How To Set A Table
Knowing how to set a table properly is one of those life lessons that everyone should know - regardless of whether you’re planning a casual Sunday family lunch or a more formal dinner party.
At first glance, setting a table the right way might seem a bit intimidating. That being said, the process quickly becomes a breeze with a few basic tips and tricks up your sleeve.
Are you ready to learn how to set a table properly? In this article, we have covered everything you need to know about preparing a table for casual and formal dining.
The History Of Table Setting
First things first, let’s start with the history of table setting - where did these traditions originate?
The etiquette of table setting originates in middle-age Europe. Cutlery was not very common during this time, and guests would typically only use spoons, daggers for cutting, and their fingers to eat with. Dishes were served in big bowls where people would eat different courses at the same time - this was very common in royal settings.
From the 1700s to the 1900s, a transition to intricate table settings was slowly made. This included the shift to a dining form known as ‘service à la Russe’ - meaning the food was brought out in sequential courses rather than all at once. Utensils specific to each dish were also introduced during this time.
These days, ‘service à la Russe’ has become the modern-day standard for formal table settings and service. You will often see this form of table settings at many formal restaurants and events.
To properly create the layout for formal dining, there are a few rules that you will need to keep in mind.
How To Set A Table: Formal Table Setting
How should you set the table for those formal dining occasions in life? We have got you covered - take a look at our easy 5-step tutorial below.
1. Lay-Out A Tablecloth. For formal dining, you will need to start by laying out a clean tablecloth for your plates and utensils to sit on. Try a fresh, crisp linen to add both texture and style to your setting.
2. Arrange The Plates. Next, position the dinner plate in the centre of your setting, with a salad plate on top. Then, the bread plate should sit above and to the left of the dinner plate.
3. Arrange The Cutlery. Now that the plates are in position, you will now need to organise the cutlery. As a general rule, you should position cutlery in the order of use - from the outside in. For example, the dinner fork should sit to the left of the dinner plate, with the salad fork to the dinner fork’s left. The bottom of each piece of cutlery should be aligned with the bottom edge of the dinner plate.
The dinner knife sits to the right of the dinner plate, and the entree knife should be to the right of the dinner knife. The soup spoon should also sit to the right of the dinner knife. The dessert spoon will run horizontally above the dinner plate.
For special occasions, you might consider shifting from the traditional stainless steel cutlery to a gold or onyx-coloured set. Especially if you are working with a colour palate, making this change can help tie colours together and modernise your layout.
To compliment your cutlery set, consider using accessories to accentuate the colours - whether it’s by using matching centre-pieces or decorations.
4. Place The Drinking Glasses. Unlike casual dining, formal table settings will include multiple drinking glasses. This includes a glass of water, along with a red and white wine glass.
All three drinking glasses should sit on the right side of the setting, above the knife. Slightly behind the water glass should be the white and red wine glasses.
5. Fold The Napkin. With the cutlery, plates, and drinking glasses all in position, all that is left to do is sort out the napkin. You have a choice here - you can either fold the napkin and neatly place it over the salad plate or use a napkin ring.
For very formal occasions, you could fold the napkin into an elaborate shape or style to boost the aesthetic of your table setting.
How To Set A Table: Casual Table Setting
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty. Learn how to set a table for casual dining with our 5-step tutorial below!
1. Start With A Placemat. When it comes to setting the table for casual dining, you will need to start with a placemat. It is designed to sit underneath the dinner plate and protect the table from any heat damage or food-related stains.
Lay the placemat one inch away from the table's edge. Once in position, you can begin building your table setting on the placemat.
2. The Plate In The Middle. Next, you will need to get your dinner plate into position. All you need to do is place the dinner plate in the centre of the placemat. If you are also serving salad, a salad bowl should sit on top of your dinner plate.
3. Napkin On The Left. Once the dinner plate is in position, place your napkin to the left.
4. Lay-Out Your Cutlery. Now, it is time to get all your cutlery into place. Start by placing your fork to the left of your plate, on top of the napkin. Again, if you are serving salad as well, place a soup spoon and steak knife to the left of your dinner fork.
Your knife should sit on the right side of your plate, followed by the smallest spoon to the farthest right.
5. Position The Drinking Glass. With all your cutlery and plates now in place, all that is left to do is position your drinking glass. A glass of water should sit at the top-right corner of your setting, above your knife. Additional glasses, such as a wine glass, should be placed to the left of the water glass.
With these simple guides by your side, learning how to set a table for casual and formal dining could not be easier!