How to Set A Table

The art of table setting can be influenced by many things. These influences include but are not limited to:

  • country
  • region in country
  • ethnic influences
  • whether you are dining:
    • at a restaurant,
    • in a private home,
    • at a banquet,
    • historical settings
  • menu
  • and more.

The following formal and informal table settings are a generalized contemporary example of an American table setting.

Informal Formal
informal table setting      formal table setting

(above the plate. left to right): bread & butter plate, butter knife, wine/water glass.
(plate row. left to right): napkin, salad fork, dinner fork, salad plate, plate, dinner knife.


(above the plate. left to right): salt & pepper, dessert fork & spoon, water/wine glasses.
(plate row. left to right): fish fork, dinner fork, salad fork, napkin, rim soup plate, plate, salad knife, dinner knife, fish knife, soup spoon.

Remember that the utensils for each course are placed in the order served, from the outside in. This will eliminate any confusion for any guest.

Your formal menu may not include a fish course and/or your tableware set may not include fish forks and knives. If there is not a fish course then don't put out the fish forks and knives. In the event there is a fish course, it is perfectly acceptable to substitute what you have such that there are utensils for each course.