I finally moved into my first “grown-up” apartment a few months ago and finally have it decorated and ready to present to my friends (thanks in part to several of the tips I found on your blog). I am planning a dinner party in a few weeks time (my first) and wanted to know if you had any advice for setting the table properly so I can impress my friends with my hostess ability, without having it look to stuffy. I already have the essentials (stoneware, flatware, glasses, etc) but just want to make sure I’m displaying them correctly.
Thanks for the question. Though there are dozens of variations on what is truly “proper” for table settings, the following is a general guideline to use for casual or semi-formal dining:
Start by placing the dinner plates one inch from the edge of the table. If there is a pattern in the middle of the plate, make sure that it is facing the right way. Next, place the knife on the right side of the plate, blade inward, one inch from the edge of the table, handle end of knife at the bottom. Make sure the knife is next to the plate, not underneath the plate. The tablespoon is then placed next to the knife, also one inch from the bottom of the table. Next, the fork is place on the left side of the dinner plate one inch from the edge of the table, making sure it is also next to the plate verses underneath the plate. The napkin is folded in half and placed next to the fork with the crease farthest away from the fork. The glass is placed directly above the knife approximately one inch.
If other silverware is required for other courses, like salad, soup, or dessert, place the spoons next to the spoons and forks next to the forks. Silverware is placed in order of what is to be eaten, beginning furthest away from the dinner plate and working your way towards the dinner plate. A salad fork would be placed next to the dinner fork, one inch from the edge of the table, and would be furthest from the dinner plate. A soup spoon would be placed next to the tablespoon, one inch from the edge of the table, and would be furthest from the dinner plate. A dessert fork would be placed next to the dinner plate before the dinner fork because you would use the dessert fork last.
Finally the centerpiece. Centerpieces are what really puts the finishing touch on your table setting. Create a theme and color scheme for your table setting that reflects the season, event, or common thread of the guests. A bouquet of flowers, a sculpture, or an ornate candelabra make great decorative centerpieces, but make sure the object you choose isn’t so large that it prevents people from seeing one another across the table.
We hope that gives you a good base to go on. Good luck with your party!