How to set your table for any occasion

We all want to make our dinner guests feel special. And putting care and attention into your table settings is just as important as the food you’re serving up. So whether you’re making dinner for your family or hosting a celebratory evening for friends, it’s worth knowing how to set the table for any occasion. Want to know the ins and outs of plating up? Read on.



Creating a formally set table can sometimes feel a bit daunting. All those forks, how to fold the napkins, and which dinner set to use. But it’s easier than you’d think – just follow our lead:

How to set an everyday table

If you’re making a simple dinner at home, sitting down for Sunday lunch, or just want to add something extra to your breakfast, a basic setup is the perfect backdrop for all that home-cooked food. All you’ll need for each person is one fork, a knife and a spoon, a glass (plus one extra if you fancy a drink with brunch), plates for your food, and a napkin for everyone.

1.   To avoid making marks on the table, pop a placemat where everyone will be sitting.

2.   Set down your plates in the centre of the placemats.

3.   Fold a napkin and place it on the left side of your plate, or in the centre.

4.   If you’ve put the napkin to the left of the plate, put the fork on top of it. If your napkin is on the plate, your fork should still go on the left.

5. Your knife sits to the right of the plate, with the spoon to the right of that.

6. The water glass goes to the top right corner from the plate, above the knife.

How to set a casual table

Going beyond a simple lunch or inviting guests over for the evening requires something a little fancier. A casual table setup is similar to an everyday setting, but with added extras. Serving starters? You’ll need a soup bowl, or a smaller plate for those nibbles. Is everyone having wine? You’ll need glasses for that. To make sure you’re prepared for any situation, here’s how to get your table prepped for a laid-back soirée.

1.   Lay down your favourite tablecloth and put down a placemat where there’ll be someone sitting.

2.   Set a large dinner plate at the centre of each placemat. You can then add any smaller plates on top, and finish with a bowl if you need to.

3.   Pick where you want your napkin to go – either on the left side of your plate or, if you’re not adding a bowl, it can go on top of the plates. Fold it neatly, and place it where you want.

4.   Your fork should go to the left of the plate (or on the napkin). If you’re using salad forks, this goes to the left of your dinner fork. Fancy, right?

5.   Your knife goes to the right of your plates and the spoon to the right of this.

6.   Your water glass should go to the top right corner of the plate.

7.   If you’re having wine, or something else to drink, these extra glasses should go to the right of your water glass.

How to set a formal table

As daunting as it may seem, a formally-set dinner table is just a few steps away from your more casual layouts. If you’re setting the table for a three-course meal, or for anyone you really need to impress, you’ll need a few extra things to add to the mix.

1.   First things first, grab your tablecloth and cover the table. Then put down a dinner plate for each of your guests.

2.   Set a salad plate on top of the dinner plate and finish off with a soup bowl (if you need one).

3.   Prepare a place for your bread by placing a smaller plate at the top left corner of the dinner plate and put the butter knife on top of the plate (horizontally, or diagonally).

4.   Fold a napkin and place it on the left side of your dinner plate. Skilled in Origami? Now’s your time to shine.

5. Again, pop your salad fork to the left of your plate, followed by your dinner fork (to the right, but still on the left side of your plate). On the right side of your plate, put your knife, then a soup spoon if you need one.

6.   Serving dessert? The specific cutlery for this goes above the plate. Your dessert fork should be set with its head facing to the right, with your dessert spoons above it, facing to the left.

7.   The water glass will go to the top right corner of your dinner plate. Put the glass for white wine to the right of it, and the glass for red wine above between the other two.

8.   For extra special occasions, you could create a place card for each of the guests. These should go just above the dessert spoon.

9.   If you’re having coffee with your dessert, the cups should go to the right of your plates, and will usually take the knives’ place once you clear the table.

And just like that – dinner is finished. And while we can’t guarantee your food will impress, a good-looking table is sure to set the tone. So dig out the matching cutlery and get started. Tonight we’re serving style.