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How do I set a table?

Whether you want to make every day extraordinary or to create a beautiful meal for a special event, the guidelines below will teach you how to set a table.

You don't need to use all of the items described or to remember all of the details. Personalize your table with the pieces you love and come back to the Sterling 365 web site for a refresher course on table setting whenever you need it.

In General

Allow for 24 to 30 inches for each place setting.

Place settings should sit one inch from the edge of the table.

All silverware is placed in the order of use: The first utensil to be used should be farthest from the plate.

Knives are placed to the right of the plate, with the knife's cutting edge facing the plate. However, the butter spreader should be placed diagonally on the bread plate, with the blade’s edge toward the dinner fork.

Spoons are placed at the right of the plate and at the right of the knives.

Forks are placed at the left of the plate, in order of use. The only exception is the cocktail/oyster fork, which sits at the right of the soup spoon.

If salad will be served with the main course, or if the salad fork will be used as a dessert fork, it is placed at the right of the dinner fork, next to the plate. The dessert fork and spoon can also be placed above the plate, European-style. The spoon, with its handle to the right, goes above the fork. The fork's handle points to the left.

Casual Dinners

The bread and butter plate is optional at an informal dinner party. If you plan to use a bread and butter plate, place it at the upper left of the dinner plate; lay the butter spreader horizontally across the plate, with the blade facing the plate. Place knives are set at the immediate right of the dinner plate, with blades facing the plate. A soup spoon, if needed, is set at the right of all knives.

Forks are placed at the left of the dinner plate in the order of their use, starting from the outside and moving toward the plate. Dessert spoons and forks can be brought to the table with the dessert plates. Water glasses should be set just above the knife. The wine glass is placed slightly at the right of the water glass. A cup and a saucer can be brought to the table along with the teaspoon with dessert. Place a folded napkin at the left of your forks.

Formal Dinners

At most formal dinner parties, a charger is used at each guest's place and then removed from the table with the first-course plates. If you're not using a charger, then set dinner plates at each place. If salad will be served as the first course, place the salad plate on top of the dinner plate. If space allows, the salad plate can be arranged at the left of the forks. Knives are set at the immediate right of the dinner plate, with blades facing the plate. The soup spoon, if needed, sits at the right of all knives. Forks are placed at the left of the dinner plate in the order of use, from the outside in toward the plate.

If the salad is served European-style (after the entrée), place the salad fork at the right of the place fork, next to the plate. If you are setting a salad knife, place it at the right of the plate, to correspond with the placement of the salad fork. The only exception to "forks on the left" is when you need an oyster or a shellfish fork. The oyster fork is placed at the right side of the dinner plate, to the right of the knives. Dessert spoons and forks can be placed horizontally above the dinner plate or brought to the table with the dessert plates. Water glasses should be set just above the knife. The wine glass, red or white, is placed slightly at the right of the water glass. When using both red and white wine glasses, place each (red, then white) at the right of the water glass. Place a champagne flute behind the other two wine glasses, thus forming a triangle.

A cup and a saucer are not part of a formal place setting. They should be brought to the table along with the teaspoon and the dessert plate. Do not forget about your napkin. Arrange a folded napkin in the center of the top plate. If the soup bowl is set on the top plate, then place the folded napkin to the left of the forks.

Buffets

When using a round table, mirror the assortment on each half of the table and place the courses in the same order, so guests keep moving clockwise to the left. Another popular approach is called "the three-sided buffet." For this approach, set a rectangular table against a wall. Traffic should flow in one direction through the buffet, allowing you to use just one dish for each assortment.

Whichever option you choose, arrange the meal in the following order: dinner plates, stacked with a maximum of 12 plates per stack; hot main course, preferably in a chafing dish; second entrée (optional); vegetable; salad; relish tray, olives or nuts (optional); breads; flatware; folded dinner-size napkins. (Napkins can also be stacked between the plates or wrapped around the flatware.) Beverages and glassware should be placed on a separate table along with coffee and dessert service so guests can help themselves.

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