Ladylike Laws: How to Set a Proper Table

When you are planning a dinner party, you probably give yourself ample time to arrange your menu, gather ingredients, and do the cooking. But in those last few pre-party minutes spent tossing the salad and doing a quick outfit change (or two), the importance of the table setting often gets overlooked. A properly set table is the canvas for a beautiful and delicious meal. And the specific rules for silverware, glassware, and dinnerware placement are all designed to enhance the experience of the food itself. So, while setting a table might seem like a basic skill, it’s an important one to master.

Just because you aren’t hosting elegant dinner parties every week doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the elements of a proper table setting. After all, the same rules go for restaurant fine dining. If you are out at a nice restaurant to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion, you will want to know your soupspoon from your teaspoon and your salad fork from your entrée fork. Keep in mind that place settings will vary depending on what being served, but the tips below provide a good starting place.

Without further ado, check out the diagram below, then pin it to Pinterest, and reference it the next time you are hosting or dining out…

Ladylike Laws: How to Set a Proper Table
  1. The bread and butter plate should be placed on the left-hand side, above your napkin.
  2. The napkin should be folded neatly underneath your forks or on the plate.
  3. The salad fork goes to the left of your dinner fork.
  4. The dinner fork is on the right side.
  5. The dessert fork and spoon are placed horizontally, above your dinner plate. If your dessert does not require one utensil or the other, simply leave it out of your table setting.
  6. The salad plate should be placed atop your dinner plate.
  7. The dinner plate goes on the bottom. In some cases you may have a decorative charger below that.
  8. The water glass goes on the left of the wine glass, on the right-hand side.
  9. The wine glass goes on the far upper right. If you will be serving both red and white, set the glasses for each from left to right in the order in which they will be used.
  10. The coffee cup and saucer go to the upper right of the silverware or are brought out following dinner.
  11. The steak or dinner knife is closest to the plate on the right side. The knife blades always face the plate.
  12. The teaspoon goes directly to the left of the knife.
  13. The soupspoon goes on the far right.

Here’s a tip…
If you have trouble keeping your forks and spoons straight, just remember that you use them from the outside in. On the left side, you start with the salad fork and work your way inside to the entrée fork, and on the right side you start with the soupspoon and work your way inside to the teaspoon. When you are finished with your meal, you should rest your utensils diagonally across the plate.

What other etiquette questions would you like answered?

Share your suggestions for our next Ladylike Laws post in the comments below.

xo Ilana
Team LC

Photos: Anthropologie, Design Within Reach, Crate&Barrel, Crate&Barrel, Crate&Barrel
Sources: Emily Post, Life Hacker, Martha Stewart