Table setting isn’t nearly as complicated as it might seem, and the knowledge of a few basic rules will set you up for success no matter what type of meal you’re serving.
Decades ago, a standard dinner party was a multi-course formal affair, where guests were gussied up in their Sunday best, the table was properly set with an arsenal of cutlery for the many dishes, and the presentation of the meal was almost more important than the taste. While certainly fun at times, this style of entertaining has mostly given way to more casual, intimate gatherings, where guests serve themselves family-style, the dress code is a little more relaxed, and people pour themselves wine at the table.
Despite the more modern and friendly way of hosting friends, it is important to have a few table-setting basics tucked into your back pocket for the special occasions that require them. For starters, forks always go to the left of the plate, with knives and spoons resting to the right. If you are serving multiple courses, and require more than one fork, place them on the table in the order that they will be used. The blades of a knife should always face inward, and the napkin goes to the left of the fork, under the fork, or on the centre of the plate.
Regardless of what type of dinner you are hosting this holiday, here is a guide to the items you will need. They’ve been divided into style of meal (family, plated, or buffet) to help you determine which list of item suggestions will be most beneficial to you.
Setting the Table for Casual Dining or Family-Style Service:
What you’ll need:
Each person will require a dinner plate, dinner fork and knife, napkin, water and wine glass. For the food, you’ll need a large platter or bowl and serving spoon, fork or tongs for each dish and condiment. Other things to consider: bread plates, bread basket, salt and pepper shakers, water pitcher, bowl or plate for butter.
Setting the Table for an Elegant Multi-Course Plated Dinner:
What you’ll need:
Each person will require a charger (for added elegance), salad plate or soup bowl, salad fork and knife or soup spoon, dinner plate, dinner fork and knife, napkin, dessert fork or spoon, water and wine glass. Other things to consider: bread plate, bread basket, salt and pepper shakers, water pitcher, bowl or plate for butter.
Setting Up a Buffet:
What you’ll need:
Each person will require a dinner plate, dinner fork and knife, and napkin. For ease in maneuvering around a buffet table, wrap the fork and knife in the napkin so there are fewer items to hold. Place the cutlery roll-ups in a basket, bowl or vase at the end of the buffet so guests don’t need to hold them while they are helping themselves to the food. Each menu item will require a serving platter or bowl and serving spoon, fork, or tongs. Each condiment will require a small plate or bowl and small knife or spoon for serving. You may also need a bread basket and salt and pepper shakers.
A few notes about a buffet: setting up a buffet immediately signals that this is a more casual dinner. Don’t feel compelled to have proper seating for everyone in attendance. They can stand, sit on a sofa, and even find a comfortable spot on the floor, if necessary. If you want to keep your table free for seating, set up your buffet on the kitchen counter, sideboard, or folding table that you pulled out for the occasion.
Tell us, what type of table will you be setting this holiday season? Do you enjoy the process or find it challenging?