Proper Table Setting 101

April 26, 2022

Proper Table Setting. Bruce and I were debating the other night over the silliest of things. He thinks the napkin belongs on the right side of the plate. Armed with years of training from my mother and her obsession with Emily Post, the etiquette expert, I took the exact opposite position, pun definitely intended. Who was right? Me or Bruce? Hilarity ensued.

And guess what? We were both right, well, at least sort of. Bruce got to be right because the European table setting rules place the napkin on the right. But here in the good, old U. S. of A., guess who’s right now? Yup. Yours truly. I’m going to be gloating about this one for a quite some time, for sure. It got me thinking about it though.. does everyone know the way a table is “supposed to be” set? I thought it would make a great topic for today’s blog… so here goes.

This is how the world changes – little by little, table by table, meal by meal, hour by hour. It is how we chip away at isolation, loneliness, fear. This is how we connect, in big and small ways – we do it around the table.

Shauna Niequist

Proper Table Setting. Whether you’re expecting a visit from Queen Elizabeth or setting the table for your family members, setting a proper table is an easy skill to master. There are only a few rules and it does not have to be intimidating. Simple meals will require less silverware and service dishes and can be done in a casual way but the same general rules apply no matter how casual or formal the meal or the number of courses.

Proper Table Setting…The Napkin To The Left Or Sometimes On The Plate

As stated previously, I was right. Yes Bruce, say it again I was right! The napkin, at least in the U.S., does go to the left of the plate. Placing the fork atop the folded napkin or to the right of it when using a napkin ring is the proper presentation. Restaurants often place all the silverware atop the folded napkin. This option is considered more casual, as, technically speaking, you should not have to touch anything, utensil or napkin, until you are ready to use it. If you are setting a more formal table and have lots of silverware pieces, the napkin can be placed to the ;eft of the plate or atop the plate, whether ringed, “origami-ed” into a swan or simply folded.

Silverware: Work From The Outside In

As a basic rule, when it comes to table setting and silverware, you work from the outside in, so that’s how it is placed when setting. Whatever you will use first, the salad fork, for example, is placed outer-most. A second rule, with only a few exceptions, is: forks go to the left of the plate, and knives and spoons go to the right. As courses are added, you work your way in toward the plate (As an example: first fish course, so fish fork and knife, then soup spoon, then salad fork and knife, then entrée fork and knife and so on).

On occasion you will place pieces, like those used for dessert, above the plate or they can be brought in with the dessert.  If dessert flatware is set for the entire meal the fork is placed so that the handle is pointing toward the left and the spoon sits above the fork with its handle facing to the right.

P.S.  Knife blades are always placed with the cutting edge toward the plate.

proper table setting

In Proper Table Settings It’s Solids To The Left… Liquids To The Right

When it comes to the plates (bread and butter, salad) and the glasses, a lot of people are perplexed. If you can remember the simplest of rules you’ll always get this one right. It goes like this: solids to the left, liquids to the right. Just as with silverware, the glasses are placed in the order you use them, but they start on the inside above the fork and work to the outside. Bread plates go above and to the left of the forks. The butter knife can be placed atop of it. Salad plates are most often brought in as that course is served. If the salad plate is set at the beginning and there’s enough room on the table it can go beside the bread plate, if not, it can go atop the dinner plate or charger.

A Final Thought…

For More Information on Setting a Beautiful Table Check Out My Previous Blog: Follow These Easy Steps and Set A Beautiful Table

And Now For Some Music Before We Go…

It isn’t so much what’s on the table that matters, as what’s on the chairs.

W.S. Gilbert

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