How to Set a Proper Dinner Table

Setting a proper dinner table is always one of those adulting tasks that seem far more daunting than it actually is. While you might be stressing out wondering if you need to buy all new china, or where exactly the soup spoons should go, no need to worry. With a few key serving pieces in your arsenal and our setting instructions, you’ll be prepared to host a dinner party in no time!

 

how to set a proper dinner table

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Tableware:

The first step in setting a proper table is having the right china. China is often the centerpiece of your wedding registry, so if you’re married or engaged, you’re likely familiar with adding these pieces to your registry. When it comes to china, you’re either talking about formal or causal dinnerware dishes. Formal or fine china includes bone china and porcelain, whereas casual china is usually earthenware or stoneware and is a less expensive option. Many sources will tell you that couples should buy two sets, one set of formal and one set of casual for everyday use. This really depends on your plans. If you plan on hosting formal dinner parties often, it’s a good idea to invest in some high quality china, whereas if you tend to lean on the more casual side of things and plan on only having friends over for a small gathering every once and awhile, there’s no need to invest in formal china.

Key Pieces:

Place settings usually come in four- or five- piece sets. The four-piece is usually a casual china set and includes a dinner plate, salad/dessert plate, soup/cereal bowl, and mug. The five-piece set, typically for formal china, includes a dinner plate, salad/dessert plate, bread plate, and a cup and saucer. Some additional serving items you might want to consider are a large and small platter, two to three serving bowls of various sizes, a gravy boat, a cream pitcher and sugar bowl, a teapot, some small serving dishes of various sizes and shapes, soup bowls, and chargers. You’ll also want to make sure you have the appropriate water and wine glasses, as well as flatware to go with your set.

Setting the Table

Informal:

When it comes to actually setting the table, the dinner plate is positioned in the center of the place setting, with the napkin placed over it. The napkin can actually be placed anywhere in an informal setting, either on the plate, to the left of the plate under the forks, or on its own to the left of the forks. The flatware is arranged around the plate in the order it will be used. Two forks are places to the left of the plate with the small fork on the outside and the dinner fork on the inside. The dinner fork (the larger of the two) is used for the main course, whereas the small fork is used for a salad or appetizer. The dinner knife is placed to the right of the plate, the cutting edge facing inward. Spoons then go to the right of the knife, again following the outwards-in rule by which is used first. If soup is served first, it would be placed outside the dinner knife and the dessert spoon would go to the left of the soup soon. Any drink glasses or stemware should be placed to the right of the setting, above the knife.

Formal:

For a formal event such as a dinner party or holiday meal, your formal place setting is just the informal place setting taken to the next level. You can decorate the table with floral centerpieces, candles, etc. This is your chance to have fun with it! A few things to remember: no more than 3 of any utensils are to be placed on the table at a time, except when an oyster fork is used in addition to the other three forks. If you are serving more than 3 courses before dessert, the utensils for the fourth are brought in with the food. Dessert spoons and forks are brought in on the desert plate before dinner is served as well as the cup and saucer for coffee and tea. Overall, the setting follows the same outside-in order as the informal setting did above. The glasses follow this same order, and the water glass should remain on the table from the beginning to the end, typically placed closest to the plates. The only additional differences are the salad plate atop the dinner plate, the place card addition, and the bread plate and butter knife. 

Happy entertaining!!

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