Creating the Perfect Table: How to Set and Style Like a Pro

Eloquence in Presentation
Table Setting has become something of a lost art. In the fast paced world of today’s society it often seems as if we can barely find the time to eat, let alone set a table properly. While it might not be something you will want to incorporate into your everyday lifestyle, a beautiful table will enhance any dinner party or special occasion. It doesn’t take more than a little planning to add a touch of grace and refinement that will set the tone for the evening to come.

The Basic Setting
How you set your table is going to depend on the meal, or type of meal, you are planning to serve. Breakfast, brunch or lunch presume a more relaxed setting than dinner; and a casual dinner requires less tableware than a formal dinner. A basic table setting, suitable for breakfast, brunch, lunch and casual dinners should be arranged as follows:

  • A dinner plate in the center (allow at least 24 inches for each place setting)
  • A bread and butter plate placed at the top left of the dinner plate
  • A soup/salad bowl can be placed on top of the dinner plate (as needed)
  • A dinner fork placed on the direct left of the dinner plate
  • A knife and teaspoon placed on the direct right of the dinner plate (the cutting edge of the knife should face the plate)
  • A napkin folded to the left of the fork
  • A drinking glass placed directly above the spoon and knife
  • A coffee/tea cup and saucer to the right of the drinking glass

Elegant Dinner Touches
If your dinner falls somewhere between the realm of casual and formal, or you just feel like dining in elegance, the following additions should be added to the basic setting:

  • Add a salad fork to the left of the dinner fork
  • Add a soup spoon between the teaspoon and the knife
  • A steak knife may be added to the right of the knife as needed
  • If wine is being serving, the wine glass should be placed to the right of the drinking glass
  • The coffee/tea cup and saucer may alternately be brought to the table at the end of the meal

Formal Dining
When the occasion calls for formal dining, it’s time to bring out the big guns. Unwrap the fine china and delve into your pantry/attic/storeroom for those rarely used implements of culinary satisfaction, the dessert fork, the cocktail fork and the fish knife. It’s time to get serious with the flatware. To the dinner set up above, add the following:

  • Move the salad fork to the right of the dinner fork (salad should be served following the entrée)
  • Add a cocktail fork to the right of the newly placed dinner fork
  • Add a fish knife to the right of the dinner knife
  • Add a butter knife or spreader to the bread and butter plate
  • Add a service plate on top of the dinner plate, beneath the soup bowl
  • Remove the coffee/tea cup and saucer as these should be brought at the end of the meal
  • Glassware should be set at a slight diagonal with the highest point being the drinking glass at the tip of the knife, a red wine glass to the down left, a white wine glass further down left and finally a champagne flute at the lowest point above the teaspoon.
  • The napkin can be folded and placed on top of the soup bowl, or in a wine goblet

Table Linens and Place Settings
Again, the type and amount of table linens and place settings will depend on the mood of your gathering. For informal dining, no tablecloth is needed (although they are always a nice touch) and good quality paper napkins are acceptable. Formal dinners should be served on a linen tablecloth with matching cloth napkins and place settings if possible.

Centerpieces and Other Decorative Touches
When choosing a centerpiece, you want to make sure that it will add to the beauty of your table without overpowering it or blocking conversation. Fresh Flowers in low arrangements and candles are always beautiful, but switch it up sometimes by getting creative. Edible centerpieces, such as fancy desserts or a mosaic of colorful candies can add a whimsical (and delicious) touch. Shallow bowls filled glass marbles in colors that complement your linens are also an option. For a truly classical touch, create place cards for your guests. With a computer loaded with a multitude of fonts, you don’t even need to know calligraphy! The decorations and style of your table should be a reflection of you.

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