How to Set a Table | Table Setting

November 15, 2018
Dinner Glass

Setting the table isn’t as difficult as it may initially seem. The following diagram shows a full-blown table setting for a special dinner party. Adjust it as necessary to fit your menu.

We do not want to intimidate guests by being too formal, yet some rules do apply. Don’t put out utensils that won’t ever be used. If your menu doesn’t include anything that would be eaten with a teaspoon, don’t put teaspoons on the table. If you’re planning to serve coffee and dessert afterward, bring out the teaspoons then.


  1. Napkin
  2. Salad fork
  3. Dinner fork
  4. Dessert fork
  5. Bread-and-butter plate,
    with spreader
  6. Dinner plate
  7. Dinner knife
  1. Teaspoon
  2. Teaspoon
  3. Soup spoon
  4. Cocktail fork
  5. Water glass
  6. Red-wine glass
  7. White-wine glass
  8. Coffee cup and saucer*

* For an informal meal, include the coffee cup and saucer with the table setting. Otherwise, bring them to the table with the dessert.

Remember to make your guests as comfortable as you can.

See more about how to decorate the table for the holidays.

Reader Comments

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iced-beverage spoon

Is the iced-beverage spoon placed furthest from the dinner knife when setting the table? Example: dinner knife, soup spoon and then Iced-beverage spoon

how to set the table

The Editors's picture

Hi, Laurie. If your iced-beverage spoon is what we are thinking–typically called an iced tea spoon (long handle)–then yes.


where would a steak knife go?

setting a proper table

The Editors's picture

Hi, Theresa. If your meal required a steak knife, you could put that where the dinner knife goes.

table set up

for dinner party, it looks really nice. now I need a menu.

Table Setting

WHERE does the iced tea spoon go? And the iced tea glass??

Place setting for Iced Tea

The Editors's picture

First of all, even in the South, iced tea is only served at informal meals or in the afternoon. According to Southern tradition, you would serve iced tea in a tall glass on a saucer with a doily. After you stir your iced tea with your long iced tea spoon, the spoon would be placed on the saucer (behind the glass). If there is not a saucer, then you keep the long spoon in the glass after you stir. You do not put the used spoon back down on the table. Yes, the southern ladies would say leave the spoon in the glass, hold it while you drink, and obsessively carry your glass wherever you go!

That said, drinking glasses of any kind — water, wine, juice, iced tea — are placed at the top right of the dinner plate, above the knives and spoons.  This is true for a formal or informal dinner!  

There are many different

There are many different options when it comes to setting a dinner table, but most importantly it depends on the situation or the occasion. A step-by-step guide to the basics for setting a proper table.

This is a great way to teach

This is a great way to teach children of all ages how to set a proper table. My children used a diagram to learn to set a proper table. By learning to set them, they knew the proper way to use them. They thanked me when they went on to college or found themselves in formal dinner settings that would have otherwise been uncomfortable.