Setting a table properly is a sign of refinement and bon ton, a testimony to the attention to detail hosts are willing to pay when they receive guests. Harmony is the peculiarity that etiquette requires for proper table setting, yet every item, including flatware, dishes, glasses, tablecloths and napkins, as well as centrepieces, placeholders and bread bins, contributes to this ritual.
A LAYOUT WORTH LEARNING BY HEART
Forks are placed to the left of the plate, in the order of use from the outside to the inside. There should be no more than three forks, with tines pointing up. Standard, fish or meat knives are always placed to the right with blades turned toward the plate. The soup spoon, if any, is placed to the right, in the outermost position next to knives. Fruit and dessert flatware is placed horizontally above the plate with the following layout: knife with blade towards the plate and handle to the right, fork with tines pointing up and handle to the left. The dessert spoon is placed in the outermost position with the handle to the right, like the knife.
ONE FOR EACH NEED
Flat plates, placed on show plates or directly on the tablecloth, are equally spaced one from another. If they are decorated, they are arranged toward the table edge and the guest to be seen properly. Soup plates or consommé bowls or hors d’oeuvre plates come next. The bread plate is arranged to the left of the flat plate, above it. Table setting includes the simultaneous presence of up to three plates, while other plates, like the salad bowl, accompany courses as they are served on a small table or a trolley. Hot food is always served on warm plates.
2,3 OR 4 FOR TOASTING
Glasses are at least two and no more than four, including water and champagne glasses. They are placed slightly to the right of the plate above the knife. The biggest glass for water stands out, while red wine and white wine glasses are placed to the right. If other glasses are added as more wine types are served, they should be placed to the right. If champagne is the only drink, lay out water glasses as well as champagne glasses.
A TAILORED PIECE OF CLOTHING
Whether it is a patterned or solid colour model made of linen or cotton, the secret is that it should perfectly fit both the tones of the occasion and the other protagonists of your table. If you already have a beautiful table and are seeking a trendy look, just replace the tablecloth with placemats, runners or refined show plates for every guest. Even if they look very pretty, these solutions are recommended for informal situations and for breakfast only and never for lunch. Every napkin is placed to the left of the plate.