Setting A Table: Rules of Cutlery

Published July 19, 2012

Have you ever found yourself in a situation of panic when you are faced with a sea of cutlery at a formal dinner party? This can be a little overwhelming for some of us but thankfully table etiquette rules have become very relaxed over the years.

There are some simple rules to remember when you sit down at your next dinner party. These days most tables are set in a casual manner consisting of a starter or salad followed by a main course and then a dessert. The more formal meals may consist of starting with a soup, then a salad, a main course and lastly a dessert. Often a smaller course may be inserted in between these such as a champagne sorbet.

So where do you begin?

For a casual table, the salad fork is placed to the left of the dinner fork and is to be used first. The salad plate usually sits in the center of the dinner plate with the bread and butter plate on the left above the forks.

The water glass is placed nearest to the plates and the wineglass just above that. Coffee and teacups are always on the right hand side by the knives.

The rules for a formal table are quite similar. The only main difference is that there may be another knife beside the main course knife and this knife is for your salad. Think of eating from the outside in. If there is a spoon beside your salad fork then this usually means a soup is coming. Dessert forks and spoons are usually placed above the main course plate at the top. The spoon will face to the left and the fork to the right. If there is to be a sorbet then the sorbet utensil will accompany the dish.

When setting the table be sure to always face the knife blades inward and down. And if you are serving a red and a white wine you will want to arrange your glassware in a triangle to the right of the place setting.

These are rules that you will find in most restaurants. Of course for your own dinner parties you can rely on the rules or you can really simplify things by placing a pizza box  in the center of the table with napkins…I find this works every time.