Cutlery, also called flatware or silverware, is a type of table setting which includes all the items used to serve and consume food. If you are hosting a formal dinner, then it is important to know how to set cutlery on the table. This involves selecting the correct type of cutlery for each course and arranging them in such a way that allows for easy eating. It is also important to remember that different types of cutlery should not be mixed together.
In this guide, we will go over the basics of how to set cutlery on a table for formal meals. We’ll discuss the different types of cutlery used in each course, as well as provide instructions on how to properly arrange them on the table:
The way you set cutlery on a table can make a big difference to the overall presentation of a meal. It is important to remember basic rules for setting cutlery on a table in order to create an attractive and inviting presentation. From choosing the correct order to arranging the cutlery on the table in an aesthetically pleasing manner, we will cover all the basics of setting cutlery on the table.
Position of the forks
When setting the table for a meal, forks can usually be found on the left side of the plate. If multiple courses are served, arrange the forks from outside to inside with each course’s fork closer to the plate. Salad or appetizer forks should be placed at the top left of the dinner plate and then progress horizontally toward you. For a main course, set a dinner fork directly to the left of or above the dinner plate and an optional oyster fork to its right. Utensils that are not immediately needed can be brought out in course order and placed above the plate or on separate side dishes like butter plates.
Dessert forks may either be pre-set at an angle above your dinner plate or brought out with dessert when served. Spoon placement follows similar rules—place spoons in order of use from right to left (or outside in). When finished with your meal, simply leave your utensils on your plate in the “resting” position – tines faced up, blade faced down, spoon turned inward towards bowl of spoon–to signal that you have finished eating.
Position of the knives
When setting cutlery on a dining table, be sure to take into consideration the size, shape and type of plates being used. The knives should be placed on the right side of the plate, with the blades facing in towards the plate. Since some meal configurations may have multiple knives or different types of knives (such as steak, bread and butter), it’s important to remember to group similar pieces together.
Additionally, large knives should always go closest to the plate with smaller ones placed further away. Finally, all cutlery should be spaced evenly apart between each piece for an aesthetically pleasing presentation.
Position of the spoons
When setting cutlery on the table for a formal dinner, there are several basic rules you should follow.
- The spoons should be placed on the right side of the plate and facing inward towards the plate. The teaspoon generally goes closest to the plate, followed by other spoons in order of which size is larger moving out and away from the plate. If a soup course is served before dessert, it may be necessary to add an additional spoon between them.
- Similarly, forks should be placed on the left side of the plate and facing inward towards it in descending order of size. Place salad forks closer to the plate if they are provided; otherwise they can be set above or to one side of your main course fork depending on your space.
- The knives can either be placed above or directly beside your primary course fork with their blades pointing inward towards your plate at all times. Butter knives should go closest to your bread and butter plates if used; otherwise can rest across both plates diagonally. Any specialty cutlery for specific courses should always go directly next to each dish as you set it down at each place setting.
Position of the napkin
Positioning the napkin is one of the basic rules for setting a table. It is typically places to the left of the plate or in a separate fold-out napkin holder with other cutlery and can be positioned in two ways.
i). The first option is to place your napkin on your plate with the folded edge towards you.
ii). The second option is to use a napkin ring and place it around the outside of your folded napkin on the left side of your plate.
When finished using your napkin, you should always place it back on its designated spot until finished with the meal. It should not be used as a handkerchief or placed on your lap or chair. Once you have finished eating, fold it into a rectangle shape and gently place it to one side of your plate – traditionally inwards towards you, but outwards will do fine too.
Setting up the table for special occasions can be a challenging yet enjoyable task. You need to make sure that all of your cutlery is laid out correctly and looks attractive. When it comes to how to set cutlery on the table, there are some simple steps that you can follow to ensure that your table setting looks professional and elegant:
- Start by placing the forks on the left side of the plate.
- Next, place the knives on the right side of the plate.
- Then, place the spoons on the right side of the knives.
- Finally, place the dessert spoon and fork (if needed) above the plate.
For a formal event, cutlery should be set from the outside in. When setting up for a formal dinner, it is important to remember that you will be working from the outside of the table inwards. A typical formal dinner setting includes a fork on the left side and a knife and spoon on the right.
To start, place your dinner plate slightly above eye level. On either side of this main plate, there should be two smaller dishes with an individual fork (dinner fork) and spoon (dessert spoon). The knife is placed to the right of these smaller plates facing inward. This is then followed by soup spoons and additional forks (salad forks) located further to the right in order of use – this allows diners to move from one course to another without being too confused by having each cutlery set overlapping each other.
For drinks, glasses are usually placed on both sides of the plate at approximately 2/3 up from where your plate begins as well as one for water near your main plate.
When setting the table for an informal special occasion such as a casual dinner or an outdoor barbecue, you don’t need to follow the strict formal dinner service rules. The only basic requirement is that everything should be placed symmetrically.
The cutlery should start inward and proceed outwards. Start with the knife and dinner fork (blade-side in) on your right, followed by a small fork, tea spoon, and soup spoon (left to right). A napkin can be either placed on top of or folded below the forks – whichever aesthetically suits your table theme. Any additional utensils should be placed toward the person at their closing course, usually dessert.
Serve small plates for each course to make it easier for guests if there’s more than one dish served at the same time. Guests usually have one plate for appetizers and starters, a slightly larger plate for mains, followed by a smaller plate designed specifically for desserts and final treats. When setting these plates on the table you’ll want to lay them roughly in their order so that from left to right they represent appetizer, main course and dessert – this helps guests keep track of what’s what throughout dinner.
Glasses may also be added at each guest’s place with sparkling water glass closest to hand when sitting down at the beginning of dinner as well as white wine glasses closer to where will take place when dishes are served before main course are presented (red wine glasses).
Now you know how to set cutlery on the table properly. Cutlery setting is an important part of table setting and it can add a sophisticated and elegant touch to a table. Setting the cutlery so that it forms an orderly array on the table has become even more important since many of us are now trying to entertain friends and family more often.
Remember that when setting cutlery, you should start from outside in. Place knives and spoons on the right hand side of the plate and forks on the left. Order your table setting logically by placing:
- Soup spoons at the top,
- Dinner spoons,
- Knives, then
- Forks at the bottom, with
- Dessert utensils optional depending on what course is being served last.
Always make sure to use clean utensils—it will make all the difference!