You've just finished your kitchen renovation and want to have a dinner party to celebrate the occasion and have an excuse to use your new kitchen appliances. While it is not going to be a black tie affair, you do want to use your best china and silverware and you want everything to be just right. The problem is, you don't know how to arrange place settings. Don't worry, it's not as hard as you may think.
Match Your Place Settings with Your Meal
For any formal or semi-formal dinner party, you need to provide a full complement of place settings, but you don't want to lay out all of your cutlery just for the sake of appearances. If you are serving salad but not soup, for instance, you don't want to lay out soup spoons. If your dessert is to be eaten with a spoon, provide your guests with a dessert spoon only.
The Proper Placement of Dinnerware
There is really no arcane secret to how to arrange place settings. In fact, the whole point is to arrange them in a logical sequence for the convenience of your guests. Now that you know what you will need for the meal you are preparing, why not practice with just a single place setting?
- The dinner plate comes first. If soup is going to be served, the soup bowl should be placed on centre of the dinner plate.
- Place your silverware in the order in which it will be used. Forks always go on the left side of the plate, with the salad fork going outside of the dinner fork b ecause that is the one that will be needed first. Similarly, a soup spoon is placed outside of the knife because soup precedes the main course. Dessert spoons and forks should be placed behind the plate, perpendicular to the other cutlery. A dessert fork should be placed with its tines facing away from the other forks (to the right). If a dessert spoon is used as well, it should be placed with its handle facing in the opposite direction.
- A bread plate should be placed to the left of and behind the dinner plate. Place the butter knife across the bread plate.
- Coffee or tea cups are placed to the right and just behind and slightly to the right of the centre of the dinner plate.
- A water glass should be placed to the right and towards the back of the dinner plate.
- A wine glass should be located just to the right and slightly behind the water glass. If you need separate wine glasses for red and white wines, arrange all your glasses in a triangle, with the water glass most conveniently placed.
- A neatly ironed and folded dinner napkin can be placed on top of the dinner plate, across the top of the soup bowl or just to the left of the forks. Dinner napkins should not be placed under the forks as is done in so many restaurants.
The centrepiece of a place setting is the finishing touch that provides an attractive focal point in an otherwise unused portion of the table. Make it beautiful, but keep it low. Your guests should be able to see and talk with one another without having to lean over or sit up.
The difference between informal, semi-formal and formal is more in your choice of tableware than in how it is set. For more formal occasions, you will need to use your best silverware. This is usually continental flatware. For less formal occasions, less ornate flatware is perfectly acceptable, but its best to use high quality silverware that you don't use every day in your home.
Now you know how to arrange place settings. The easiest way to remember where everything goes is to remember that it all follows a logical sequence, from first to last used. If in doubt, you can always come back here before the guests arrive and double check, but don't worry, once you've done it once, you won't forget.