Navigating The Table Setting

Sitting down to a nicely set table brings with it the anticipation of a delicious meal to come. It can also bring thoughts of embarrassment, frustration, and even fear, depending on the situation and people around you.

Table SettingFormal Table Setting







Here are some tips to help you navigate the place setting:

The Napkin is the first thing to be removed from the table

  • It will be to the left of the fork(s) or in the center of the service plate
  • Place it on your lap during the meal, and neatly by (not on) your plate when you stand to leave at the end of the meal
  • If you need to excuse yourself during the meal, place it neatly on the table or on your chair

Liquids belong on the right side of the plate, solids are on the left

  • Remember BMW – bread, meal, water
  • The bread plate is just above the fork(s) and slightly to the left
  • The water glass (the largest) is just above the knife
  • Wine glasses are right of the water glass, above the other utensils

The Service Plate or Charger is the large plate pre-set on the table at the center of the place setting

  • First course and salad plates will be placed on the service plate; it will be removed and replaced by the main course


Fork” and “Left” each have four letters – Forks always go on the left

Spoon”, “Knife” and “Right” each have five letters – Both always go on the right

Salad Fork: left of the dinner fork if salad is served before the entrée. It will be placed to the right if the salad is served afterwards.

Dinner Fork: the largest fork, for the main course and any accompanying dishes, placed to the immediate left of the plate

Dinner Knife: the large knife for the entrée, placed to the right of the plate with the blade turned in

Tea Spoon: sometimes served with coffee & tea after the meal, but often pre-placed on the table, to the right of the knife

Soup Spoon: placed on the outside of the tea spoon, if soup is to be served

Remember, always start with the outside utensils and work your way in

Butter Knife: placed across the edge of the bread plate, blade turned in

Dessert Fork & Spoon: often pre-set above the dinner plate, fork handle extended to the left, spoon handle to the right. When dessert is served, they are to be pulled down and placed on the left and right of the place setting, respectively

Coffee Cup: if served with the meal, the cup and saucer go to the right of the place setting

Knowing your way around the place setting – which fork to use at what time, whose bread plate belongs where, etc. – will help you feel more comfortable and confident when dining with others. Whether it is a casual meal with friends or a formal event with the need to impress, greater confidence will allow you to enjoy both the event itself, as well as the people around you.


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