Table Setting Guide (How to Set a Table)

Hosting a party and wondering just where all the forks go and what to do with all those glasses? Fear not, this is your ultimate guide to setting a table for both formal and casual occasions!

How to Set a Table Diagram Guide

‘How to Set a Table’ Diagram

This handy diagram above is a wonderful quick-glance guide that encompasses almost all utensils, plates and glassware settings! Save it to your phone for easy referencing the next time you need to remember how to set a table for dinner.

Keep in mind that there are countless additions to table settings (forks upon spoons upon plates galore), but I’ve kept it down to the two most common settings; a formal setting suitable for a special holiday dinner or more formal occasion and a casual setting suitable for everyday dinners and parties.

How to Set a Formal Table Setting

For a formal table setting, reference the table setting guide above so you have an idea of where all of your cutlery and glassware will go. Not to mention, you’ll have more plates and plates than a casual setting.

Keep in mind this is a general gist as each formal setting may have more or less components. Typically, however, you’ll see the following..

Formal Table Setting Flatware & Cutlery

  • Salad Fork
  • Dinner Fork
  • Dinner Knife
  • Salad Knife
  • Soup Spoon
  • Tea Spoon
  • Dessert Spoon
  • Dessert Fork
  • Butter Knife

Formal Table Setting Dinnerware

  • Soup Bowl
  • Salad Plate
  • Service Plate (also known as a Charger Plate)
  • Bread Plate

You may wonder why no dinner plate is shown. Typically, in a formal setting, the salad plate is removed after the salad course and the dinner is served on the dinner plate.

Formal Table Setting Drinkware

  • Water Glass
  • White Wine Glass
  • Red Wine Glass
  • Cup & Saucer

You’ll also often see a formal place card with the guest’s name denoting where each guest should sit. You can make your own or order calligraphy place cards from Etsy.

In addition, the napkins for a formal setting can be simply folded beside the setting or folded in elaborate ways. Here is a great book for unique ways to fold napkins!

A note on linens, typically a formal tablecloth is on the table for formal settings. When in doubt, a simple white linen is always a great option.

How to Set a Casual Table Setting

Casual settings are just that, much more casual than a formal setting. There are far fewer table elements used in a casual setting.

Casual Table Setting Flatware & Cutlery

  • Salad Fork
  • Dinner Fork
  • Dinner Knife
  • Soup Spoon

Formal Table Setting Dinnerware

  • Dinner Plate
  • Salad Plate

Formal Table Setting Drinkware

  • Water Glass
  • Wine Glass

These settings are fully customizable. For instance, you may be serving cocktails instead of wine so you can switch out the wine glass for a highball or lowball glass. Or perhaps you’re just serving water and sweet tea. Then you’ll just have a water glass or goblet and a second one for iced tea.

Now you know how to set a table for both formal and casual occasions. Check out tablescape examples here and browse around to get inspired for setting your own table!

More Table & Party Ideas

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