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The basic place setting assumes that the meal will consist of salad, bread, soup, beverages and a main course with dessert and coffee following (with the plates and cups being delivered to the table immediately before serving). To be sure that your dinner table is set as "correctly" as possible, refer to our simple rules for basic place settings:
Plates and Bowls
- Dinner plates should be placed approximately 2 inches from the table's edge, centered on the placemat (if using placemats) or squarely in front of each chair.
- Soup bowls are placed on top of the dinner plate.
- Salad plates are placed to the left of and just above the forks.
- The bread plate should be placed to the right and slightly above the salad plate.
- When serving multiple courses, many hosts will opt to serve them in courses and place only one or the other dish at the original table setting. For example, if soup will be served first, the soup bowl will be placed on top of the dinner plate and the salad dish will be brought out after the soup bowl and spoon has been cleared.
- Silverware should be placed on the table in the order it will be used; silverware that will be used first should be found on the farthest left and right sides of the plate.
- Forks are placed to the left of the dinner plate; knives and spoons go to the right.
- Knives should be placed with their cutting-edge toward the dinner plate, except the butter knife which should be laid flat on a bread plate.
- Utensils should be about 1/2-inch away from the plate or each other, and they should also be lined up evenly from their bottoms.
- Avoid placing more silverware than the meal calls for.
- Dessert silverware can be originally placed at the table setting if you wish. The dessert fork or spoon should be centered above and parallel to the dinner plate.
- If you will be serving dishes that require specialty silverware, be sure to arrange the silverware on either side of the plate according to the order in which they will be eaten.
Cups and Glasses
- Water glasses should be placed above the dinner knife, with other drinking glasses arranged neatly nearby the water glass. Often drinking glasses are arranged in a triangular formation.
- Coffee cups and saucers may be placed on the table to the right of the knife and spoon.
- Napkins are commonly placed on the plate, to the left of the forks or inside of a drinking glass.
- Name cards are always a good idea for place settings, if the dinner party is large. Place the card above the dessert utensil, to the left of the drinking glasses.