How to Set a Table

By Laura Parker
July 13, 2023

People setting the table for dinner at a wedding picture id926497828

Most people have not learned how to set the table properly. It has become a bit of a lost art, and if it is ever done, it is indeed not as appreciated as it should be. But not to worry, Handy is here to guide you through all the proper ways to set the table for whatever dining experience you are hosting; simple, casual, and formal.


How to Set the Simple Table

For dinner every night at your home or a leisurely weekend breakfast, here is how to set a table properly for a simple meal.

  1. If you don’t own placemats, buy some. But only put enough placemats on the table for each guest. No extras. No less. 
  2. Place the dinner plate in the middle of the placemat. 
  3. The fork is placed on the napkin to the left.
  4. The knife goes on the right closest to the plate with the blade facing in.
  5. Place the spoon to the right of the knife. 
  6. Make sure all bottoms of the utensils and plate are level. 
  7. The water glass goes to 1 P.M. of the plate.


How to Set the Casual Table

The setting for a casual table is not much different from the setting of a simple table. But it does include a few more extra dishes. It’s important to acknowledge what it is you and your guests will be eating before you set the table. You should only lay out the dishes and utensils required for the complete meal you’ll be serving.


  1. Lay the placemats on the table. 
  2. Put the dinner plate in the middle of the placemat. 
  3. Place the salad plate (if you’re having salad) on top of the dinner plate. 
  4. If you're planning to serve soup first, place the soup bowl on top of the salad plate. 
  5. Lay the napkin to the left of the dinner plate.
  6. Place the salad fork (if you’re having salad) on top of the napkin to the far left.
  7. Lay the dinner fork to the right of the salad fork.
  8. On the right side of the plate, the knife will lay closest to the plate followed by the spoon.
  9. Directly above the knife, place the water glass. 
  10. To the right and slightly above the water glass, place the wine glass or glass for another beverage.


How to Set the Formal Table

In all the preparation for the elegant dinner party, you're hosting; you have forgotten exactly how to set the table for a formal event. Luckily, you know quite a lot more than you think because all of these table settings build on one another. If you’ve mastered how to set a casual table, setting a formal table will be a breeze.


To set a formal table, you will need the following: a tablecloth, chargers, dinner plates, soup bowls, salad plates, bread plates, napkins, salad forks, dinner forks, knives, soup spoons, butter knives, dessert spoons, water glasses, red wine glasses, and white wine glasses.


  1. Lay out the ironed tablecloth. 
  2. Set a charger at each seat. The charger will function as a more elegant placemat. 
  3. Place the soup bowl in the center of the charger. 
  4. The bread plate will go to the top left of the charger. 
  5. Lay the napkin to the left of the charger. 
  6. The salad fork goes on the napkin to the outside with the dinner fork on the inside. 
  7. To the right of the charger, place the knife to the inside with the blade facing in towards the charger, and the soup spoon to the outside. 
  8. Make sure that all the utensils are spaced out half an inch from each other, and they are all level with the bottom of the charger.
  9. On the center of the bread plate, place a butter knife horizontally (handle on the right) with the blade facing inwards. 
  10. Place a dessert spoon (a dessert spoon is just a teaspoon) a half of an inch in front of the charger.
  11. Directly above the knife is where you’ll place the water glass. To the right of the water glass and about three-fourths of an inch downward, put the white wine glass.
  12. To go the extra mile, you can lay a place card right in front of the dessert spoon.


Follow these steps, and you'll know exactly how to set the table for your everyday meals to your most elegant dining occasions. To read more tips and guides from Handy, check out our homepage and our other articles. Thanks for reading, and happy dining!

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