Set an Elegant Table For You and Your Guests
formal table setting for one with bread plate and butter knife, forks, spoons, glasses, and a dinner plate. featuring mountain weave tablecloth and napkin

The routine of family dinner has a comforting cadence. Someone cooks, someone sets the table, someone calls for everyone to get washed up-and the aroma of good food brings everyone together.

Everyone takes their seats and helps themselves, chatting about their day, complimenting the cook, enjoying one another’s company. There are things still to do today, things to be done tomorrow, but family dinnertime exists in its own space, a welcomed pause in the constant flurry of the world outside.

Everyday plates, jelly jar glasses, and well-loved flatware are all right at home in these moments.

There are some occasions that warrant a table set with something more. A celebration, a holiday, a special dinner just because–these events are made even  more special with a formal table set around a pretty centerpiece and flickering candles.

And now that the holidays are here again, there’s nothing more inviting than sitting down to a festive meal at a well-set table.

We’ve put together a handy guide so you can set your table formally whether you’re entertaining, or dining on your own. Break out your favorite company plates, and your most polished silverware, and we’ll share some easy tips to elevate your everyday table.

Here’s what you’ll need to set a formal table:

  • Tablecloth or placemats
  • Dinner, salad, and bread plates for each setting
  • Cutlery (butter knife, dinner knife, salad knife, salad fork, dinner fork, teaspoon, soup spoon, and a dessert spoon) for each person
  • Napkin for each person (napkin rings optional)
  • Water glass for each person
  • Red wine glass and white wine glass for each person
  • Cup and saucer for each person
  • Place card for each person (optional)

Here’s what to do:

  1. Start with your best tablecloth or placemats (If using a tablecloth placemats are optional.)
  1. Place the dinner plate in the center of the place setting.
  1. Put the salad plate in the center of the dinner plate. 
  1. Add a bread plate in the upper left corner of the setting. Place a butter knife horizontally across the bread plate.
  1. Fold the napkin on top of the dinner and salad plate. You can also lay the napkin flat to the left of the plates with or without the forks placed on top.
  1. Next put the dinner fork to the left of the plate and the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork. 
  1. Set the dinner knife to the right of the plates (cutting edge facing the plates), the salad knife to the right of the dinner knife (cutting edge facing the plates), and the teaspoon to the right of the salad knife.
  1. If you’re serving soup, the soup spoon goes to the right of the teaspoon. 
  1. The dessert utensils should be placed on the table above the plates horizontally with the handles pointing to the right.
  1. Wine and water glasses go above the knife and spoon in the upper right corner. 
  1. For a special finishing touch, add a personalized place card above each setting. 
illustration of a table setting following the directions above

However you choose to set your table, whether it’s for a special occasion or a simple family dinner, we hope the memories you make stay with you long after each place setting has been cleared and the leftovers enjoyed!

More from The Vermont Country Store:

Want more Holiday How-To’s? Check out these other blogs for tips and tricks from The Vermont Country Store:

How to Get Organized for the Holidays

How to Make a Memorable Christmas Breakfast