How to Set a Table: 3 Ways

Give your guests the 5-star treatment with our simple tips for setting the table like a pro.

Show: HGTV Happy

A home-cooked meal is only as good as the home in which it’s enjoyed in, right? Err — something like that. Do your meals justice by setting the perfect table for the occasion. Whether basic, casual or formal, we’ve got the perfect tips for proper table setting like an expert.

Beautifully Basic Table Setting

A Wooden Table With a White Plate and Flatware

A Basic Example of How to Set a Table

This table setting is a basic example that features a white plate, minimal flatware and a napkin. The setting sits on a wooden table with no tablecloth.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

The basic table setting should include no less than a fork, knife, spoon and napkin beside the plate.

As a general rule for placement, position the folded napkin two inches to the left of the plate and rest the fork on the napkin.

  • To the right of the plate, place the knife with the blade facing the plate.
  • Approximately one inch to the right of the knife, place a spoon.
  • To cap off this perfect table setting, position a water glass directly above the knife.

It may be simple, but your guests will appreciate the homey touch!

Casual and Complete Table Setting

A Stack of Green Plates Arranged for Dinner

A Casual Table Setting on a Plaid Tablecloth

This table setting is perfectly laid out for a casual dinner. Fun green plates featuring a knotted napkin sit on a plaid tablecloth surrounded by flatware and glasses.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

Begin the casual table setting where we left off with the basic, but don’t be afraid to go slightly more elegant with your flatware and linens.

  • To add a playful touch, tie your napkin with a fun knot and place on your plate.
  • If appropriate, elevate the setting by adding a salad plate and a soup bowl on your dinner plate.
  • To the right of the water glass, consider a wine glass.

A Formal Dinner Setting

A Table Arrangement of White Plates with Flatware

A Formal Table Setting Ready for a Dinner Party

This formal table setting features elegant plates and formal flatware. Everything needed for a multi-course dinner sits around the plates atop the striped tablecloth.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

For the perfect formal dinner setting, be sure to provide your guest with everything they will need.

  • Next to the fork, add a salad fork.
  • Beside the spoon, add a soup spoon.
  • Above the plates, add a dessert spoon.

A formal setting has more courses and therefore requires more cutlery. If you’re serving bread, don’t forget to provide your guests with a bread plate and knife directly above the napkin.

When serving multiple wine options, remember to have appropriate glassware on hand. Slide a white wine glass beneath the red wine glass to form an elegant triangle of glassware for your guests to choose from.

Finish the look off by ensuring everything is properly lined up and all place settings are matching. If you desire to go above and beyond, make your guests feel extra special by placing a card with their name on it directly above the dessert spoon, seated between the salt and pepper shakers.

Next Up

3 Simple Ways to Fold a Napkin

Impress your guests with these fancy folded dinner napkins.

3 Totally Unique Ways to Make (and Wear) a Corsage

Whether you're headed to prom or dressing up for your best friend's wedding, ditch the basic wrist corsage and pretty-up your ensemble with a gorgeous, DIY flower-decked necklace, ring or trendy arm cuff.

How to Whitewash Wood: Whitewashing and Pickling Techniques

Easily brighten and add rustic charm to furniture and a variety of wood surfaces with these budget-friendly whitewashing and pickling techniques.

How to Hang Pictures

Follow these tips for how to hang pictures on a wall, where to hang them and how to group them together.

How to Rewire a Lamp

No need to toss that old lamp. Follow these easy steps for rewiring a light, making it good as new.

How to Put on a Duvet Cover

Stop wrestling with your duvet once and for all. Learn how to put on a duvet cover the easy way.

How to Turn a Rug Into a Wall Art Tapestry

Put a cherished rug on display as handmade art with some basic lumber and these DIY tapestry instructions.

The Proper Way to Water Your Garden

Keep your plants happy. Here are the top 10 do's and don’ts for watering plants efficiently.

The Best Serveware Essentials You Need for Entertaining

Shop the best charcuterie boards, serving bowls, dinnerware sets and more to gear up for your next big party.

How to Wash Pillows

Don't forget about the pillows during your next cleaning spree. Trust us, you'll want to wash your pillows, too.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.