How To Set A Table

There are 101 ways to properly set the table, depending on what you plan on serving. However there are some general rules to follow that seem to apply across many cultures and varied situations. Use these correctly and wow your guests with your great knowledge!



  • Start setting the table with the main plate (dinner, charger) about an inch away from the edge of the table. Same for the utensils.
  • If you intend to serve soup, then the soup bowl is place directly on top of the main plate.
  • If bread is to be served, the bread plate is place on the left, one inch above the forks. The butter knife is placed across it.
  • When the tea cup and saucer are used they are place to the extreme right of the setting after the spoons.
  • Salad plates go to the left of the forks (unless it is the first course which it is then placed on the main plate).



  • The general rule of the table is solids to the left of the user, liquids on the right. (E.g. Forks are on the left and spoons and glasses on the right)
  • Utensils are set according to the order in which they will be used, starting from the outside in. (For example the salad fork to the left followed by the dinner fork to its right, since the salad fork is usually used first.)
  • Set all utensils the same distance apart from one another.
  • The knife is always set to the right of the plate with the cutting edge facing inward (left).
  • Dessert utensils are usually placed above the plate with the bowl of the spoon on top facing left and the tines of the fork underneath pointing right. The fork is placed face down.
  • If an oyster/cocktail fork is being used, it is placed to the right of the spoon.



  • Glasses are positioned to the right starting about an inch above the knife, moving toward the right in order of use. The second glass is placed to the right of the first one but an inch lower and so on.



  • The fold of the napkin always faces the user, no matter what shape it’s folded into (triangle, rectangle etc.)


The following picture shows a properly set table (the china pattern is possibly Royal Doulton Countess).


How To Set A Table