The Ultimate Guide to Table Place Settings for Every Occasion

Can't remember which side the napkin goes on? Use this guide to set the table for any occasion, whether you're sharing a casual family meal or throwing a formal dinner party.

Throwing a dinner party or even a casual lunch shouldn't intimidate you. Whether you keep it simple or go full-on fancy, this place settings guide will help you set your table for an unforgettable night. Print our handy place settings guide and hang it inside a kitchen cabinet, so it's always on hand when needed. Now all you need are a few good recipes, and you're ready to entertain!

casual table setting with garland

Casual Place Settings

Not every get-together requires formal place settings. Instead, opt for something casual when hosting impromptu parties and lunches with friends or family.

For casual table settings, the knife and spoon go to the right of the dinner plate; the fork and napkin are placed to the left. The glass goes above the knife. If needed, a soup spoon and a salad fork can be added (placed on respective sides in order of use); a cup and saucer may be set to the right.

Although your place settings are informal, you can add special touches to your tablescape by adding an unfussy centerpiece, cloth chargers, or fun place cards.

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Informal Dinners or Luncheons

For informal dinners, add an extra fork for salad and serveware for dessert. You may also choose to add a wine glass to each setting.

Arrange the knife and soup spoon to the right of the dinner plate; place the dinner fork and salad fork to the left of the plate in order of use. If serving dessert, place a dessert spoon and fork above the plate, pointing left and right, respectively. Arrange glasses, bread plate, and bread knife as directed for formal sit-down meals, below.

formal table setting with green, blue and gold
Adam Albright

Formal Place Settings

For formal occasions, like holidays, go all out with your place settings. Depending on what you're serving, you'll need multiple spoons, forks, and possibly knives. You can also opt to include bread or salad dishware and utensils, as well as items for serving dessert. You'll also need a cloth napkin for each place, napkin rings (if desired), and place cards.

Place a knife (blade edge in) next to the plate. Then place spoons to the right of the knife in order of use from the outside in. Place forks to the left of the plate in order of use from the outside in. Arrange glasses above the knife, left to right; the water goblet is first, followed by wine glasses, placed large to small.

If you're using a bread plate, place it above the forks. A butter knife may be placed across the bread plate. The salad plate is placed left of the forks. The cup, saucer, and coffee spoon are right of the setting, though these are usually brought to the table for formal dinners.

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