With so many forks, glasses, and plates, setting a table for a formal event can be a confusing task. We'll show you the right way to set a table for the holidays.

By Hannah Bruneman

To ease holiday stress, set your dining room table for Thanksgiving several days prior to the big day. But what about choosing the right plate, spoon, or wine glass? To make sure your table has all the serving elements you need, we've mapped out the must-know rules of table setting. We'll show you where to place the wine glass and why there should be more than one fork per person. Take a look at our expert tips below and you'll be the ultimate host this holiday season. 

Step 1: Plates and Napkins

Before even setting down a plate, consider place mats or chargers. They can work well in some holiday tablescapes, but if you have a big family or a full Thanksgiving table, opt out. You might, however, want to use them if your family has a designated kids' table. Messy eaters can ruin a tablecloth with gravy grease stains or drips of cranberry sauce

Once you've decided whether to incorporate place mats or chargers, carefully set down your plates. Start with the largest plate, which is used for the main course, followed by the salad plate set directly on top. If you're using fine china, use caution when setting the plates on top of each other.

Next, assemble your napkins. Use cloth napkins for a formal holiday setting. You can choose to fold them in a classic rectangle and place them under silverware on the right side of your plate. Or fold them in a fun shape and center them on your plate. Another option is to roll napkins into napkin rings for a festive accent.

Step 2: Silverware

You can't have Thanksgiving dinner without silverware! When setting your knives and forks, there are a few basics to keep in mind. First, forks always sit on the left side of the plate. For formal dinner settings, include two forks: a smaller fork on the outside for an appetizer or salad and a larger fork closest to the plate for the main course. 

On the right side of your plate, place the knife nearest to the plate with the blade facing in. The spoon should be placed last next to the knife. If serving soup, you'll want to include both a soup spoon and dessert spoon to the right of the knife. Make sure all utensils are aligned with the bottom of the plate for uniformity. 

Step 3: Drinkware and Finishing Touches

Now it's time to set the drinkware. If you are serving wine at your dinner, set the appropriate wine glass—red, white, or both—at each place. You should also provide each guest with a glass of water. All drinkware should be placed on the right side of your table setting, above the knife and spoon, with the water glass at the top. 

On the opposite side of the glasses, you have the option to include a bowl or bread plate and butter knife. Whichever you choose, make sure it matches your plates in color and style. 


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