Informal Table Setting
When an informal dinner is served, the typical place setting includes these utensils and dishes:
(a) Dinner plate: This is the “hub of the wheel” and is usually the first thing to be set on the table. In our illustration, the dinner plate would be placed where the napkin is, with the napkin on top of the plate.
(b) Two Forks: The forks are placed to the left of the plate. The dinner fork, the larger of the two forks, is used for the main course; the smaller fork is used for a salad or an appetizer. The forks are arranged according to when you need to use them, following an “outside-in” order. If the small fork is needed for an appetizer or a salad served before the main course, then it is placed on the left (outside) of the dinner fork; if the salad is served after the main course, then the small fork is placed to the right (inside) of the dinner fork, next to the plate.
(c) Napkin: The napkin is folded or put in a napkin ring and placed either to the left of the forks or on the center of the dinner plate. Sometimes, a folded napkin is placed under the forks.
(d) Dinner Knife: The dinner knife is set immediately to the right of the plate, cutting edge facing inward. (If the main course is meat, a steak knife can take the place of the dinner knife.) At an informal meal, the dinner knife may be used for all courses, but a dirty knife should never be placed on the table, place mat or tablecloth.
(e) Spoons: Spoons go to the right of the knife. In our illustration, soup is being served first, so the soup spoon goes to the far (outside) right of the dinner knife; the dessert spoon, which will be used last, goes to the left (inside) of the soup spoon, next to the dinner knife.
(f) Glasses: Drinking glasses of any kind — water, wine, juice, iced tea — are placed at the top right of the dinner plate, above the knives and spoons.
Other dishes and utensils are optional, depending on what is being served, but may include:
(g) Salad Plate: This is placed to the left of the forks. If salad is to be eaten with the meal, you can forgot the salad plate and serve it directly on the dinner plate. However, if the entree contains gravy or anything runny, it is better to serve the salad on a separate plate to keep things neater.
(h) Bread Plate with Butter Knife: If used, the bread plate goes above the forks, with the butter knife placed diagonally across the edge of the plate, handle on the right side and blade facing down.
(i) Coffee Cup and Saucer: The coffee cup and saucer are placed above and to the right of the knife and spoons. At home, most people serve coffee after the meal. In that case the cups and saucers are brought tot he table and placed above and to the right of the knives and spoons.
Good to know:
– Knife blades always face the plate
– The napkin goes to the left of the fork, or on the plate
– The bread and butter knife are optional
The one rule for a formal table is for everything to be geometrically spaced: the centerpiece at the exact center; the place settings at equal distances; and the utensils balanced. Beyond these placements, you can vary flower arrangements and decorations as you like.
(a) Service Plate: This large plate, also called a charger, serves as an underplate for the plate holding the first course, which will be brought to the table. When the first course is cleared, the service plate remains until the plate holding the entree is served, at which point the two plates are exchanged. The charger may serve as the underplate for several courses which precede the entree.
(b) Butter Plate: The small butter plate is placed above the forks at the left of the place setting.
(c) Dinner Fork: The largest of the forks, also called the place fork, is placed on the left of the plate. Other smaller forks for other courses are arranged to the left or right of the dinner fork, according to when they will be used.
(d) Fish Fork: If there is a fish course, this small fork is placed to the left of the dinner fork because it is the first fork used.
(e) Salad Fork: If the salad is served after the entree, the small salad fork is placed to the right of the dinner fork, next to the plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the forks would be arranged (left to right): salad fork, fish fork, dinner fork.
(f) Dinner Knife: The large dinner knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate.
(g) Fish Knife: The specially shaped fish knife goes to the right of the dinner knife.
(i) Soup Spoon or Fruit Spoon: If soup or fruit is served as a first course, then the accompanying spoon goes to the right of the knives.
(j) Oyster Fork: If shellfish are to be served, the oyster fork goes to the right of the spoons. Note: It is the only fork ever placed on the right of the plate.
(k) Butter Knife: The small spreader is paced diagonally on top of the butter plate, handle on the right and blade down.
(l) Glasses: These can number up to five and are placed so that the smaller ones are up front. The water goblet (la) is placed directly above the knives. Just to the right are placed a red (lc) or white (ld) wine glass. A sherry glass, or champagne flute, to accompany a first course or for an opening toast, go to the right of the wine glasses (le).
(m) Napkin: The napkin is placed on top of the charger (if one is used) or in the space for the plate. It can also go to the left of the forks, or under the forks if space is tight.