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Rules in Table Setting

Updated on April 17, 2010


Rules for setting the table are dictated by convenience. However, table setting is influenced by:

1. the pattern of table service to be used, which gives the established position of some items.

2. the menu to be served which determines the specific ap­pointments to be placed at covers.

3. the size of the table which influences the exact position of appointments at covers.


For an attractive and well-set table, everything should be spotlessly clean and placed so that the table as a whole appears well-balanced:

1. The silver, china and glassware should be placed in straight lines both lengthwise and across the table. All pieces should be placed parallel with even spacing bet­ween them.

2. The linen-tablecloth or placemats and napkins should be free from wrinkles and should match or harmonize with each other.

When a tablecloth is used, a "silence" cloth or pad should be placed under it to protect the table, to make thetable look better, and to deaden the noise of the noise of the dishes and silver. The tablecloth should placed so that the centerfold is exactly in the center of the table and the sides are of the same distance from the floor.

3. The centerpiece may be placed in the center, to the side, or at one end of the table, but its position should be con­sidered in arranging a well-balanced table. The center­piece should be low enough for people to see each other across the table.

4. The chairs should be placed so that the center of the chair is in line with the center of the plate. The front of the .chair should come just under the edge of the table so that

a person may sit down or rise without having to move the chair too much.


As you may have noticed, the word "cover" is used to refer to the space used by one person at the table. A width of at least 20 inches should be allowed for each cover, and an even greater width is desirable if the table is large enough. A simple decora­tion will help to make the table attractive.

How to place the table covering

If a tablecloth is used, place it over a "silence" cloth or pad, and center the cloth evenly on the table. If placemats are used, put one at each cover so that each mat is straight along the edge of the table and about ¼ to 1 inch from the edge. Napkins go to the extreme left of the cover with the open edge of the napkin either to theright or to the left and about l/a to 1 inch from the table's edge. When there is not enough room for the napkin at the left, it may be placed in the center of the cover.

How to place the tableware

Flatware is placed on each cover in the order in which it is to be used, from the outside in, and about 1 inch from edge of the table.

Place the forks, with the tines up, at the left of the cover, and place the knife, with the cutting edge toward the inside, at the right of the cover. Then put the spoons, with the bowls up, at the right of the knife. If no knife is required at the meal, as in a situation when a salad is served with a prepared sandwich for the main course, the salad fork is placed at the right of the cover instead of at the left. Butter spreaders if needed, are placed across a bread-and-butter plate, either parallel to the edge of the table or parallel to the rest of the silver.

When the meal is to be served at the table, the serving pieces should be placed conveniently near the person who is to serve. Place the carving knife and fork and serving spoons at the right of the cover of this person, putting the carving knife at the right of the serving fork and the serving spoons at the right of the knife. If the table is small one, place the carving knife at the right of the serving platter with the serving spoons beside it, and the serving fork at the left of the platter. The serving platter will be at the top of the server's cover.

How to place the glassware:

Tumblers or goblets are placed just above the knife, either directly in line with it or slightly at the right of the tip of the knife. If two glasses are needed, place the second glass at the right of the water glass. Glasses with very cold beverages may deposit moisture on the table covering so put a coaster or a small plate beneath each of them. For iced beverages, the coaster or under plate should be large enough to hold the spoon that is used for stirring or at least to support the tip of the spoon when it is not use. When juice or cocktail is served as an appetizer, put the filled juice or sherbet glasses in the center of each cover, except at breakfast when juice glasses may be put at the right of the water glasses.

How to place the dinnerware:

If bread-and-butter plates are used, they are placed at the tip of the fork. When the food is to be served from the table, place the plates for each course before the person who will serve. If the food is to be passed so each person may help him­self, then put a plate at each cover.

If hot beverage is to be served at the table, place the cups and saucers before the person who will pour the beverage, either at the right or left according to the amount of space. Each cup should be on its own saucer with the handle of the cup at the right. When there are more cups and saucers that can be arranged this way. one cup may rest inside another with the two saucers under them, but no more than two cups should be stacked together.

Put the salad plates next to the salad bowl if the salad is to be served from the bowl; or put an individual salad plate that has been served in the kitchen at the left of each cover. When the table is small, it is permissible to place the salad plate at the top left, or even at the right should that be more conve­nient.

How to place the accessories:

Put salt and pepper shakers at the top of reach cover, one pair between two covers slightly above them. Dishes contain­ing relishes, condiments, jams or jellies, and bread or rolls should be placed within easy reach and in a manner to make the table look somewhat symmetrical. Put the silver that is needed for serving these foods at the right of each dish.

How to place the table decorations:

Flowers of some kind are quiet commonly selected for a table decoration. A small plant, an ornamental piece of pot­tery, a china or glass figure, fruit, or candlestick are also sometimes used. Whatever the decoration you select, it should be in good taste and be artistically arranged. Its colors should harmonize with the room, the dishes, and the food that is served. It should be either low enough or high enough so those at the table can see one another ever or under it.

The table decoration is usually placed in the center of the table because there is no other place for it when the entire table is set. However, if there are no covers at one end or along one side of the table, the decoration may be placed off center on either the vacant end or side.


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