How to Set a Table- The Right Way

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What is the need to get all fancy with ten types of spoons, four plates, two glasses, and a shrimp fork to eat your spaghetti? When the job gets done simply with a plate, a spoon, and a glass of water, a formal dinner setting may seem silly. 

Probably why a basic setting does just fine for daily dinners with your family. But when it comes to hosting a luncheon, a formal dinner party, having all your judgemental relatives down to celebrate a festival, or a formal office dinner, you need a proper table setting.

In those situations, have you ever felt like Mia from the Princess Diaries? Or perhaps Vivian Ward from Pretty Woman? We understand- setting the table should not be as big of a deal as the movies and stories make it out to be. Thankfully, we bring you a complete guide on ‘How to Set a Table- The Right Way.’

The Elements

Before getting into the types and placements, let’s start by knowing what elements come into play when setting a basic dinner table.

For starters, you need your instruments- plates, cutlery, and drinking glasses. A typical dinner set includes three different sizes of plates. The largest is the dinner plate, then there is the salad plate, and finally the bread plate.

Dinner sets usually also include a soup bowl. Bread plates are not that popular, but one must include them in a formal setting. The Denby Speckle Dinner Set is an excellent example of what you should be looking for to suit all types of dinner tables.

Cutlery refers to all spoons, forks, and knives. A basic cutlery assemblage would most likely partner sets of dinner forks, dinner spoons, dinner knives, and dessert spoons, as seen in the Amefa Austin Cutlery and Amefa Metropole range.

Sometimes, a butter knife, a bread knife, soup spoon, tools for specific meats, etc., are also incorporated into the settings. Apart from these basics, there are wine glasses, water glasses, champagne glasses, placement mats, and place cards are added to formal settings.

There are primarily three types of dining tables that you can set according to preference and the occasion- Basic, Casual, and Formal.


1.  Basic

Basic Table Setting

Basic settings are great when preparing for an everyday lunch or dinner that mainly involves your own family. They work great in casual events, too, if you are running short of time. This table-setting includes a simple arrangement of a placemat, cutlery (fork, knife, and spoon), a dinner plate, a water glass, and a napkin.


  • Place the table mat.
  • Take the dinner plate and center it onto the placemat.
  • Fold your napkin and set it to the left of the dinner plate. You should lay the dinner fork on top of the folded napkin.
  • On the right of the dinner plate, you should place the knife and spoon. The knife should be closest to the plate with the blade pointing in while the spoon should be to its right.
  • Make sure to level the bottoms of all the cutlery to maintain symmetry.
  • The water glass should be kept slightly above the dinner plate, between the utensils, or at the 1 ‘o’clock position to the plate.

2.  Casual

Casual Table Setting

A casual dinner table is much similar to the basic setting with the addition of a red wine glass, salad plate, and maybe a place card. As the name suggests, the setting changes according to the occasion.

An informal event- the keyword being an event and not a casual dinner- is more likely to host a planned menu including starters or salads. So, the dinner table changes to accommodate the additional requirements a casual setting demands.

In times of a get-together or a laid-back dinner party, only set the dinnerware by the meals you are offering. If there is going to be a salad, add a salad bowl/plate and salad fork. If there isn’t going to be soup, do not take out the soup bowls or spoons.


  • Place the table-mat on the table.
  • Take the dinner plate and center it onto the placemat.
  • Set the salad plate in the middle of the dinner plate.
  • If you start with a soup course, place the soup bowls on top of the salad plate.
  • The napkin is folded and neatly arranged to the left of the diner plate. Lay the fork over the napkin.
  • On the right of the dinner plate, you should place the knife and spoon. The knife should be closest to the plate with the blade pointing in while the spoon should be to its right.
  • Ensure that the bottoms of all the cutlery are leveled to maintain symmetry.
  • Place the water glass directly above the knife.
  • Red/White wine or Champagne glass such as the Dartington Crystal Glitz Flute is included slightly above the water glass and to the right.

3.  Formal

Formal Table Setting

An elegant dinner party calls for all the china, crockery, dinnerware, and cutlery to come out of the cupboards. A formal dinner is generally equivalent to a proper three-course meal. Some say that the use of chargers or presentation plates can turn a casual setting into a formal socialite one.

Before knowing how to set up the table, let’s look at the things you will need. A formal setting includes- a tablecloth, dinner plates, napkins, soup bowls, chargers, salad plates, knives, bread plates, salad forks, dinner forks, soup spoons, dessert spoons, butter knives, water glasses, red wine glasses like the Dartington Crystal, and white wine glasses.

The long list of elements can be daunting. But if you know how the casual style looks, a formal setting is not a far leap.


  • Iron a tablecloth and place it on the table.
  • Set a charger on top of the placemat.
  • Layer on top of the charger, starting by center-placing a soup bowl.
  • Arrange a bread plate to the top left (10 or 11 o’clock).
  • Lay down a folded napkin to the left of the charger.
  • To the left side of the charger, from the outside, set a salad fork, dinner fork. You can choose to put these on top of the napkin or the tablecloth.
  • On the right of the charger, set the knife with the blade facing inwards, then the soup spoon. Make sure all flatware is evenly-spaced, and the bottoms are aligned.
  • A butter knife should be horizontally placed, with the blade facing inwards on top of the bread plate.
  • Above the charger, place a dessert spoon. Directly above the knife =, center the water glass.
  • To the right and roughly three-fourth inches downwards, align the white wine glass. Opposite to it, place the red wine glass.
  • If using a place card, set it above the dessert spoon.

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