Table Setting & Etiquette

Whether you are decorating for a wedding or having people over for a  dinner, it’s always nice to know how to set your table the “proper way”. I will be honest and say I plonk the knives and forks down and my husband always uses my side plate instead of his but there is the ‘lady’ in me that always wondered what the protocol for table setting is. I know my friend Alison will know as she works for an events company and I also know we don’t have lots of dinner parties but still I find it interesting so here  it is.


Biz Etiquette gives a great illustration of how to set the table. I always thought you have a million knives on the right with spoons above but how wrong I was!

The memory of the famous film Pretty Women where Julia Roberts gets taken out for a formal dinner and ends up, mistakenly, with her food popping over to the other table comes to mind when reading about how to hold your fork and napkin. Here are some etiquette tips found here:

1-You should wipe your spoon before passing it to a neighbor. (Question: why would we pass our spoon to out neighbour? Perhaps the dishing up spoon?)

2-Do not blow your nose with the same hand that you use to hold the meat.

3-Your napkin is always placed somewhere within your dining territorial borders. As soon as you are seated, unfold your napkin and place it on your lap.  The napkin remains on your lap (except for use) until the end of the meal.  That’s when the diners are leaving the table, not just when you finish! If you need to leave the table temporarily, you may leave the napkin in your chair as a signal to the waiter that you will be returning. This is also a consideration for the other diners who won’t have to look at your soiled napkin on the table.

Use your napkin before drinking from a glass or cup. At the conclusion of the meal, place your napkin partly folded, never crumpled, at the left of your plate.  Even a paper napkin should never be crushed and tossed into your plate.

4-If you remember: liquids on the right, solids on the left, you’ll never eat someone else’s bread again!  That’s your coffee cup to the right of the plate, and your bread plate on the left! This is a clever way to remember:

The left hand makes the letter “b” for bread!
The right hand makes the letter “d” for drinks!

Good visual for kids and to help the rest of us remember!

5-Setting .The traditional place setting has the forks on the left side and knives (always turned inward facing the plate) and spoons on the right side.  The silver is placed in order of use so that you can follow the rule “begin at the outside and work in” towards the plate!

6- No Oars!  Once silverware is picked up from the table it NEVER touches the table again.  Place it on the outer rim of the plate between bites, but never rest silver gangplank fashion, half on the table and half on the plate.

7-  When to Start – in gatherings of six or fewer people, begin eating only after everyone is served.  For larger groups, such as banquets, it is customary to start eating after four or five people have been served, or permission is granted from those not yet served.

8.  Bread and rolls are broken off into bite-size pieces  and butter is spread on each bite as you eat it.  Never use a knife to cut the bread, nor butter a whole slice at once! Butter should be taken when passed, and placed onto your bread plate, never directly onto your bread.

9- Dishes are passed from left to right.  When a waiter serves you, food will be presented on your left, and the dish will be removed from your right side when you’ve finished.

10-Salt and pepper are always passed together, even if someone asks you only for the salt.  They are considered “married” in proper dining circles.

11-Hold a stemmed glass by the stem!  This is to prevent chilled drinks, such as white wine from becoming warmed by your hand, but it holds for non-chilled drinks as well.

12-When you are “resting”, not using the utensils at the table, but you are not yet finished, the knife and fork should be placed on the plate like this:

13.   The finish – when you are finished with each course your knife (blade turned inward) and fork should be placed beside each other on the plate diagonally from upper left to lower right (11 to 5 if you imagine your plate as a clock face).  This is a signal to the waiter that you are finished.  And don’t push your plate away or otherwise rearrange your dishes from their position when you are finished.

So now that you have a better idea of table etiquette, best you be on your best behaviour at your next dinner party 😉

Some table setting inspiration follows:





{Sources: Paper Zone, Sugar and Charm, Storkie and  Tigerlily’s Book}


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