cheese or dessert is served.

A larger plate is used for primary dishes like fish and meat, and a smaller plate for salads. Never place more than 3 plates on each other at a time. The bread plate is placed slightly higher than regular plates and on the left.

Finally don’t squeeze people, think to give enough space to each guest, you must plan on 24 to 28 inches per person, therefore the space between plate settings is around 12 to 14 inches.

Tablecloth and napkins

For folding napkins, let your imagination run, you can place them in the glass, on the plate, or on the side, they can take the shape of a rose, a square, or a rabbit… It is up to you to add your personal touch while you respect the harmony of your table and the style of your reception.

For the tablecloth, there are a few more rigid rules: on a round table, the tablecloth should not show folding creases so you must iron it before using it. On a rectangular tablecloth, it is acceptable to have lines showing the length of the cloth.

If you use a table extension and you don’t have a tablecloth long enough it is better to use 3 tablecloths with one on the left one on the right and the third one on top of the other two in the middle than to try to join 2 tablecloths in the middle, the result will be more harmonious.

Remember that using a table pad will protect your table and lessen noise.

Table decoration

It should remain light because with all that you must have on a table there is not a lot of space left. A table runner can help you tie the overall theme and decorations together.

Large bouquets of flowers which might obstruct the face of some guests should be avoided, as should flowers with strong perfume which could bother some guests. Small flower vases can be effective especially if you use magnetic flower vases like the ones I discussed in a previous article.

As for candles, just like for flowers, avoid scented candles, but you can the use of tall candles that illuminate the face of guests is recommended, low candles are not flattering.

Don’t forget to add salt and pepper shakers, and water pitchers.

Wow, we are finished, let the party begin!