Formal Table Setting Rules: A Simple Guide

March 29, 2019

Table setting rules

To follow proper table setting etiquette you need to know the table setting rules.

Let’s explore formal table setting rules but before that a peek into the general table setting rules:

Utensils – Utensils are placed in the order in which they are used. For instance, since salads are served before the main course, the salad fork’s placement is on the left side on the edge.

Forks – On the left side of the main service plate these are usually placed. However, the dessert fork is placed above the plate.

Knives – On the right side of the plate knives are always placed, and the cutting blade should face the plate. However, a butter knife is placed on the butter plate, with the blade pointing left and downwards.

Spoons – On the right side of the plate spoons are typically placed. However, the dessert spoon is placed right above the service plate.

Set only what you use – For instance, if there’s no soup there is no need to set a soup spoon.

Now let’s move on to a formal table setting rules, which is especially popular when it is a three-course meal. High-end restaurants usually have a formal table setting. The service plate comes with each course in a formal table setting, so when setting the table, it is not necessary to include it.


The formal table setting is all about symmetry and it goes for the table setting as well. For instance, there must be an even number of candles lining the table and centerpiece goes strictly in the middle. This will create a well-balanced look.

Formal Table Setting Elements


Charger – The center stage of the table setting is the charger. Various courses are set on top of the charger. The charger is taken away when the dinner course arrives.

Service plate – On top of the charger, entrée plate or service plate is placed, and before the next course it is usually taken away.

Napkin – Before service begins the folded napkin is placed on top of the charger.

Menu card – On top of the napkin the menu card can be placed. For a more formal display, it can be inserted into the folds of the napkin.


Salad fork – The second course that is served is the salad, so at the extreme left side of the table setting the salad fork is placed. Remember that it is smaller than the dinner fork.

Fish fork – the Fish fork is placed next to the salad fork. The seafood or fish course is served after the salad. The fish fork is used as the second-course fork in dinner without a seafood course.

Dinner fork – To the left of the service plate or charger, the dinner fork is placed. The largest of the three forks is usually the dinner fork.


Soup spoon – Soup is the first course that is served in a formal service. Hence, on the outer edge of the right side, the soup spoon is placed.

Salad knife – After the soup, the salad is served, so to the left of the soup spoon the corresponding knife is placed.

Dinner knife – To the immediate right of the service plate, the dinner knife is placed. It corresponds with the placement of the dinner fork.


Butter plate – To the top left corner of the place setting this plate is placed.

Butter knife – On top of the butter plate this is placed, pointing left and the blade facing down.

Dessert teaspoon – This is the smallest of the spoons and is placed above the entrée plate.

Dessert fork – It can be used for the fruit course as well and is placed beneath the desert teaspoon.

White wine glass – Since white wine is served before the red wine along with the second course the glass is placed closer to the guest.

Red wine glass – The red wine glass is taller and larger than the white wine glass.

Champagne flute – To the outer right of the glasses the champagne flute is placed. This is because it accompanies the first toast.

Water glass – The largest of the glasses is water glass, and is placed directly above the knives and will be closest to the guest.

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