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Table setting 101: Impress your guests
Basic manners and an ideal table setting can enhance both the artistic quality of food and a diner's experience during mealtime.
Setting a table properly influences the appreciation that people feel about being with others. It shows the importance you place at their being with you and It ultimately affects the appearance and taste of the food served.
Basic Table Setting
For casual events, such as a nightly dinner or a weekend breakfast, a basic table setting is needed. Include a place mat, cutlery (fork, knife, and spoon), a dinner plate, a water glass, and a napkin.
Start by laying the place mat on the table, then place the dinner plate in the middle of the place mat. Lay the napkin to the left of the plate and place the fork on the napkin. Know that it is acceptable to set the napkin on top of the plate, though this can create a more formal feeling. To the right of the plate, you will place the knife, with the blade facing inwards. Lastly, place the spoon to the right of the knife. (Note: The bottoms of the utensils and the plate should all be level.)
Place the water glass slightly above the plate, in between the plate and the utensils, on the 1 p.m. position on a clock face.
Casual Table Setting
In a casual dinner table, there is just a dinner plate and a placemat (usually square). Additionally, you only set the glassware, tableware, and flatware that you’re going to be using. If there is no salad course, all you need to set is a dinner fork. If you’re only serving white wine, a red wine glass is not needed.
Again, begin by laying the place mat on the table and put the dinner plate in the middle of the place mat. Then place the salad plate on top of the dinner plate.
If you’re starting with a soup course, place the soup bowl on top of the salad plate. Then lay a napkin to the left of the charger and place the fork on the napkin, to the left of the plate. On the right of the plate, place the knife with its edge facing inwards and then the spoon. Directly above the knife, place the water glass. To the right and slightly above the water glass, place the wine glass or glass for another beverage.
If using individual salt and pepper shakers for each guest, place them at the top of the placemat. Otherwise, place them near the center of the table, or, if using a long, rectangle table, place them in the middle of each end.
Formal Table Setting
This is the appropriate setting when hosting an elegant dinner party, requiring a table set for a three-course meal.
A formal table setting includes table cloth, chargers, dinner plates, soup bowls, salad plates, bread plates, napkins, salad forks, dinner forks, knives, soup spoons, butter knives, dessert spoons, water glasses, red wine glasses, and white wine glasses.
To start with, lay an ironed tablecloth on the table. Set a charger at each seat and place a soup bowl in the center of each. Place the bread plate to the top left of the charger (between 10 and 11 p.m. on a clock face). Lay a napkin to the left of the charger and on top of it place the salad fork on the outside, and the dinner fork on the inside. For roomier settings, you may place the forks directly on the tablecloth between the napkin and the charger. On the right of the charger, place the knife closest to the charger, blade facing in towards the charger, then the soup spoon.
Note: All vertical flatware (salad fork, dinner fork, knife, and soup spoon) should be spaced evenly, about half an inch away from each other, and the bottoms of each utensil should be aligned with the bottom of the charger.
Place a butter knife horizontally, blade facing inwards on top of the bread plate with the handle pointing to the right. Directly above the charger, place a dessert or teaspoon with the handle pointing to the right. Directly above the knife, place a water glass. To the right of the water glass and about three-fourths of an inch downward, place the white wine glass. The red wine glass should be placed to the right of, slightly above, the white wine glass. Since people traditionally drink more water than wine during dinner, the water is closer to the diner.
If using individual salt and pepper shakers for each guest, place them above the dessert spoon. Otherwise, place them near the center of the table, or, if using a long, rectangle table, place them in the middle of each end.
If using a place card, set above the dessert spoon.
After the soup course is complete and bowls are cleared, a salad plate will take the soup bowl’s position. Traditionally, a charger holds the spot for the dinner plate and is removed after the salad course so the place is never bare. If you do not want to clear the table after the soup course and bring out dinner plates, you can place a dinner plate on top of the charger.
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