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Table Setting 101: How to Properly Set a Table

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Christmas Table Setting Tablescape

When it comes to table setting, do you know the proper layout for your tablescapes, or are you always wondering how to place the silverware and on which side of the plate the napkin goes?

Table setting is easy once you get the hang of it; until then, just print out this handy guide for how to properly set a table and put it in the front of your cookbook for quick reference.

We’re taking the mystery out of how to put together a tablescape and how to properly set a table with these easy to follow step by step instructions.

How To Properly Set a Table

1.  First, put down the foundations.

  • The tablecloth goes on the table first.
  • Next, if you’re using a table runner, that will go on top of the tablecloth.
  • Next, place mats can be put at each setting, or at every other setting if you wish.

2.  Set up the centerpiece.

  • Whether flowers in a vase, a hanging basket from your porch, or another beautiful focal point, make sure the centerpiece is the largest (and tallest) thing on the table.  If it falls short of the height requirement, try adding something underneath.  Even a small container covered with a piece of fabric can act as a makeshift “riser” to lift your centerpiece up.
  • Around the centerpiece, scatter flower petals, glitter, confetti, silk leaves, or any other decorative touch.
  • If you choose, place candles or tea lights in votives around the centerpiece.

3.  Build up the dishes at each place setting. You don’t have to use each piece, but this is the order they go in:

  • Bottom: charger.
  • Next, large plate.
  • Then, small plate.
  • On top of those 3 items, place the bowl.

4.  Place the flatware. In a tablescape you have creative license to place items any place they look nice in the design.  If you’d like to stick with a traditional flatware setting, utensils go in this order:

Print Out This Guide
and store it in the front of your cookbook for quick reference.

To the left of the plate:

  • Closest to the plate, place the dinner fork (larger fork).
  • Furthest from the plate, place the salad fork (smaller fork).

To the right of the plate:

  • Closest to the plate, place the knife. The blade faces the plate.
  • In the middle, place the large spoon.
  • Furthest from the plate, place the small spoon.

5.  The glasses can go directly in front of the plates. Imagining the plate is a clock, the glass goes at 1 o’clock.

6.  Tea cups or coffee cups with saucers are placed next. Imagining the plate is a clock, the cup and saucer goes at 2 o’clock.

7.  The bread and butter plate with butter knife are optional. Imagining the plate is a clock, the bread and butter plate goes at 11 o’clock.  The butter knife is laid across the bread and butter plate.

8.  Place your napkins. Depending on the look you’re going for, napkins can be placed decoratively in the glasses for a splash of color, arranged in a napkin ring and place in the bowl, or set to the left of the flatware on the left side of the plate.

9.  Lastly, arrange your placecards. Let your guests know where they will be sitting by using place cards. They can go to the left of the glass, in front of the plate, or in the bowl.

Next, learn some more about creating great tablescapes.  Tablescapes: Budget Table Settings that Look Expensive (part 1) shows you how to buy all the materials at low prices that you’ll need for frugal tablescapes.  How to Design Budget Tablescapes that Look Expensive (part 2) teaches you tricks that home decorating magazine pros use in their tablescapes.

Find more Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch, Works for Me Wednesday at We are That Family, and 11th Heaven.  We originally published Table Setting 101: How to Properly Set a Table on May 19, 2009.

Tell your friends!Tweet about this on Twitter23Pin on Pinterest11Share on Facebook12Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn1

Danelle Ice is an entrepreneur in Los Angeles and mom of 3. She is the creator of and Danelle is also known as internet personality SimDanelle, the first virtual person. Danelle is a beauty guru on YouTube, vlogger, blogger, and new media darling. She is a current brand ambassador for for Keurig and previous AMD Tech Mom, Kraft Foods Delicious Byte brand ambassador, and Purex Insider.


  1. Pamela
    May 13, 2009 @ 05:02:03

    I always love reading your blog posts and all the great information you provide thanks for this and putting it in an order anyone can figure out.


  2. the BLAH BLAH BLAHger
    May 13, 2009 @ 12:56:34

    It’s so stupid that I always forget the sides where the utensils go at the exact moment I’m setting the table. Thanks for this reminder!


  3. Susan
    May 13, 2009 @ 17:20:34

    a great post! Happy Tablescape Thursday ~ Susan


  4. natalie
    May 13, 2009 @ 18:42:28

    great info to have on hand to reference. Thanks!


  5. Anonymous
    May 13, 2009 @ 20:14:58

    I am going to have to give my daughter the bride to be your “address”! I think she would enjoy and learn!


  6. Fifi Flowers
    May 13, 2009 @ 22:35:31

    You are good and organized!


  7. Michelle
    May 14, 2009 @ 07:54:46

    Great! I need a list to follow and to keep in check because I easily forget a thing or 2! Copied and pasted!!


  8. Jenny @ Another Jennifer Speaks
    May 14, 2009 @ 22:14:00

    seriousy?!! a guide on how to set a table…wow…


  9. Lori (All That Splatters)
    May 15, 2009 @ 16:17:56

    Good idea to give a how-to for those who really don’t know where to start! Great post!


  10. chie
    Sep 30, 2010 @ 00:17:38

    Thanks a mill for a quick tutorial of how to set the table.

    Very educational indeed specially when playing every Thursday with Susan, right?

    Have a happy TS day.


  11. Entertaining Women
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 09:28:49

    It never hurts to have a good review. Thanks for taking the time to assemble these easy guidelines for effective table setting. Cherry Kay


  12. Diane
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 11:25:24

    Yes, thank you for the review! I’m always getting mixed up. I’ll admit the way the table is set is not always at the top of my list of things I care about, but I realize it does make a difference.


  13. Home Ever After
    May 13, 2009 @ 09:26:12

    @Pamela: Thank you! That is my purpose in life, so it’s great to hear when my work helps people. Thank you so much for being a reader!


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