What Is the Right Way to Set a Formal Table?

Place settings vary based on the courses served throughout the meal, but at the very least should include a dinner plate with forks staged to the left and spoon and knives on the right. Stemware and drinking glasses belong above the plate and to the right. Generally, unneeded dinnerware should be excluded from the setting.

A dinner plate or charger anchors the setting. Align the end of the handles of the silverware with the bottom edge of the dinner plate. Space individual pieces of silverware evenly, beginning with the pieces that will be used first in the meal. Typically, this is the salad fork on the outer left and the soup spoon on the outer right. Do not include the butter knife on either side of the plate, as this belongs with the bread and butter plate above and to the left of the dinner plate.

Following the courses of the meal, place the remaining pieces of silverware. Silverware should never be used for multiple courses, so each course should have a corresponding implement. After setting the dinner knife, align the water glass directly above the blade. Place any remaining drinking vessels above and to the right of the water glass.

When serving dessert, place silverware above the dinner plate with the tines of the fork pointed toward the drinking glass and the dessert spoon above the fork with the bowl pointed toward the bread and butter plate. The napkin should be neatly folded and placed on top of the charger or dinner plate at the beginning of the service.