Table Setting 101 Article -
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Table Setting 101

Worried about what fork to use? Learn how to set a proper table.

VIDEO: See How to Set the Perfect Table >>

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.

Other Items

  • 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.

Jan. 19, 2011 9:55 am
thank you
Feb. 27, 2011 10:53 pm
Nice. Thanks
Jul. 23, 2011 9:52 am
Thank-you. Pictures or illistrations would be very good too.
Jul. 26, 2011 10:19 am
I wonder when and by whom this configuration was established. I have been setting my table with this protocol for years and have never given a thought as to how and when and who. I think I'll Google...
Oct. 2, 2011 4:14 pm
I have been using this protocol all of my life too. As a young lady my mother found the money to send me and my sister to charm school. They taught us a lot about being a lady as well as teaching us a lot of other things, this being one of them. Thank you for the reminder of the order of the place settings, I'm 65 years old and have forgotten some of it. I appreciate your help.......
Oct. 18, 2011 12:16 pm
Now I know! Thank you!
Dec. 8, 2011 12:01 pm
I have been working in the Hotel Business(catering) for the last 30 years, this is a very helpful hint for those who want to be smart and professional during their dinner servings at home. Well Done!!!!
Jan. 1, 2012 5:13 pm
Good information! My son's high school hosted their annual madrigal dinner and it was very helpful to have the proper setting for the utensils.
Jan. 21, 2012 5:43 pm
I learned it about fifty some years ago because the Betty Crocker (remember her?), had a chapter on table setting and information. I used to have a ball when I married a lovely man who came with a beautiful, very old set of Havaline ( sp?) and antique crystal! What fun we had setting the table for holiday dinners!
May 18, 2012 3:08 pm
Life saver
doreen shirichena 
Jul. 31, 2012 5:00 am
i didnt know about this me grateful
Nov. 19, 2012 11:26 am
I love this! Thanks for the article.
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