How to Set a Table, 3 Ways

Throwing a dinner party or having guests for the holidays? Improve your party hosting skills with three quick and easy ways to create a proper table setting.

Setting the table is often a hurried, last-minute task that can leave you wondering about the correct placement of the flatware, plates, napkins and glassware. Learn these stress-free table setting ideas to keep the focus on the food, your family and friends. Be sure to check out these impressive (and affordable!) dinner party recipes, too.

Proper Table Setting Etiquette

Before you set the table, think about the type of event you’re hosting. If it’ll be a casual dinner party or holiday gathering, a basic table setting will do. The more formal your affair, the more pieces—dishes, flatware, glasses—you’ll add to each place setting. We’ll show you three types of table settings, from an everyday setup to one fit for a fancy dinner.

You’ll be a dinner party pro in no time!

How to Set a Table for Everyday Meals

Toh Basic Table SettingTMB Studio

This setting is appropriate for most occasions. Here’s the setup:

  • The dinner plate goes in the center of the place setting.
  • The fork goes to the left of the plate.
  • The knife and spoon (aka beverage spoon) go to the right of the plate. The knife is placed to the right of the plate with the sharp edge toward the plate (safety first!). To the right of the knife is the spoon.
  • A water glass goes above the knife.
  • A napkin may be placed under the fork or on the plate.

How to Set a Table for Informal Dinners or Luncheons

Toh Informal Table SettingTMB Studio

Simply start with a basic setting, then add these items:

  • If you’ll serve salad, a salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork. Nix the salad fork if no salad will be served, or repurpose it as a dessert fork and place it to the right of the dinner fork. (You could also bring dessert forks to the table when you serve dessert.)
  • If soup is on the menu, the bowl goes on the plate and a soup spoon to the right of the beverage spoon.
  • Salad or bread and butter plates go to the left of the fork(s). Position butter plates above the forks with the butter spreader placed across the plate.
  • A cup and saucer go above the spoons with the handle angled to the right. Wine or water glasses are positioned to the left of the coffee cup.

How to Set a Table for a Formal Dinner

Toh Formal Table SettingTMB Studio

Begin with the setting for an informal dinner or luncheon and add to it using the following ideas:

  • Additional wine glasses are set by the water glass to the left of the coffee cup.
  • The beverage, soup and/or dessert spoons are to the right of the knife. You can also bring them to the table before the soup or dessert course.
  • To dress it up more, place a charger under the dinner plate.

More Ways to Make a Sit-Down Dinner Special

If you’re hosting a dinner party, consider these ways to add flair to your table.

  • Bring out your china, crystal, silver and best linen cloths. These wine glasses fared best in our test.
  • Use place cards so guests don’t have to guess where to sit.
  • Fold napkins in an eye-catching way.
  • Buy or arrange a floral centerpiece for the table. Make sure it’s on the shorter side (10 to 12 inches), so people can see each other across the table.
  • Before calling guests to the table, fill water glasses.

With these tricks up your sleeve, you’ll pull off hosting without a hitch.