How to Set a Table for Any Occasion

So, you’re hosting a dinner party but not quite sure how you should set your table to make a lasting impression. Between proper fork positioning and glassware choices, it can all be a bit confusing. We’ve spent years entertaining and taking note of what works best for various occasions and guest list sizes. We’re thrilled to share our tried-and-true tips and methods to help you properly prepare your dinner table setting for your special gathering! 

 

Why is a Proper Place Setting Important? 

Think of your dinner table setting as your guests' first impression of the evening. Envision what you want them to experience when they step through the doorway and lay eyes on the beautifully curated tablescape you’ve put together. From your serving platters, dinnerware settings, and linens to the centerpiece you choose, the presentation of your dinner table setting sets the tone for your gathering. 

Whether you’re entertaining for a formal or casual celebration, you will want to ensure you have the essentials for each place setting. Having everything you need already within arm’s reach allows you and your guests to gather around the table and enjoy good food and conversation without the worry of running to and from the kitchen all evening. This extra attention to detail shows your guests you have thought of everything they may need to feel attended to.   
  
Lastly, putting together your place settings, no matter how small or casual your gathering may be, makes all your dishes look divine. There’s just something about sitting down to a home-cooked meal with friends and family and being surrounded by ruffled dinner plates and gorgeous hand-carved serving platters to make everyone feel like they’re dining in style. 
  
Now don’t let one bit of this intimidate you. Hosting your party and creating an unforgettable tablescape can be done at any effort level. All it takes is a little imagination to make your guests feel welcomed and appreciated. 

So, if you’re ready to dive in and learn how we create a memorable experience through the perfect dinner table setting ambiance, we’re here to walk you through it. We’ve compiled an easy-to-follow place setting guide to introduce you to three common dinner table setting styles every host should be familiar with.   

 

3 Dinner Table Setting Styles for All Your Entertaining Needs: 

  • The Basic Table Setting 

  • The Casual Table Setting 

  • The Formal Table Setting 

 

How Do You Find Inspiration for Your Dinner Table Settings? 

As you prepare to create your ideal tablescape, think about the atmosphere you wish to create. What feelings do you want to evoke as guests take their seats? What little details can you add to the place setting, table, or room to add a pop of color or desired ambiance? Is there a theme you want to incorporate? 

Answering these questions will help you make decisions as you plan. If you have a collection of dinnerware, serving platters, colored napkins, and glasses to mix, match, and layer, you’ll be able to pull them all together to create what you envision. 

 

How to Create a Basic Dinner Table Setting 

Think of the basic dinner table setting as your typical go-to layout for everyday meals with the family. While we’re no strangers to busy schedules full of work and family obligations, we know not everyone has the luxury or habit of regularly sitting down at a set table with the family. So, we’ve put together a quick refresher on setting up a basic place setting that anyone can create with just a few extra minutes dedicated to the task. 

 

Essentials for a basic dinner table setting include: 

 

Simple Steps to Setting a Basic Dinner Table Setting: 

  1. If you’re using placemats, place them on the table directly in front of each seat. 

  2. Place a dinner plate in the center of the placemat or directly in front of each seat. 

  3. Place a napkin to the left of each dinner plate. 

  4. Lay a fork on top of each napkin. 

  5. Place a knife on the right side of each dinner plate with its sharp edge facing the plate. 

  6. The spoons will sit to the right of the knives. 

  7. Place a water glass slightly above each dinner plate on the right side, forming a triangle with the plate, glass, and knife tip. 

 

 

How to Create a Casual Dinner Table Setting 

We never need an excuse to gather for a casual meal in our family. In fact, it’s what we do best! Finding little reasons to celebrate the day and each other is all we need to set out a casual place setting and unwind around our table. So, whether you’re enjoying a family meal, hosting a birthday party, or enjoying a small lunch with friends, just know you can still set your table with proper etiquette for any dining style. 

 

Essentials for a casual dinner table setting include: 

  • Napkins 

  • Placemats (optional) 

  • Dinner plates 

  • Salad plates, when you’re serving salad 

  • Soup bowls, when you’re serving soup 

  • Dinner forks, salad forks, soup spoons, and dinner knives 

  • Water glasses or goblets 

  • Red or white wine glasses 

  • Cocktail glasses (optional) 

 

Simple Steps to Setting a Casual Dinner Table Setting 

  1. Start by laying out your placemats if you’ve chosen to use them. 

  2. Place each dinner plate in the center of a placemat or directly in front of the seat. 

  3. Place each salad plate on top of a dinner plate for gatherings with salad and center it. This is a great time to add a different pattern if you have multiple dinnerware place setting collections to choose from. 

  4. Place each soup bowl on top of a salad plate and center it if you'll be serving soup. 

  5. Your napkins can be placed to the left of your dinner plates, underneath your silverware, or they may sit on top of the salad plates when soup bowls are not used. 

  6. The forks should always be placed to the left of the dinner plates, while the knives will be on the right. An easy way to remember this placement is to envision cutting into your meal. You will typically hold your fork in your left hand and knife in the right. 

  7. Place the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork. 

  8. Place the soup spoon to the right of the knife. 

  9. When placing the knife, it should always point towards the water glass with its blade facing the dinner plate. 

  10. Place your water glass directly above the point of the knife. 

  11. If you are serving wine at your gathering, place the wine glass slightly lower and diagonal to the water glass on its right side. 

  12. If your guests are not drinking wine, you may remove their glass as wine is served. Then, as they complete each course, remove the dish and the corresponding utensil, even if they were not used. 

 

How to Create a Formal Dinner Table Setting 

Creating a formal dinner table setting requires all the same essentials as a casual place setting, with the addition of a few extra bells and whistles. This place setting style is most often used for grand holiday gatherings, like Christmas and special celebrations. 

Think of wedding receptions and occasions where you would find multi-course meals. They typically include your more elegant dinnerware place settings with elegant serving platters brought to your seat. Our Signature White Ruffle Dinnerware Setting makes an ideal place setting for formal occasions, whether layered with other designs or alone. 

 

Essentials for a formal dinner table setting include: 

  • Napkins 

  • Placemats (optional) 

  • Dinner plates 

  • Salad plates, when you’re serving salad 

  • Soup bowls, when you’re serving soup 

  • Dinner forks, salad forks, soup spoons, and dinner knives 

  • Water glasses or goblets 

  • Red or white wine glasses 

  • Cocktail glasses (optional) 

  • Bread plates 

  • Butter knives 

  • Dessert forks or spoons 

  • Dessert plates 

  • Charger plates (optional) (decorative base settings used on formal occasions) 

  • Individual salt and pepper shakers (optional) 

  • Place card with the guests’ names 

 

Simple Steps to Creating a Formal Dinner Table 

  1. Start by laying down your tablecloth or runner. Then, if you choose to use placemats, set them directly in front of each guest’s seat. 

  2. In proper formal dinner table setting etiquette, you would place a charger plate first. Charger plates act as decorative placeholders for the dinner plate while your guests enjoy their soup and salad. Some hosts choose to replace the charger with the dinner plate after the first two courses are cleared, while others place the dinner plate on top of the charger plate when setting the table. 

  3. Place your salad plate on top of the dinner plate and center it. 

  4. Place your soup bowl on top of the salad plate and center it. 

  5. Your dinner fork will lay to the left of your dinner plate with the salad fork to its left. 

  6. Place the dinner knives to the right side of the dinner and salad plates. When placing a knife, it should always point towards the water glass with its blade facing the dinner plate. 

  7. Place the soup spoons to the right of the knives. 

  8. Your napkins will typically be placed on the left of the dinner plate, underneath the forks. 

  9. Your water glass will sit directly above the knife’s point on the right side. 

  10. Place the wine glass slightly diagonal to the water glass on its right side if you are serving wine. 

  11. Place the cake fork or dessert spoon right above the dinner plate horizontally if you are serving dessert. The placement lets your guests know it will be a utensil used at a later time in the meal. 

  12. Place the bread plate to the top left of your dinnerware place setting arrangement. It should mirror the glasses you’ve set on the opposite side of the plates. Lay a butter knife across each bread plate parallel and horizontally to the dessert spoon or fork. 

  13. If you use place cards for your event, place them just above the dessert utensil. Formal etiquette suggests writing your guests’ names on both sides of the place cards. 

  14. Typically, a formal setting offers individual salt and pepper shakers for each guest. If you’ve prepared for this detail, place the salt on the left of the place card and the pepper on the right. 

  

Why Set Your Dinner Table with Our Fundamentals Collection?  

Whether you’re looking to start or expand your collection of place settings, we have a style to suit everyone’s personality. We want to introduce you to our Fundamentals Collection for those searching for the ideal core place setting designs. Each piece in the collection is hand-carved from acacia wood, offering unique texture and unmatched beauty. Designed with our signature ruffle shape from our original place settings, it’s the perfect foundation for your dinner table. 

As you host more gatherings and your entertaining needs change, the Fundamentals Collection will grow with you. Each piece is a versatile staple in your dinnerware and serveware collection, allowing you to layer and incorporate additional items from anything in our line.  

We chose acacia wood for its rich tone and distinctive grain that add warmth and texture to any home. In addition, its incredible durability makes it ideal for all your serving and dining needs. No matter what style, theme, or season you’ve chosen, the Fundamentals Collection offers natural variations to enhance your guests’ dining experience. 

You’ll also find an assortment of colors and textures in our Fundamentals linens and utensils selection. We invite you to mix, match, and layer, creating limitless styles for your gatherings. You can change the look of your place setting in a heartbeat with just the swap of a colored linen! 

Or add warmth and décor to your home with our Fundamental Ruffle Serving Platter and Ruffle Bowls. That’s right! Not only are they functional as your entertaining pieces, but as beautiful additions to your coffee table, bookcase, and more. Use our serving platter as a centerpiece lined with holiday decorations, or fill a bowl with goodies on the kitchen island for the family. The options are endless! 

 

We’re so excited to help you create your dinner table setting for your next gathering. Just remember to embrace the experience and add those personal touches that show off your style! 

 

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