Table Setting Guide

You sit down at the table at a wedding when a huge wave of fear is cast over you. Which knife comes first!? It's really important to learn the fundamentals of setting a table not only for the purpose of planning a wedding, but for every day life really. Many of us have had that Julia Roberts moment when you simply are just lost and have no idea which spoon is for dessert or for the entree soup. Don’t despair, we’ll explain the ins and outs of it all…!

Basic Table Setting

This is the most commonly used setting during a fairly informal lunch or dinner, not usually the case for weddings, but it’s the basis that will have you started or very well polished when you entertain at home.

Think about the word “FORKS”. You'll use this to spell out your cutlery and plates. It is the order from left to right.

  • 'F' for fork
  • 'O' for the shape of the plate
  • 'K' for knife
  • 'S' for spoon

We'll yes the 'R' is missing, but nothing is perfect, right?

Now, hold your hands up. Touch the tips of your thumbs with the tips of your forefingers. You'll see that it makes a lowercase 'd' with your right hand and a lowercase 'b' with your left hand. This quick trick to reminds you that on your right you have 'Drinks' and on your left you have 'Bread and Butter'! 

Things we learnt! 

  • The bread and butter knife are optional
  • Knife blades always face the plate
  • The napkin goes to the left of the fork, or on the plate

Informal Table Setting

This is where things start to get a little complicated. This setting is used for a meal that includes 4 courses such as soup, salad or entrée, main and dessert. The fundamentals are the same as we've discussed, but you add in an extra fork, spoon, glass, small plate and cup.

You just need to follow the “outside-in” order you are pretty much set! That is start from the last piece of cutlery and work your way towards the plate. 

The forks are arranged according to when you need to use them and they are always to your left. If you need a small fork for appetizer or salad before the main course, then it is placed on the left (outside) of the dinner fork. If the salad is served after the main course, then the small fork is placed to the right (inside) of the dinner fork, next to the plate. Quite simple really, first in - first used!

The soup spoon is on the far right of the dinner knife on the outside. The dessert spoon or teaspoon which are used last will be placed on top of the plate and next to the dinner knife. The dinner knife is placed to the right of the plate with the the blade facing inwards. You may use the dinner knife for all the courses so make sure not to place it on the table if dirty, just lean it on the plate.

And finally the glasses are placed at the top right of the dinner plate above the knives and spoons.


Formal Table Setting

Oh boy... this looks daunting right? But in fact it really isn’t any harder than an informal setting. All the same principles apply. In addition to an informal setting you may find you have a fish fork (which would be next to the soup spoon), a salad fork, a oyster fork, butter knife, dinner fork and fruit and salad spoons... Gulp! But again, just think outside in.

The only catch is with the glasses; these can in fact vary in number up to five. The order is that the smaller ones are up front. The water glass is always located straight above the knives and it usually is the biggest glass in size. Then to the right are the red and a white wine glass (again in order of size, red is bigger as red wine needs to breathe). Finally, a sherry glass or champagne flute are at the right of the wine glasses and should be removed after they have been used. The champagne or sherry glass are usually what is used for an evening toast, so keep this in mind for your speeches. If at the end of the meal there is a dessert, a dessert wine glass should be added by the waiters just before dessert is served.


And with all this we hope you are really set to enjoy the most lavish dinner or wedding reception of your life! 




(Some of these tricks were learnt from a cool site called Emily Post. Images: Entertaining Couple, Wedding Chicks, Karen Tran and Brunch At Saks).

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