Table place setting etiquette may vary depending upon the occasion and the meal, but there are some fundamental rules to follow. One of the key concepts in place setting is to consider space. Space out the settings equally and make sure that there is room for diners to eat without bumping elbows. If you have low-backed or armless chairs, the settings can be placed somewhat closer. Once you have a spacial scheme, you can move onto the other elements of table place setting etiquette.
The first rule of place settings is to order the utensils as they will be used, moving from the outside edge toward the side of the plate. Therefore, the soup spoon will be outside of the utensils used for the entree. Place the salad and meat forks to the left of the plate. Place the salad and meat knives on the right side of the plate, setting the serrated edge facing inward. For dessert settings, you can either bring a dessert fork and spoon with the dessert plate or set the dessert utensils over the place setting with the fork pointing right and the spoon above it with its bowl pointing left.
Beverages have a number of etiquette requirements.Use a full-body glass with a short stem for water. Some beverages demand a specialized vessel, such as a snifter for brandy. Use a wide-bowled glass for serving white wine. Use a big wine glass for red wine. Use a taller, but still wide, glass to serve burgundy reds and pinot noir. Serving champagne in a fluted glass ensures that it stays bubbly.
For serving rolls or slices of bread, set a butter plate above the forks. Set the butter knife diagonally on the butter plate. It should be set from the upper left to the lower right, with the serrated edge facing the table’s edge. Set beverage glasses in a straight row above the knives. Coffee serving etiquette has the coffee cup in the saucer at the right of the setting. The coffee spoon goes on the right of the saucer.
Many people are surprised to learn that table settings do not need to match. Sterling silver flatware is ideal at a formal dinner, but it need not have the same pattern. Dessert settings do not need to match dinner settings, though forks and knives should coordinate. A little variety in place settings can add some color and visual interest to the table.