Entertaining guests can be a bit of a mixed bag. While a dinner party can be a great source of fun and merriment, the preparations that need to be carried out before the guests’ arrival can be rather stressful for the host. In amongst the cooking of the food and the tidying of the house (not to mention the getting ready!), it can be tempting to leave the laying of the table to the last minute – but this step can be make or break for the success of the occasion and should therefore not be rushed.
As was discussed in our previous blog post on hosting dinner parties, the tablescape is at the core of every dining event, with the place settings being the most crucial element of this. There is no one-size-fits all method for getting table settings right, as it will depend on the nature of the get-together; depending on whether you are hosting a laid-back meal with friends or a more formal occasion to mark something special, there will be differences in the appropriate choice and placement of cutlery and crockery.
Some cursory internet research will often throw up overly complicated suggestions about table settings that can make the task seem daunting, so we at AllÓRA are here to help you achieve a beautifully laid table with this simple step-by-step guide. Read on to learn how to impress your friends and family with perfect place settings at both informal and formal gatherings.
Table settings for casual meals
Everyone loves a buffet at a big event, but it cannot be denied that nothing beats a sit-down meal when it comes to intimate get-togethers. No matter whether you are holding a weekend brunch, a relaxed luncheon or simply a dinner with your nearest and dearest, these sorts of occasions call more a more casual table, but one with neat place settings nonetheless.
Here is the layout that we recommend for each setting:
2- Place the dinner plate in the centre of the placemat, with a salad plate atop it should you be serving a salad.
3- Lay the lay fork to the left of the dinner plate and the knife and spoon to the right of it, with the spoon as the outermost utensil and ensuring that the handles are all level with the bottom of the plate.
4- If you are using a salad plate, be sure to add a salad fork to the right of the dinner fork as cutlery will be used from the outside-in, reflecting the order of the meal.
5- Put a water glass at the top right corner of the table setting (or at 1 o’clock if you imagine the plate as a clock face).
6- Set a wine glass just to the right of the water glass. As people will usually drink more water than wine while they eat, their glass of water should be closest to them.
7- Neatly fold the napkin in half and place it under the dinner fork. Alternatively, you can fold the napkin on the top plate, although this can strike a slightly more formal tone.
8- Set down salt and pepper shakers in the middle of the table, along with a jug of water.
Table settings for formal dinners
Formal tables call for a slightly more elaborately laid set-up. Not only will special occasions require busier decoration (such as at the Christmas table), but a three-course meal will mean the need for more plates, cutlery and stemware. Preparing the suitable tableware will allow for good etiquette and a seamlessly smooth mealtime, providing an unforgettable dining experience for both you and your guests.
Here is the layout that we recommend for place settings at these events:
1- Lay a tablecloth of your choice over the table. While many linen tablecloths have a charming, crumpled appearance which can be desirable, we recommend they be ironed for more polished dinners.
2- Put a dinner plate at each setting before resting a salad plate on top of it and a soup bowl on top of that if you are serving a soup starter.
3- Set a dinner fork and salad fork to the left of the plate and a knife and soup spoon to the right of the plate. Additionally, place a dessert spoon horizontally above the plate, its handle pointing right for when it’s time for something sweet.
4- Place a bread plate near the top left corner of the dinner plate, with a butter knife resting across the plate.
5- Position a water goblet at the top right corner of the table setting, directly opposite the bread plate.
6- Set down two wine glasses just to the right of the water glass; usually this includes a white wine glass furthest to the outside and a red wine glass further in to accompany the main course.
7- Roll the napkin into a napkin ring before laying it on top of the setting’s crockery.
8- Set down salt and pepper shakers on table, as well as a jug of water.
9- Don’t forget to select a stunning centrepiece. Be it an item of exquisite glassware or a gorgeous bunch of flowers in a short vase, a centrepiece will truly complete the tablescape.
10- To achieve the ultimate dinner party feel, it is a good idea to lay place cards above each dinner plate so that nobody is left wondering where to sit at the dinner table.
As you can see, knowing how to lay table settings can be quite an exact science, but once mastered, it can become more of an art. By choosing complementary table linens, dinnerware and glassware that reflect your home’s style or the occasion itself, you can host dinner parties to remember through stunningly curated place settings. Regardless of whether you are holding a casual or formal dinner party, nailing the laying of the table will, above all, allow you to focus on the most important aspect – enjoying the company!