Making Any Weekday Meal a Fun and Formal Occasion for Your Household

This blog post written by Samantha Benner, Family Science Major and Human Development Minor, Graduating May 2022

I can remember when I was younger, during the major holidays, family would come over and I was always told to set the table, except I had no idea how to do it correctly. Knowing how to properly set the table used to be important during family meals to show etiquette and learn table manners, but with modern life, the family dinner and well-set table have taken a back seat to convenience meals and eating on the go. During major holidays and special events like weddings however, it is still standard to craft a nice dinner with the table set and looking pretty. 

Table setting has been around for as long as people have been sharing meals, beginning with the ancient Greeks. In American culture, there are several different ways to set the table but for this blog, only the basic and formal ways will be discussed. 

The most basic way to set the table starts with a placemat, napkin, fork, spoon, knife, and a glass for water. Now let’s start setting it up!

Basic Steps:

  1. Place the placemat down. 
  2. Put the dinner plate in the center of the placemat.
  3. Take the napkin and fold it diagonally in half so the corners meet and then lay the napkin on the left side of the dinner plate.
  4. Next, place the fork on the napkin.
  5. Place the knife on the right of the dinner plate with the sharp side on the inside.
  6. Lay the dinner spoon to the right of the knife.
  7. Lastly, place a water glass slightly above the plate to the right.

The formal way to set the table is commonly used for elegant dinner parties or when you’re really trying to impress someone.

What You’ll Need:

  • napkin  
  • tablecloth 
  • dinner fork 
  • salad fork 
  • soup spoon 
  • dinner knife 
  • dinner plate 
  • soup bowl 
  • bread plate 
  • butter knife 
  • dessert spoon 
  • water glass 
  • red wine glass 
  • white wine glass 
  • salt shaker 
  • pepper shaker 

Formal Steps:

  • Place the tablecloth over the table and a placemat at each seat.
  • Set a dinner plate down the table in front of each seat.
  • Place a soup bowl on top of the dinner plate.
  • Place a nicely folded napkin to the left of the dinner plate.
  • Lay the dinner fork on the napkin and the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork.
  • Place the dinner knife to the right of the dinner plate with the sharp side facing the plate.
  • Next, place the soup spoon to the right of the dinner knife.
  • Then, place the dessert spoon right above the dinner plate and soup bowl.
  • Lay the bread plate slightly above the napkin and rest a butter knife horizontally over the plate with the sharp side on the bottom.
  •  Place the water glass slightly above the dinner knife, the red wine glass to the right of the water glass, and the white wine glass below the red wine glass.
  • Lastly, set the salt and pepper shakers above the dessert spoon. 

Get creative and try themed settings for seasonal or holiday dinners, or let your kids create a centerpiece. Knowing how to set the table is not only impressive, but it can make any meal feel special.

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