It used to be that setting a table was one of the first jobs a child was given at home. I remember making a little mat in kindergarten that showed me where the plate went, then the fork, knife and spoon. However, with so many families today eating in shifts or in front of the TV, setting a table correctly is becoming something of a lost art. And yet, we all face times when we need to know how to do it right. So here are the table setting basics.

When setting a table, you always start with the plate. If this is just a casual lunch or dinner with the family, you place the dinner plate itself on the table, about one inch from the edge. Then the dinner fork goes on next, about a half an inch to the left of the plate, and also an inch from the edge of the table. If you are serving salad, the salad fork goes next to the dinner fork. Then you place the napkin, folded into a rectangle, in the center of the plate. The final item on the lower left is the salad plate, which lies next to the forks.

On the right side of the plate, place the knife with the sharper edge about one-half inch from the edge of the plate and about one inch from the edge of the table. The teaspoon lies to the right of the knife. If you are having soup, the soup spoon goes to the right of the teaspoon. Slightly above the space between the knife and the plate is where the water glass goes. Place the small bread and butter plate about two inches above the forks. The small knife called the butter knife lies across the bread and butter plate.

If you are serving dessert, it is a nice touch to lay the dessert fork and/or spoon just above the center of the plate, parallel to the table edge.

For a more formal dinner, the table setting is similar, but more elaborate. The a service plate is placed in front of the chair, about one inch from the edge of the table. On top of this goes the dinner plate, with the soup bowl in the center of it. Then the dessert fork goes on next, about a half an inch to the left of the plate, and also an inch from the edge of the table. Then the dinner fork is placed to the left of the dessert fort and the salad fork goes next to the dinner fork. Finally, you place the napkin, folded into a rectangle, to the left of the salad fork.

On the right side of the plate, place the knife with the sharper edge about one-half inch from the edge of the plate and about one inch from the edge of the table. The teaspoon lies to the right of the knife. The soup spoon goes to the right of the teaspoon.

Next comes the glassware. Slightly above the space between the knife and the plate is where the water goblet goes. Then to the right is the red wine glass, followed by the white wine glass to the right of the red wine glass. If you are not serving wine, than the iced tea goblet would replace the two wine glasses

Place the small bread and butter plate about two inches about the forks. The butter knife again lies across the bread and butter plate.

For a diagram of setting a table properly for a formal dinner, you can visit Replacements: Place Setting Guide – Formal Dinner.

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