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Table Setting: How to Set a Proper Table

Finally, a step by step guide on how to set the perfect table. We have recreated examples of every dining situation, and how to properly set the table. Head to Oak Express for your next dining table, chairs, and accessories.

A properly set table is a canvas for a beautiful meal. But when it comes to the specific dos and don’ts of setting a proper table, do you wonder about the correct placement of silverware or exactly where to put the napkin? With a few basics under your belt, you can begin to apply your new-found knowledge to your next party — whether it’s an elegant dinner, a simple lunch or a casual brunch.




In Linen Color: A tablecloth serves as the foundation on which to build your table setting. Whether you choose an elegant linen tablecloth or a casual cotton one to go with your favorite placemats, you can help set the mood and color palette for the occasion. Napkins add a final touch and should be placed according to the type of meal you’re planning. Remember, a formal dinner and an informal lunch call for different protocols.

Sizing Things Up: As you begin setting your table, you’ll want to ensure the place settings are evenly spaced and flatware is balanced at each setting. Be sure to place dinner plates about two inches from the table’s edge and squarely in front of each chair. Make sure they’re far enough apart to provide sufficient elbowroom — about two feet from plate center to plate center.

Special Touches: Dress your table up with candles, a special centerpiece, napkin rings or place cards personalized to your guests or for the occasion or season.


Eclectic Feast: Colorful jewel tones create an eclectic atmosphere for a bountiful feast, such as a large family or Thanksgiving dinner.



Formal White:  White china paired with crisp, white linens are perfect for an elegant and formal winter dinner party or reception.



Gilded Harvest:  Combine rich, golden accents with outdoor, earthy elements for a stylish seasonal celebration.



Botanical Breakfast: Bring nature’s palette indoors with a blend of rich colors and textures accented by garden-inspired dish ware.






Setting a proper table begins with dinner plates. Salad plates are placed either to the left or on top of the dinner plate. If you’re serving bread for a more formal meal, place the bread plate above the forks and a butter knife or spreader across the plate. If you’re serving soup, the bowl should be placed on top of the dinner plate.


Flatware follows one simple rule: No matter how formal or informal your meal, silverware should be placed in the order of its use — from the outside in. Forks are to the left of the plate, and knives and spoons to the right. Place knives with their cutting edge toward the plate. Dessert utensils should be placed horizontally above the plate with the fork handle to the left and the spoon or knife handle to the right.


Stemware should be set above and to the right of the dinner plate. Water glasses stand above the dinner knife, white wine to its right, followed by red wine, and if champagne is served that follows, the red wine below center. Coffee cups and saucers may be placed on the table to the right of the knife and spoon.


For all of your dining and entertaining accessories, visit Oak Express.

For more table setting tips, check out Easy Guide to Setting the Table by the Front Door Blog.