Addressing Invitations
Setting a Table
Brewing and Serving Tea
Writing Letters
Relaxing Outdoors

How to Set a Proper Table

Victorian hostesses always knew how to set a proper table, and you can learn to do the same. To set a basic table, you will need a tablecloth and a placemat, dinner plate, glass, knife, fork, spoon and napkin for each guest. A simple centerpiece, salt and pepper (along with any other seasonings or condiments your family enjoys), is also a wonderful finishing touch.

First, place the dinner plates one inch from the edge of the table. If there is a pattern in the middle of the plate, make sure that it is on the right side. Place the knife on the right side of the plate, blade inward, one inch from the edge of the table, handle end of knife at the bottom. Make sure the knife is placed next to the plate, not underneath the plate. The soup spoon is placed next to the knife, also one inch from the bottom of the table. The dinner fork is placed on the left side of the dinner plate, one inch from the edge of the table, making sure it is also next to the plate rather than underneath the plate. The salad fork is placed left of the dinner fork, also one inch from the bottom of the table. The napkin is folded in half and placed next to the salad fork, with the crease farthest away from the fork.

If other silverware is needed for dessert or other courses, place the spoons next to the spoons and forks next to the forks. Or, place the dessert fork one inch from the top of the dinner plate, with the prongs facing right, and the dessert spoon directly above the fork, pointing in the opposite direction. Additionally, if bread is to be served, place a bread plate, with a butter knife lying on top, one inch above the fork(s). Finally, the water glass is placed directly above the knife approximately one inch. If wine is to be served, place a wine glass to the right of the water glass, approximately one inch lower.

Centerpieces can be simple or elaborate, fun and festive, or elegant and beautiful. Table setting themes are easily achieved with seasonal salt and pepper shakers, napkins, flowers, and other items. Having a centerpiece that is too large and tall is the most common mistake. Make sure that your guests are able to see across the table to others without the centerpiece blocking their view.

Lastly, it is helpful to consider whether you will have children present at your event. You may want to change out silverware and glass or crystal cups with plasticware for younger diners, as well as provide some "entertainment" during the meal. If your table allows for it, a small cup of crayons and a few sheets of paper go a long way for a young guest who may not be able to sit through several courses without some creative outlet. In addition, children enjoy making simple placemats from construction paper to go along with a theme. They can be colored, painted, stamped or edges cut to fit in to a certain theme. With some simple preparation, your younger guests can make their own placement either before or during a meal.

The following is a basic formal place setting for your reference. You can view a larger version of the place setting by clicking on the graphic.


1. Butter Knife
2. Bread Plate
3. Dessert Spoon
4. Dessert Fork (Alternate)
5. Water Glass
6. Wine Glass
7. Napkin
8. Salad Fork
9. Dinner Fork
10. Dinner Plate*
11. Service Knife
12. Soup Spoon

* A dinner plate can have a charger underneath, as well as a soup bowl on top.