How To Set The Perfect Table For Any Occasion

Table setting for a dinner party

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Dressed to impress.

Enter a dining room as a guest, and chances are that you’ll be blown away by a gorgeously inviting table setting. Embellished with beautiful tableware, sparkling wine glasses and charming napery finished with a statement centrepiece, a table that’s laid to impress sets the scene for a memorable dining experience ahead.

Before you scoff at the idea thinking that it’s too much work, hang on to tucking that silverware back into the cabinets. Setting a table need not be an elaborate affair as a simple setting can add that extra special touch to every day dining.

I’m about to share with you a few simple tips and tricks to creating a perfect table setting for just about any occasion (complete with accompanying graphics for easy reference). All you need are a few basic elements and you’ll be on your way to creating a delightful table setting even if it’s just a simple dinner for two.

The Everyday Dining Setting

If you’re looking to treat your loved one to a delicious home cooked dinner, and want to add that warm and cosy atmosphere with an easy table setting, all you need are the following:

  1. A set of placemats
  2. Cutlery set of a knife and fork
  3. A set of dinner plates
  4. A set of water glasses
  5. A set of wine glasses (if you’re choosing to enjoy a special vino)
  6. A set of table napkins

Setting the table:

1. Lay the placemat on the table.
2. In the middle of the placemat, position the dinner plate.
3. To the left of the plate setting, lay the napkin. You can either fold the napkin into a simple rectangle and place it underneath the forks, or use a napkin ring and place it on the plate.
4. Place the fork onto the napkin if you’re not using a napkin ring.
5. To the right of the plate, with the blade pointing inwards, place the knife closest to the plate. Always working from the inside out.
6. You should level the bottoms of the cutlery with the plate, and leave about a thumb space between the cutlery.
7. In between the plate and cutlery, place the water glass slightly above the plate around the 1pm position would be on a clock face. Then position the wine glass next to the water glass.

Everyday dining table setting

The Casual Dining Table Setting

A casual table setting is used for an informal get-together, or a laid-back dinner party. Once you’ve made yourself familiar with the basic table setting as above, putting a casual table setting together is really easy.

There are two additional elements to add to a casual dining table setting; a soup bowl and a dinner plate. As a general rule of thumb, only set out the tableware, glassware and cutlery that you’re intending to use. For example, if you’re not having a soup course, leave out the soup bowl and soup spoon.

What you’ll need:

  1. Placemats
  2. Cutlery sets of a fork, salad fork, knife and soup spoon (if you’re serving soup, if not, replace with a standard tablespoon)
  3. Dinner plates
  4. Salad plates
  5. Soup bowls (optional)
  6. Water glasses
  7. Wine glasses
  8. Table napkins

Setting the table:

  1. Lay the placemat on the table.
  2. Place the dinner plate in the middle of the placemat.
  3. Place the salad plate on top of the dinner plate.
  4. Place the soup bowl on top of the salad plate if you’re serving soup as an entrée.
  5. Lay a napkin to the left of the dinner plate.
  6. Place the forks on the napkin to the left of the dinner plate with the dinner fork closest to the plate.
  7. Using the same rule of starting from the inside and to the right of the plate, place the knife closest to the plate, followed by the spoon. Remember to always point the blade of the knife inwards.
  8. Use the knife as an indicator for placing your glasses. The water glass should be placed directly above it.
  9. Place the wine glass or any other glassware to the right and slightly above the water glass.
  10. Salt and pepper shakers should be placed near the center of the table, or towards each end if you have a long dining table to ensure that they are easily accessible.
Casual table setting

The Formal Dinner Table Setting

Now that you’ve mastered the basic everyday dining table setting, and the informal table setting, you’re ready to take on the formal dinner table setting. This would be a great skill to pick up if you’re planning on hosting an elegant dinner party with three-courses.

Charger plates are usually used in formal dinner table settings. A charger is a large presentation plate that not only enhances the overall visual aesthetic of a setting, it also has a functional aspect. Charger plates catch pieces of spilt food, and prevent spills that would otherwise stain the tablecloth. Chargers also help to retain the heat in tableware since they are placed under plates and bowls.

There are quite a few more elements that come into play when it comes to setting a formal dinner table setting.

What you’ll need:


  • A tablecloth
  • Table napkins


  • Charger plates
  • Dinner plates
  • Salad plates
  • Bread plates
  • Soup bowl (if you’re serving soup)


  • Salad forks
  • Dinner forks
  • Soup spoons
  • Dessert spoons
  • Butter knives
  • Dinner knives
  • Salad knives

Glassware Sets:

  • Water glasses
  • Red wine glasses
  • White wine glasses
  • Cup and saucer for post-dinner coffee or tea

Setting the table:

  1.  Cover the table with a tablecloth (ironed if required).
  2. Place a charger at each seat
  3. Position a salad plate and a soup bowl on the charger in the middle of each setting.
  4. To the left of the charger: Place the bread plate and position the butter knife on the plate with the handle facing right. Working from the inside out, place the salad fork and dinner fork
  5. To the right of the charger: Working again from the inside out, place the dinner knife, salad knife, and soup spoon. Leave about a thumb space between the cutlery, and align the bottoms with the bottom of the charger.
  6. Place the table napkin next to the charger
  7. Directly above the charger, place a dessert spoon with the handle pointing to the right. If you’re using a tablecard, place it above the dessert spoon.
  8. Directly above the knives, place the water glass.
  9. Wine glasses are set from the right to the left in the order used. To the right of the water glass and about three-fourths of an inch downward, place the white wine glass.
  10. Place the coffee cup and saucer at about the 5pm position on a clock face below the white wine glass.
  11. Place the red wine glass goes to the right of and just a little above the white wine glass. White wine is for the first course on the outside, whilst the red wine is next for your entrée.
  12. When the main course is served, remove the charger in place of the dinner plate. Or place a dinner plate on top of the charger. Both plates are to be removed when dessert is served.
Graphic for a formal table setting

And there you go! Everything you need to get you on your way to becoming the mistress of all table settings, regardless of the occasion, so that you can create the most beautiful food experiences right at home. Don’t forget to shop my divine collection of tableware and glassware right here on to accompany your new found table setting skills!

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