Following Monday’s 3 design tips for creating an elegant tablescape, toady we will drill down on the etiquette for setting your table with dishware, flatware and glassware.
Whilst many formal options exist, at this time of year, when you are trying to squeeze in a couple of extra family and friends, I like to follow the “rules” but keep the layout informal. Here are my steps for the relaxed, but perfectly correct holiday table:
- even in an informal setting it is usual to place a dinner or service plate in front of each diner. This may be used to plate the main course if served at the table, or be replaced if the main course is delivered to the table already plated.
- if soup is to be brought to the table as a starter, place the napkin directly on the dinner plate so guests can remove it when they sit down. Where a cold starter is to be served (and placed on the table in advance of seating), the napkin can be placed directly on the table to the left of the forks or under the forks to save space.
- an informal setting will not usually call for a separate bread plate, but if required it should be positioned to the left of the forks with a side knife (or butter knife) laid across it. If space is tight, it is quite acceptable to position this plate above the forks at the left of the place setting. The butter knife is laid across it, slightly diagonally from upper left to lower right, with the sharper edge of the blade facing the diner.
- flatware is placed in the order of its use, with the implements to be used first farthest from the plate.
- knives are always to the right with the cutting edge towards the plate, and forks are always to the left.
- if you are serving soup before the main course, the soup spoon is placed to the far right of the knives.
- in an informal setting dessert cutlery will usually consist of either a fork or a spoon. Since my favorite dessert is chocolate mousse I favor just a spoon. This should be placed with the ‘bowl’ facing left. If you plan to use just a fork, place across the top of the place setting with the tines facing right. If using both, place the spoon above the fork in the directions indicated above.
- glassware should be positioned above the knives in a diagonal line from top left to bottom right.
- in an informal setting place the water glass on the left, then the wine glass slightly down and to the right.
- in a more formal setting or where multiple drinks are to be served, the glassware would appear in the following order from top left to bottom right: Water – Champagne – White Wine- Red Wine – Dessert Wine.
- if you plan to serve coffee with the meal, the cup and saucer go to the extreme right of the place setting, with the coffee spoon on the right side of the saucer. I prefer to offer coffee in the living room in front of the fire.
One more rule to ensure your guests do not feel overly squished at the dinner table – comfortable elbow room requires approximately 24 inches from the center of one place setting to the middle of the next. Any less than 20 inches and you might want to consider creating the “traditional” kids table or extending your table at either end with ply-board (easily covered with a tablecloth).
Wishing you and your families health and happiness this holiday season. Bon appétit.