Table place setting is about more than following rules—but everyone needs to start somewhere! If you're putting together a basic table setting with a modern dinnerware set, time-tested rules are in place to not just keep the table well organized when people come together. They also keep traditions going strong, which is, of course, so important on special occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas. We know it’s daunting to set a well-dressed table for a special occasion for the first time, so we put together a handy guide to get you there.
Formal Table Settings for Special Occasions
When hosting a holiday formal dinner, special celebration, or a once-in-a-lifetime event, this formal place setting elevates the table for moments you want to remember forever.
How to Set a Formal Place Setting
Step 1. Build your table from the bottom up, starting with the base layer of traditional dinnerware designed to let you fill up on full course meals. Stack dinner plates and salad or accent plates atop each other so that guests use the smaller dishes first.
Step 2. Next, add your flatware or cutlery set: on the left, set out a salad fork (the smaller, appetizer-sized fork) and place fork (the larger, feast-sized dinner fork). On the right, add a dinner knife or place knife and place spoon, with a teaspoon and dessert fork at the ready right above it all. For a more traditional formal setting, you can also add a fish fork and fish knife to your table setting for guests to use.
Step 3. Don’t forget to add the essential dinner napkin to every formal table setting. (As a side note: you can even add an extra layer of linens to your tablescape so you’ll have somewhere suitable to set side dishes and main courses.)
Step 4. Don’t forget the bread! Diagonally from your main place setting, include a bread plate and butter knife—because warm, fresh, fluffy bread is the best part of sit-down dinners.
Step 5. You can’t entertain a tableful of guests without something for them to toast with. Make sure everyone’s place is set with a variety of drinkware to create a cohesive look that’s refreshingly functional. Use a white wine glass or red wine glass in your place setting depending on your drink selections and keep a water glass on hand for guests to cleanse their palate.
For Casual Table Settings
This casaul table setting is perfect for gatherings with friends, relaxed family dinners, or simply for every day. It could be brunch, having neighbors over to try your new favorite recipe, a dinner party, or just intimate moments you want to feel elevated.
How to Set a Casual Place Setting
Step 1. Here’s a little trick to keeping your table tidy: before you bring out the place settings ensure everyone has a dish for snacking on starters and appetizers while socializing.
Step 2. The show's real stars are the dinner plates—they do the heavy lifting for all our main courses and meals. (You can opt to stack up accent and salad plates atop each dinner plate though, depending on how many additional courses you’ve cooked up.)
Step 3. Just because the table’s casual doesn’t mean we don’t want to dress to impress. Never forget to include dinner napkins or things could get messy.
Step 4. Casual events always call for less, including flatware or cutlery sets. A single place fork on the left with a place knife and teaspoon on the right are more than enough tableware tools to help you enjoy your meal.
Step 5. Finally, a water glass and your choice of a wine glass will keep you refreshed without making you do extra dishes. Less is more when it comes to a casual table, but don’t let that stop you from putting your spin on it!
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