Setting up formal table – a stay at home spouse’s guide

You are hosting your first formal dinner party. You’ve gotten out all of the silverware, glassware, and dinnerware you received as wedding presents or inherited from your family. Just looking at them can be intimidating.

What do you need to use? What are all of those knives for? Most importantly, how do you set a proper table for a formal event?

There are 2 household etiquette maestros Emily Post and Martha Stewart. Here are some of their hacks and suggestions that help the newbie stay at home spouse set up a glamorous formal table.

The grande dame of etiquette, Martha Stewart, says the only rule is that the place settings be geometrically placed, with the centrepiece in the middle of the table, the place settings equidistant from each other, and the utensils balanced. However, there is a designated place for everything in a formal place setting.

  • Plates and napkins

The service plate, also known as the underplate or charger, is placed under the plates and/or bowls that hold the courses preceding the entrée. That plate is then removed and replaced by the plate holding the entrée when it is served. The small butter plate is placed on the left-hand side of the table setting, above the forks. The napkin goes on top of the service plate. Napkins can be folded or rolled into a napkin holder.

  • Flatware

Most people have heard of the “outside-in” placement of eating utensils. That means that the first utensils used during the dinner will be on the outside, with the last ones nearest the plate. Which utensils you set and how you arrange them will depend upon your menu and the order in which you are serving the courses.

The position of the forks are left to the plate. The two primary forks are the salad fork and the dinner (or place) fork. If you are serving fish, you may use a fish fork. As noted, these will be placed in the order they will be used to eat the meal. For example, if you are serving the salad before the entrée, the salad fork will be to the left of the dinner fork. The only fork that is ever placed on the right-hand side is an oyster fork (used if you are serving shellfish). It goes to the right of the spoons.

Knives are placed with the cutting edge of the blade facing the plate. The large dinner knife goes directly to the right of the plate since it will be used for the entree. The salad knife is to the right of it, assuming the salad is served before the entrée. If fish is on the menu, a fish knife will also be placed on the right side of the plate. Its position will depend on the order of the courses. The small butter knife, or spreader, is set across the butter dish.

Spoons are used if you are serving soup and/or fruit. They go to the right of the knives.

  • Stemware (glasses)

For a formal dinner party, you may have as many as five glasses. These go on the right above the knives and spoons. The water goblet (the largest glass) is placed directly above the knives. If you are serving champagne, the flute is to the right of the goblet. Wine and sherry glasses are set in front of the goblet and flute, closer to the guest.

  • Dessert, coffee, and other utensils 

According to Emily Post, no more than three of any particular utensil is ever placed on the table, unless an oyster fork is used. If more than three courses are served before dessert, the utensil for the fourth course is brought in with the food. For example, salad forks and knives may be brought in when the salad is served.

Dessert spoons and forks are not part of a formal dinner setting. They are brought in on the dessert plate just before the dessert is served. Martha Stewart, however, shows the dessert fork and spoon placed above the dinner plate, facing opposite directions, on her website.

If coffee is served with dessert ordered from cake delivery in Ludhiana service, it is generally agreed that the cups and saucers along with the coffee spoon are brought out at that time. They are placed above and to the right of the knives and spoons. The spoon is placed on the saucer.

Regardless of the occasion, a big advantage to hiring caterers for a formal dinner (aside from not having to cook) is that they will handle the clearing away of plates and utensils after each course, and make sure that everyone has what they need throughout the dinner. That way you can focus on making sure your guests are enjoying themselves.

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