Table Setting Tips For Your Next Occasion

OpenTable is all about bringing amazing restaurant experiences into the homes of our delivery diners. One way to do this is by elevating the ambiance and setting your dining table. It may seem like a daunting task for those of us who enjoy eating out or prefer to take a casual approach to dining at home (on the couch, binge-watching your favorite fall line-up), but it doesn’t have to be. The key thing to remember is that a proper table setting is less about etiquette and more of a welcoming gesture to your dinner guests. We’ve put together a few tips on how to add a special touch to all of your home dining experiences:

A Few General Guidelines

Depending on what kind of meal your hosting, the rules of table setting can vary, but these are some hard and fast rules that should be applied across the board:

  • Plates always sit at the center of each placemat.
  • Napkins go to the left of the plate.
  • Flatware is always placed from the outside in, according to what will be used first.
  • Knives are set with their blades facing in toward the plate.
  • Spoons generally go to the right of knives.
  • Glasses sit above the knives.
  • Forks sit to the left of the plate, with or placed on a napkin.

Basic, Everyday Meals

This table setting is ideal for weekday meals or casual weekend breakfasts with your family (or your roommate). You won’t have to spend too much time thinking about this setting—all you’ll need for each placement is a single plate, a fork, a knife, and a napkin. A placemat is optional for this particular setting and you should feel free to ditch the spoon if you aren’t serving a dish that requires one. We listed out the five simple steps for this setting:

  • Place the plate at the center of the table setting.
  • Fork to the left of the plate and knife on the right.
  • Set the spoon to the right of the knife.
  • The water glass sits just above the knife in the top right corner.
  • A napkin can be placed on top of the plate or beneath the fork.

Casual Group Dining

Whether you’re putting together a fancy-ish meal for a dinner party or hosting a casual brunch with friends, a casual place setting can upgrade the vibe and aesthetic. If you don’t have access to matching flatware, glassware, and linens, a casual setting is the perfect time to do a little mixing and matching. Play around with patterns and colors to create a unique tablescape. Here’s a play by play on how to place a casual setting:

  • Lay out a placemat.
  • Set the dinner plate in the center of the table setting. If you’re serving a salad, place the salad plate on top of the dinner plate.
  • Place forks to the left of the dinner plate. The dinner fork sits left of the plate and the salad fork sits left of the dinner fork.
  • The knife is set to the right of the dinner plate and then place the spoon to the right of the knife.
  • The water glass sits in the top right corner, above the knife.
  • A wine glass, if needed, should be placed to the right of the water glass.
  • The napkin goes on the plate(s) or underneath the fork.

A Formal Dining Table

Formal settings are best for your holiday feasts or a multi-course extravaganza. The biggest difference between a formal setting and the casual setting is the addition of the table cloth, charger (a decorative presentation plate), coffee cups, an extra wine glass, a bread plate, and the bread knife. Add a traditional twist to your next meal with these steps:

  • Lay out a crisp tablecloth (instead of a placemat), Then place a dinner plate, with a charger plate underneath, in the middle of the setting.
  • Put the salad plate on top of the dinner plate.
  • A bread plate is placed above and to the left of the dinner/salad plate set. The butter knife sits horizontally on the bread plate.
  • Dinner forks go to the left of the plates with the salad fork sitting to the far left.
  • Place the knife to the right of the plates and then set the spoon to the right of the knife.
  • The dessert spoon sits horizontally above the dinner plate.
  • Water and wine glasses go in the upper right corner of the place setting. The water glass should be closest to the guest.
  • Napkins sit on top of the salad plate, folded or placed in a napkin ring.
  • Add a personalized touch with place cards above the dessert spoon, so your guests can easily find their seats.
  • A coffee cup and saucer can be placed below the glasses with the dessert course.

We saved the best table setting tip for last! Every beautiful tablescape needs a great meal, so order delivery on OpenTable and serve up your favorite dishes in style. Download our app to place your next order.

Let us know your experiences with hosting and table setting here in the comments or over on our Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.