How To Set a Table for Dinner

Knowing how to set a table for dinner is a valuable lesson, although it can be nerve-racking for those who may not be as familiar with proper table setting etiquette. There are so many table setting rules (too many, maybe?) and a lot of leeway to make it as unique as you please. In this post we will go over the table setting rules you should know, various types of table settings, table setting ideas and all of the essentials you will need for a well set dinner table.

Table Setting Rules 

When it comes to setting the perfect table, an essential etiquette tip is to design your tabletop arrangement using proper table setting rules.  As long as you stick to the simple, foundational table setting guide below, you can still  have fun with your arrangement and enjoy the other aspects of your tablescape. For example, you can add name cards, florals, figurines, candles, and more to curate your own individual look. 

  • Arrange the plates in the center of the place mat.
  • Lay the napkin to the left of the plate. 
  • Place flatware from the outside in, according to what you’ll be using first. 
  • The fork sits to the left of the plate, with or on the napkin.
  • Place the knives to the right of the plates, and make sure the blades are facing in, towards the plate. 
  • The spoon sits to the right of the knife.
  • The water glass sits above the knife.

Types of Table Settings

There are three main types of table settings: simple, informal, and formal.

The simple table setting is how one would set a table for dinner on an average day. It is efficient and without frills. The informal table setting is a step up from the simple table setting, but it isn’t ready for the red carpet quite yet. It looks aesthetically pleasing, but it isn’t the type of tablescape one would dream about on pinterest. The formal table setting is ready for the runway. This table setting is glamorous, beautiful, and entices a guest to enjoy the meal dish by dish. This isn’t a table setting one would use every day, or maybe even every week. This table setting is for special occasions such as holidays, dinner parties, birthdays, or formal dinners.

All of these table settings include the same basic tools for a meal at home, but as you move from simple to informal to formal, the table gets busier, with more rules, and more leeway to make this tablescape your own.

Simple Table Setting

Many individuals’ first instinct on how to set a table for dinner leans toward the simple table setting. The simple table setting is the type of table setting most people use for weeknight dinners with the family, or breakfast on Saturday mornings. There is no need for an extravagant table, unless you prefer one. This table setting is simple, sweet and still gives you a small touch of formality without the hassle.

The simple table setting includes: 

  • Placemats (optional)
  • Dinner plates
  • Salad plates or soup bowls (optional: depending on the meal)
  • Napkins
  • Dinner forks
  • Knives
  • Spoons (optional: depending on the meal)
  • Water glasses 

Informal Table Setting 

The informal table setting is perfect for when you’re hosting a casual brunch or dinner with friends. Maybe you’re making a nice (but not show-stopping) meal with multiple courses. The informal table setting is simply a glammed up version of the simple table setting, and can be used whenever you want to go the extra mile to add a subtle layer of elegance to an everyday meal.

The informal table setting includes: 

  • Place mats
  • Dinner plates
  • Salad Plates
  • Soup bowls (optional)
  • Napkins
  • Salad Forks
  • Dinner Forks
  • Soup spoons (optional)
  • Dessert spoons
  • Dinner knives 
  • Bread plates
  • Bread knives 
  • Water glasses 
  • Wine glasses (optional)

Formal Table Setting

Curious about how to set a table for a dinner party? The formal table setting is for a holiday feast, big celebration, or any other nice meal you’d like to serve to guests. This table setting is full glam… as if you were getting ready to go to the Grammy’s! Normally, for a formal dinner table, one would omit the placemat. However, a round placemat underneath the charger can also be a very formal look. 

The formal table setting includes (many pieces):

  • Tablecloth (optional)
  • Chargers
  • Dinner plates
  • Soup bowls (optional)
  • Salad plates (optional)
  • Bread plates
  • Napkins
  • Salad forks
  • Dinner forks
  • Knives
  • Soup spoons (optional)
  • Butter knives
  • Dessert spoons
  • Water glasses
  • Wine glasses (optional)

Dinner Table Setting Ideas

Everything You Need for a Well Dressed Table

Now that we have a basic understanding of how to set a table for dinner as well asour table setting types down… we can discuss the fun, unique and creative choices that help to build the astetchic of your perfect dinner table setting.

While, the basic formal arrangements of your cutlery and table setting structure should remain the same, your individual taste in and selection of flatware, china or pottery, placemats, napkins, napkin rings, stemware, dessert plates, and figurines can make your table extra special. These choices are where your distinctive style is able to shine, so enjoy the process of curating your special selection of table setting items. Here are some items to help give you a little table top inspiration!

Dinnerware Sets

Flatware

Stemware

Linens

Conclusion

Setting a dinner table is a fun way to spruce up your evening dinner, girls night, or family holiday. It can transform a home and allows for the greatest memories to happen organically. It’s important to note the difference between the simple, informal, and formal table setting. Everything you need to create any table setting is available at Bering’s and our sales associates would love to assist you in curating your own unique, personalized and beautiful selection of tableware. 

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