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.

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