How to set a formal Dinner Table - Interior Crew Matters
The first items to be placed on the tablecloth should be the dinner plates. These should be in the middle of each place setting. Each person’s tableware should be placed at equal intervals around the table. In the center of each dinner plate should be the napkins, either folded elegantly, or neatly rolled into a napkin ring.

To the right of each plate are the knives. Since the general rule of formal silverware is to eat working your way in, silverware should be placed on the table in the order it’s to be used.

Make sure the knives are placed on the table with the blade turned towards the plate.

To the right of the knives are the spoons. In many cases, only a soupspoon will be used, unless there is a melon course, in which case the melon spoon is closest to the knives, and the soupspoon should be first in the row. Dessert spoons are placed above the plate.

To the left of each plate are the forks, also to be placed in the order of use. In most cases it’s a seafood fork first, entrée fork and last is the salad fork. For formal occasions, the salad comes at the end of the meal. It’s important to note that all silverware should be placed an inch from the edge of the table. This is to keep everything looking uniform and tidy.

Above the forks is the bread plate.

Above the plate to the left is the water glass followed by red wine glass, white wine glass, cordial or sherry glass, and champagne glass. If coffee is to be served, cups will be brought out with dessert, as will a dessert fork and coffee spoon.

Don’t forget to add an attractive centerpiece to the table. Candles or flowers are appropriate; just don’t make them so tall your guests can’t see over them to talk with the other guests.

Tip 1
The placement of utensils is guided by the menu. The idea is you use utensils in an “outside in” order.

Tip 2
Knife blades are always placed with the cutting edge toward the plate

Tip 3
Knives are always to the right, and forks are always to the left.

Tip 4
Dessert spoons and forks are brought in on the dessert plate just before dessert is served. If you are serving a buffet, consider using a charger plate at your tables.

Tip 5
Be sure to give people enough room when deciding on seating arrangements. People do need their own personal space, as well as have enough space for their elbows to move. Being crowded can make your guests feel very uncomfortable.

Tip 6
Tips for a Buffet: Flatware and napkins should be the final items to be picked up. Napkins rolled around flatware simplify things. Consider setting up beverages at a separate table. Meats should be pre-sliced. Guests have one hand to work while going through the buffet. For salads, place the salad dressing with a ladle, for easy pouring. Pedestal plates are a great way to give the buffet table height and dimension. You can feature beautiful desserts, or pre-cut meat.

The most formal dining experience available is the Seven-Course Formal Dinner.
The experience consists of a soup course, a fish course, a palate cleanser (sorbet), a meat or fowl course (entrée), a salad course, a dessert course and a coffee course. Your setting will have china, flatware and stemware to cover all of the courses.

Begin your setting with the china. Only two pieces of china will appear on the table.
The charger plate is the base plate. It is not to be eaten off of, but to hold the other dishes that correspond with the dinner.
Place the charger in the center of your individual setting, one inch from the edge of the table.
Charger plates may be made of china, silver or brass. It is larger than a dinner plate, and is never removed from the table, as different dishes are cleared and presented on it.

On top of the charger place a cloth napkin and place card. If the napkin is folded flat and laid down, place the card on top of the napkin. If the napkin is folded three dimensional, place the place card in front of the napkin.

The second china that will be present is the bread and butter plate. This plate is smaller than a salad plate, and placed to the upper left-hand corner of the charger plate. On this plate, facing the left, is placed the butter spreader.

Place forks on the left side of the plate. Starting at the far-left place a fish fork, a dinner fork next and finally a salad fork. This is a traditional arrangement, with the salad following the entrée. California style dining calls for the salad to be served before the entrée.

If applicable place a cocktail fork on the right side of the plate, resting in the bowl of the soupspoon. The cocktail fork may also appear on the plate of which the cocktail is served. The dessert fork will appear above the plate, tines facing the right.

Set knives to the immediate right of the plate. Starting at the far right place a fish knife, a dinner knife next and finally a salad knife.
As with the forks, this is a traditional arrangement. If serving California style, the salad fork shall be placed first or furthest to the right.

Place spoons to the right of the knives. Only two spoons are in this arrangement – the soupspoon and the dessert spoon. A teaspoon or demitasse spoon will accompany the coffee during its course.

The dessert spoon shall be placed above the plate, above the desert fork. The dessert fork will face the right, but the dessert spoon shall face the left. The sorbet spoon shall accompany the dish.

After the china and flatware are set, follow with the stemware. One will need five glasses. They should all be of the same pattern. Stemware is placed in the upper right-hand corner of the plate, next to the dessert fork and dessert spoon. From the left to the right, place a water goblet, a red wineglass, a white wineglass and sherry glass. Behind the water goblet and the red wineglass, a champagne flute should be set.

The champagne flute is for a toast. The red wineglass is for the entrée, if it is a red meat. If it is a fowl, omit this glass, and reuse the white glass. The white wineglass is for the fish course. The sherry glass is for the pre-dinner drink, and the water goblet is for the entire meal.

Directly in back of, but in the middle of the bread and butter plate and the dessert flatware, place an individual salt and pepper shaker set.
To the right of the shakers place a menu card.
Following these guidelines will produce an eye-catching as well as functional table. Your guests will be impressed at the regal display of china, stemware and flatware. And if the meal is as splendid as the setting, your dinner will be fondly remembered for a long time to come.

The Linens
You need a tablecloth. It should be clean and starched. White is the most elegant, but you can get away with another color. Another way to add color is to use colored linen napkins. Use napkin rings for the napkins; it is easier than learning to fold them in a fancy shape. You can find many kinds of napkin rings that may complement your china. You can also use matching placemats if you wish.

The Plates
Dinner plates should be the first thing you set on the tablecloth. Everyone should be seated evenly around the table. The plate will be in the center of each place setting. The napkins should be set in the middle of each dinner plate, either folded neatly or inserted into a napkin ring. If you have bread plates, they should be placed above the forks.

The Silverware
The general rule for silverware is to lay them out in the order they will be used, so you work your way in towards the plate. The first piece that should sit to the right of the dinner plate is the knife. Make sure the blade is turned towards the plate. Only one knife will be used unless you also need to provide a steak knife.

Your spoons are next. If you are serving melons, a melon spoon would come next. If not, the soup spoon will rest next to the knife. Dessert spoons will be set above the plate in a horizontal position.

Forks go to the left of the plate. If you are going for an extremely formal setting, the forks would start with the seafood fork, then the entree fork, and finally the salad fork because salad is served after the entree in a formal meal. If you are serving salad before the entree, place the salad fork before the entree fork. When you are setting your silverware, make sure the tips of the handles are all an inch from the edge of the table. This keeps your settings looking uniform and neat.

The water glass rests above the dinner plate on the left. The rest of the glasses are placed across the top of the plate in a line. Place the red wine glass to the right of the water glass, then the white wine glass, the cordial glass and the champagne glass. Of course, you can eliminate any glassware that belongs to a beverage you are not serving. If you are serving coffee, the cups will be brought to the table with dessert, along with any dessert forks and coffee spoons.