Whether you’re hosting a large family gathering or a formal sit down dinner, one of the most important aspects of your event is the way you set the table. Proper table setting etiquette and good manners speak volumes about who you are. Regardless of age, it is important to brush up on your table tactics.
While there are rules when it comes to table settings, it is important to add your own personality and sense of style. One of the unlimited options for showcasing your creativity is in the linens. Whether you are bringing out napkins from your Grandmother’s trousseau or customizing special monogrammed treasures from Leontine Linens (leontinelinens.com), the selected colors will speak loudly. Placemats, tablecloths or layering mats on cloths also will set an interesting tone for your table décor. Blending instead of matching will add another possibility for creativity. Mats should be placed with enough space for the guests to be comfortable. Napkins can be folded in one of the many new styles then placed to the left of the plate or on the plate but never in the glass. Napkins should be removed from the table when the host removes his napkin. If you should need to leave the table during the meal, put your napkin to the left of the plate.
The silverware is placed and used in the same order whether it is a casual or formal meal; always from the outside of the setting toward the plate. When placing flatware on the table, lay the dinner knife one inch to the right of the plate with the blade toward the plate. To the right of the knife, place a teaspoon and then, the soupspoon; all even with the bottom of the plate. On the left side and one inch away, place the dinner fork then, the salad fork. Above the plate, place the dessert utensils with the handle of the fork pointing to the left. Above that, lay the spoon with the handle to the right. Always place the flatware on the plate while drinking. Never leave it in a bowl but place it on the plate underneath. When any piece of silverware is picked up, it should never be allowed to touch the table again.
The charger is an oversize plate which adds interest, color and texture to the décor. It is placed in the center of the setting and is removed before the dessert course. The salad plate is placed on the charger. If no charger is used, the salad plate is placed one inch above the dinner fork. The dinner plate is then placed on the charger. Always serve from the right and remove from the left. If food is to be passed, it is passed to the right. Before the dessert course, remove everything from the table except the dessert utensils and the water glass – all plates, serving bowls, salt and pepper, butter and wine glasses.
When placing glassware on a table, the water goblet should be one inch above the dinner knife. Then, the red wine, white wine and champagne flutes are placed by the order in which they will be consumed. Colored stemware is not used for red wine. Mixing colored and clear glassware will add interest to the table. One should never bring a cocktail glass to the table.
Setting an inviting table contributes to the ambiance of the meal as much as the food and wine. The best way to set a beautiful table is to learn by doing. Combine different patterns and pieces until you are pleased with the final work of art. Remember…it’s all in presentation!