To set a table with proper place settings takes a little bit of time and organization before you begin. Linens should be brilliantly clean and wrinkle-free. Dishes, flatware, and glasses should all be checked for spots and wiped clean if needed.
For a formal dinner, the linens should be crisp and white. Lay out the tablecloth and position it evenly on the table. A napkin may be folded and placed on top of the plate, under the fork(s), to the left of the outer-most fork or propped up inside of the water glass.
Place your charger or service plate in the center of the place setting. Chargers are decorative plates that are sometimes used as “place savers” on a formal table and are removed when the first course is brought to the table. Service plates are slightly larger versions of your dinner plates and typically left on the table to hold the course plates. The bread plate is located on the left side of the service plate, above the forks. For less formal occasions, place a dinner plate in the center of the space, about two inches up from the table’s edge.
Position the forks to the left of the plate, in order of use. For example, if you were serving an appetizer, a salad and an entrée, you would place the appetizer fork to the outside, the salad fork to its right and the entrée fork next to the plate. Knives go on the right of the plate, with their blades turned toward the plate, in the order of use. The exception to this rule is the butter knife, which should be placed horizontally across the bread plate with the handle facing right. A soup spoon should be placed to the right of the outer-most knife. Dessert utensils are typically included for a formal setting and should be placed directly above the plate with the handles pointed to the right.
Glasses for water and wine should be arranged on the table. Leave coffee cups or glasses for dessert liquors off the table until it’s time to serve those beverages. Place the water glass directly above the knife and line up additional glasses to the right in order of service. For instance, if you are serving white wine with the appetizer and red wine with the entrée, the order from left to right should be water glass, white wine glass, and red wine glass.