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How to set a table: mastering basic, casual, and elegant styles

Elevate your dining experience with Sambonet's guide to table setting. Learn how to arrange your table for any occasion, from a casual breakfast with family to an elegant dinner party with friends.

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Why table setting is so important?

Setting a table with Sambonet step-by-step guide can transform any dining occasion into an event of elegance and style. Not only on special occasions such as a wedding, a business lunch, Christmas, or Thanksgiving: the table is always the DYI canvas for your creative ideas. And a dinner party, whether at home or in the garden, becomes the place to unleash style but also for entertaining for your guests.

Three key tips for the Art of Table Setting

Setting the perfect table for any occasion is both an art and a practice in etiquette. Whether you're hosting a basic breakfast, a casual lunch, or an elegant dinner party, the right table settings can elevate the meal and impress your guests.

1. Place the flatware properly for the main course

Flatware is placed in the order in which it will be used, starting from the outside in. For example,

  • The fork for the first course is placed to the left of the plate, followed by the fork for the main course.
  • On the right side of the plate, the knife is placed for the first course.
  • The position of the spoon depends on the menu. If the menu includes a soup dish or a course that requires the use of a spoon, the spoon is placed to the right of the knife for the main course.

2. Don't forget to add flatware for dessert or fruit

For subsequent courses such as dessert or fruit, flatware should be placed above the plate, with the dessert fork with the tips pointing to the left and the dessert spoon to the right. If more than one piece of flatware is served for the same dish, they should be placed from the outside in, following the order of use.

3. Give your table the setting it deserves!

The placement of forks and knives, following the flawless rule of setting from the outside in, sets the stage for a meal served with impeccable manners. Centerpieces with features of beauty and design, become the focal point of an inspiration-packed set-up, as well as serving accessories and consideration for welcome and good manners. Showplates add a decorative element to the table, while placemats provide an elegant and modern presentation for plates and utensils.

Basic, Casual or Elegant: choose your table style


How to set a simple table for everyday meals

This simple arrangement is essential for daily dining. Your favorite lunch plate for your delicious creation, fork and knife positioned beside the plate, ready for action, and a water glass. For example, working remotely comes with perks, but lunchtime can sometimes feel rushed or uninspired. Elevate your midday meal with a simple table setting that transforms your workspace into a mini-dining oasis.

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How to set a casual table for relaxed gatherings

Are you planning a get-together with friends or family? Choose accessories with simple and functional lines and colorful but plain plates. A casual table setting is all about fostering a relaxed and inviting atmosphere for your guests. It's about enjoying good company and delicious food without worrying about strict formality. 

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How to set a formal table for elegant occasions

Looking to impress your guests with a sophisticated and unforgettable dining experience? An elegant setting is all about details. Accentuate the elegance with decorated plates, colorful cutlery, matching items such as a candelabra and or a centerpiece. Finally, add a touch of grandeur with glass or gold accessories!

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Dining etiquette helps make a good impression


How to place your dishes

Flat plates, placed on underplates or directly on the tablecloth, are set equal distance apart and, if decorated, oriented toward the outside of the table and the guest to be read properly. This is followed by the soup plate or cup for the consommé or appetizer plate. The bread plate to the left and above the flat plate. Up to three plates can be set at the same time the others, such as the salad plate, follow the courses placed on a small table or cart. Plates for hot dishes should always be served lukewarm.

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How to position the glasses

The glasses, at least two and never more than four including water and champagne, slightly to the right of the plate in front of the knife. The largest one for water dominates the composition, then the one for red wine and the one for white wine to the right. If the number of glasses increases, to serve more wines, they should be placed to the right. For champagne-only dining, set the table with the water glass in addition to the one dedicated to "bubbles."

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How to choose the tablecloth

Whether linen, cotton, patterned or plain, the key is for it to complement perfectly the tones of the occasion and the other protagonists on the table. For a trendy, only in the presence of a beautiful table, replace the tablecloth with American placemats, runners or fine underplates for each guest. Although extremely pleasing, these solutions are recommended for informal occasions and only for lunch, never for dinner. The napkin is to the left of the plate.

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