Creating a Formal Table Setting

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With Thanksgiving only a month away, now is a good time to become familiar with all the little nuances for setting a formal table. Formal table setting is often considered stuffy and outdated. I admit to be one who likes the freedom to put my soup spoon and salad plate where ever I wish. However, with my love of the vintage and Victorian styles has also come a new respect for the formal table setting. Seeing everything lined up exactly where it should be gives me the giddy feeling of being a little girl playing tea party. There is still plenty of room to be creative with linens, table decor, colors, and the dishes themselves. Rules will vary depending on culture and personal preference. Also, you want to create a beautiful table so sometimes the rules need to be bent for the best overall effect. With this in mind, here is a general guideline for setting a formal table.
  • The service plate or charger (or dinner plate in my world) will be centered in front of the chair.
  • Soup bowls and salad plates are generally stacked on the service plate. These are sometimes brought out later.
  • Depending on your school of thought, cutlery should be one - two inches from the edge of the table or aligned to the bottom edge of the service plate. Items are placed in the order they will be used, beginning from the outer edges and working in toward the plate. Spoons will be placed on the right. Forks are placed on the left with the exception of small cocktail or oyster forks. These will be placed to the right of the dinner spoon. The dessert fork and spoon are placed above the service plate pointing in opposite directions, with the fork tines pointing right.
  • Knives are placed to the left of the dinner spoon with the cutting edge facing the service plate.
  • Water glasses go above the dinner knife while the red wine glass is placed to the right and slightly below the water glass. The white wine glass can be placed to the right and below the red wine glass or centered above the water and red wine glasses. A cup and saucer for tea and coffee can be placed on the right, after the spoons.
  • A bread and butter plate, if offered, has a place above the forks on the left. The bread knife is laid across the bread plate.
  • Your napkin and place card can be placed to your preference. The most common place for the napkin is on top of the service plate or to the left of the forks. Place cards can be set on top of the service plate or at the top of the table setting.
Use this diagram to help you set a lovely table.

Diagram Courtesy of The Class Woman
 ~ Jenna

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