How to Set a Table: Your Guide to Basic, Casual, and Formal Table Settings - DezignSpace

How to Set a Table: Your Guide to Basic, Casual, and Formal Table Settings

When it comes to setting the table, there’s often A LOT of confusion. Which fork goes where? How many plates do I really need? The answer is- it all depends! The formality of the meal will determine which table setting is most appropriate, so whether you’re having a basic BBQ or a fabulous five-course feast- we’ve got you covered. Follow along with the diagrams, and let’s get your table set straight. 😉


How to Set a Basic Table

Perfect for your everyday brekkie or din-din. A basic table setting typically includes a placemat, dinner plate, napkin, flatware, and water glass.


Setting a Basic Table


  1. Set the placemat on the table.
  2. In the middle of the placemat, set the plate.
  3. To the right or left of the plate, set the napkin.
  4. On the napkin, set the fork.
  5. Set the knife with the blade pointing inward, closest to the plate on the right side, with the spoon on the far right. Ensure the bottom of the plate is level with the bottom of the utensils.
  6. At the 1 o’clock marker, set the water glass between the plate and utensils slightly above the dinner plate.


    How to Set a Casual Table

    This is the setting you need when you’re having a chill dinner party with a few close friends or fam. Basic and casual table settings are pretty similar; however, a few things are added to the mix – a salad plate and/or a soup bowl, a salad fork and soup spoon, and a wine glass. If you’re not serving soup, you can skip the bowl and spoon, likewise for the beverage glasses. If you’re only serving red wine, you only need to set out that specific glass with the water glass. 🍷


    Casual Table Setting Instructions


    1. Set the placemat on the table.
    2. In the middle of the placemat, set the dinner plate.
    3. On top of the dinner plate, set the salad plate.
    4. On top of the salad plate, set the soup bowl.
    5. To the right or left of the plate, lay a napkin.
    6. Set a fork on the napkin in the closest position to the plate. 
    7. To the right of the plate, set a knife closest to the plate
    8. and then a spoon.
    9. Set the water glass directly above the knife.
    10. Place the wine (or other beverage) glass slightly above
    11. and to the right of the water glass.

    Pro tip: Regarding salt and pepper shakers/containers, set them in the middle of a regular-sized table or one set in the middle of each end of a large rectangular table.


    How to Set a Formal Table

    Let’s treat your table to a glow-up! Don’t fret; with just a few sparkles, you’ll be ready to entertain elegantly. A fancy five-course meal will have the addition of chargers and the removal of traditional placemats. You can add a round placemat underneath the charger for a more personalized touch if you wish.

    Get ready because there are a lot of accents for a formal dinner setting. You’ll need a soup bowl, as well as dinner, salad, and bread plates. Your flatware should include salad forks, dinner forks, dinner knives, soup spoons, butter knives, and dessert spoons. Glassware essentials are water glasses, red and white wine glasses, and a champagne flute. Don’t forget the linens! A pristinely ironed fabric tablecloth and napkins will seal the deal. ✔️


    Formal Table Setting Instructions


    1. Place a freshly ironed tablecloth over the table.
    2. Place a charger at each seat.
    3. Place a soup bowl in the middle of each charger.
    4. Place a bread plate at the top left of the charge, between the 10 and 11 o’clock positions.
    5. Place a napkin to the left of the charger.
    6. To the left of the charger, set a salad fork on the outside and a dinner fork on the inside. Either place the forks on the napkin or directly on the tablecloth between the charger and napkin if you have more space.
    7. To the right of the charger, place the knife closest to the charger (with the blade facing inward toward the charger) and then the soup spoon.
    8. Set a butter knife horizontally with the blade facing inward on top of the bread plate with the handle pointing to the right.
    9. Set a dessert spoon (teaspoon) with the handle pointing to the right directly above the charger.
    10. Set a water glass directly above the knife. Set a white wine glass to the right of the water glass and roughly three-quarters of an inch downward. To the right of and slightly above the white wine glass, set the red wine glass.
    11. Set salt and pepper shakers in the middle of a regular-sized table or in the middle of each end of a large rectangular table. If you have individual shakers for each guest, they go at the top of the place setting.
    12. If you’re feeling particularly festive, set a place card above the dessert spoon.

    Pro tip: Align the bottoms of each utensil with the bottom of the charger. Evenly space vertical flatware half an inch from one another.

    As you can see, basic, casual, and formal place settings are all related and not that far from each other. Once you know the basic template, you can easily build from there. So there you have it! You have everything you need to treat you and your guests to a tantalizing table! Ready SET go! 

    Ooh, wait! Before you go, have you taken the tabletop quiz? Don’t miss it: Which Tabletop is Totally You?

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    2 thoughts on this post

    1. I love this article too! I decided to apply the knives/forks/spoons correctly and with matching linen (plus a very small vase with frangipanis in the middle of my square 8 seater table). The response? WOW!!! Thank you SO much Lisa and her crew for putting this together!

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