Setting a dining table seems tricky at first glance, but really is quite simple and designed to help your guests in enjoy their meal. The following apply whether you are having a formal six-course meal or a casual luncheon. Simply omit any unneeded silverware or other items. Keep only what your guests will use on the table to avoid clutter and chaos.
1.) Proper spacing will allow your guests to comfortably dine. Allow 2 feet from the center of one plate to the center of the next plate.
2.) If you must squeeze in an extra setting, try to keep your arrangements simple, perhaps designing a menu that does not require a bread plate or by bringing dessert silverware out with the dessert.
3.) Silverware is arranged in the order it will be used, from the outside in and first course to last. In general for dinner silver, forks go to the left and spoons and knives to the right.
4.) For safety, turn knives so the "sharp" side is toward the plate, even if they are fairly dull dinner knives. The exception is the cocktail fork which goes to the far, outermost right side and butter knives which are placed across the butter plate.
5.) Silverware for dessert can either be brought out with the dessert or placed above the dinner plate. If placed above, the fork’s handle would point to the left and the spoon or knives’ handle would point right. A helpful way to remember is that the handle point to the remaining forks or spoons, respectively. The cutting edge of the knife should point down, toward the dinner plate.
6.) Butter and salad plates go to the left. Alternatively, the salad plate may be stacked on the charger and dinner plate.
7.) Place cups and glasses to the right side of the plate. Glasses, which are always to the right of the dinner plate, are placed with the water glass to the far right. If using both red and white wine glasses, the white wine goes to the far right with the red between the white and the water. These may be placed in a straight line or diagonally from the top left to bottom right. A coffee cup and saucer would be placed to the right of the white wineglass, though these are often not brought out until the dessert course for evening meals.
8.) Napkins can be place on the center of the plates or to the left of the forks.
9.) Add a place card, if you wish, and you’re basically set.
10.) Review this great illustration from One Kings Lane to help you visualize the table.
Now you just have to plan the menu...