How To Set the Table

From where to place your flatware to the spacing of different plates, get the lowdown on settings

Entertaining can be a daunting task.

There are the obvious tasks, like invitations to extend and food to prepare. Another important detail is setting the table — not just putting out plates, glasses and flatware, but setting each place properly. Whether you are hosting a formal dinner party or something more casual, these rules will help you to set a lovely canvas for a delicious meal.


Begin setting the plates out on the table. Try to make them as evenly spaced as possible so your guests have plenty of elbow room during the meal. If you are a bit of a perfectionist, bring a ruler to the table and measure the distance from plate to plate, which should be two feet from plate center to plate center. Once you have your plates set, the rest is easy!


I’m sure you’re familiar with the scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts’s character is completely confused by the silverware at a fancy restaurant. To avoid this, always remember to start from the outside. Begin with the silverware you need for the first course and set that on the outside. Then, work your way in towards the plate. Forks belong to the left of the plate, and spoons and knives to the right. And of course, this rule has a couple exceptions. If you have a cocktail fork, that belongs on the outer right side. Dessert silverware, if you choose to set it on the table at the beginning of the meal, belongs at the top of the plate. However, I find that it is easier and less stressful for everyone if dessert items come to the table at the end of the meal after everything else has been cleared away.

For more tips on how to set the table, head to Menuism

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Rachael White, Menuism