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How to Set a Formal (or Not so Formal) Dinner Table

HG Entertains

How to Set a Formal (or Not so Formal) Dinner Table

Need an Entertaining Refresher?

Ready to start hosting again?  To get you in the mood for your next brunch or dinner party, here’s a mini crash course on setting your table. Whether it’s casual or a little more formal, we've gathered some basic guidelines to follow. We're not fond of too many rules, so once you get the fundamentals, you can have fun. Try mixing vintage with modern dishes, adding some coloured glassware, swapping placemats for a tablecloth, and never forget the fresh flowers. It's time to set your table because parties are back.

Mise en Place

Our first rule of thumb when setting your table is to relax. Most of us are looking for a casual yet elevated look for our table, not dinner at Downton Abbey. Here are some essential guidelines you can follow.

Your napkin generally sits to the left, though it can look just as great centered on your plate.

Your fork sits to the left of your plate, and your knife to the right, with the blade facing in toward the plate's edge.

If you’re serving a dish that requires a spoon, it sits to the right of your knife, while your dessert spoon should be placed above your plate.

Your glasses sit above the knife, with the water glass always to the left of your wine glass.

Placemat, Runner, or Tablecloth?


For casual meals, a placemat will be enough to step up your table setting style. For more formal dinners or multi-course dinner parties, however, consider a runner or tablecloth. Traditionally, formal settings forgo placemats, but some rules are meant to be broken.

Do I Use a Bread Plate?


It's entirely up to you. If you decide to use a bread plate and a butter knife, they sit to the left above your fork.For multi-course dinners, your salad fork sits to the left of the dinner fork.With multiple wine glasses, the wine served first is placed farthest to the right.

HG Entertains Essentials