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How to Set a Classic Dinner Table

Figuring out which fork to use for which course can be confusing enough, but having to actually set those forks—and everything else on the table? A recipe for disaster… or a chance to strut your etiquette stuff.


  • Step 1: Space plates around table Space dinner plates around your table, leaving enough room in between to accommodate cutlery.
  • Step 2: Place bowls or appetizer plates When applicable, place soup bowls or appetizer plates on top of the dinner plates.
  • TIP: If you plan to plate individual food servings in the kitchen and serve them to the table fully assembled, start each place setting with an artfully folded napkin where the dinner plate would otherwise go.
  • Step 3: Fold napkin If you haven't used the napkin in the middle of the place setting, fold it and place it to the left of the plate
  • TIP: If you have the origami skills to turn the napkin into a tea rose or a Great Blue heron, simply placing the napkin to the left of the plate is a waste of your talents. Put your creation on top of the plate.
  • Step 4: Place silverware Place the knife to the immediate right of the plate with the blade facing in, the dessert spoon to the right of the knife, and the soup spoon on the outside.
  • Step 5: Place dessert silverware If you've placed the dessert-spoon above the plate, place the dessert-fork directly under it, with the tines pointing right. If not, place the dessert-fork to the immediate left of the plate. Place the entree fork to the left of the dessert fork, and the appetizer or salad fork on the outside.
  • Step 6: Place salad & bread plates Place salad plates to the left of the outermost fork, and bread plates above the forks.
  • Step 7: Place glasses Put water glasses just above the tip of the knife, and wine glasses to the right of the water glasses. If you’re serving more than one wine, put wine glasses in order of use with the glass to be used last next to the water glass and the glass to be used first on the outside.
  • TIP: When in doubt, remember LERD: Left for eating, right for drinking, and start at the outside and work in.
  • FACT: In Medieval times, diners used large slices of stale bread, called trenchers, as plates. It made it much easier to clean when one could simply eat the plates afterward.

You Will Need

  • A table
  • Enough place settings for everyone

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