A Quick Guide To Setting Your Table (Including Which Side The Napkin Goes On)

“What side do the napkins and silverware go?” used to be a more common question back in the day, like learning how to make fire from scratch used to be common knowledge, learning how to set up the table used to be one as well.

Today, however, our focus has shifted away from classic dining and more into novel experiences like learning how to set up a Twitter account.

Once considered as common knowledge is now being seen as a trifling matter: this article will serve as a quick guide to setting your table (the traditional way), including which side the napkin goes on.

People often set napkins on the very left, but certain circumstances may dictate otherwise. Forks go on the left, while spoons go on the right. The plate is almost always in the middle, however.

In learning how to set up a table the right way, we try to answer and correct common mistakes and misconceptions regarding setting the table. Of course, we will also be talking about which side do the napkins and silverware go. 

The Three Degrees Of Table Setting: Basic, Casual, And Formal

There is a reason why classic formal table setting is a rare “commodity” these days. After all, it consumes too much of ever so essential time, which is a big no-go for most people.

As a meticulous practice, however, sacrificing precision and preciseness for the sake of time-saving is a big no-go for practitioners as well, even way back before.

People back then knew the time needed to construct a perfect table setting. And as such, by acknowledging the problem, they were able to build something I call the three degrees of table setting.

The three degrees of table setting are three variants of table setting made for specific situations. Most of the time, the basic table setting finds use. A casual setting is for occasions with a semi-formal setup; the formal setting is for prestigious parties or dinners with essential people (VIPs).

Basic Table Setting

Setting up the table is an action that, for most families, is done by the seat of our pants– nobody takes a look and cares. Because of the sentiment, setting up the table is a hassle or is not worth anyone’s time. However, I would encourage everyone to stop the stigma against setting out tables properly.

When people refer to classic table settings, most people immediately think of the formal table settings, and to that, I do not blame them.

This stigma evolves because most television shows or magazines only showcase exquisite and formal table settings. Contrary to the portrayed image, however, is a simpler variant for simple occasions, the basic table setting setup.

Setting Up The Table

You’ve got a perfect family feast– or even just a dinner for yourself, and you want a simple yet beautiful table setting. Honestly, you’re not even doing this for other people, but for yourself to make dinners an experience, a relaxing experience.

Well, get your spoons and forks ready because I will teach you how to set the table up in a primary way (and even teach you what side the napkin goes on when setting up a basic table setting).

First things first, we must put the placemat on the table, more specifically, the area in which you will place all your eating utensils. The placemat is essential as it keeps the table away from food with extreme temperatures, either too high or too low, while keeping the table clean and pristine despite all the possible smudges from the soups and wet food.

If there is one thing you must always know when it comes to the basics of setting up a table, then it must be that the plate must always be in the center of the placemat. Its placement is essential to ensure that the food is neither too close nor too far away from you. Remember, convenience is also a keen factor in uplifting the dining experience. 

As to what side the napkin goes on when you are setting the table, you can place it on the very left of the plate while placing the fork on the same napkin you just placed. However, if you do not have a napkin, feel free to ignore this step.

To the right, we can place the knife while the spoon is on the far right. The knife’s orientation also matters, so make sure to put it such that the sharp face faces your plate. In the instance that you have a cup of water, could you place it in the upper right corner?

At the last step, remember to make sure that all the utensils are of the same level, meaning they should be parallel to each other while still equidistant.

A Step By Step Guide On The Basic Table Setup

  1. Put the placemat on the place where you would desire to eat.
  2. The plate goes in the very middle.
  3. Place the napkin on the left.
  4. Place the fork on top of the napkin.
  5. It would be best if you placed the knife on the direct right of the plate.
  6. The spoon is at the far right or directly at the right of the knife.
  7. It would be best if you placed a cup of water on the upper right side of the plate.
  8. Make sure that the spoon, knife, and fork are all leveled.

Casual And Formal Table Setting

What side does the napkin go on when you are setting the table? The answer is the same whether you are talking about casual, formal, or even a basic table setting.

Casual table settings are more than optimal for dinners with friends, relatives, or business partners. They are very similar to the primary table setting, except that the napkins and the knife (both of which can be optional on basic table settings) are now a must-have. 

However, if you are in the presence of a significant guest, I suggest that you set up the table formally. In this section of the article, let us talk about how to set up your table properly in a formal event.

Setting It Up Formal Style

This time, we want to ensure that the tablecloth is well-ironed and creases are rare or non-existent. As the host for a formal event, everything must be present as correctly as possible. Per seat, you must place a charger, no ifs, and no buts.

The charger is essential as this will house the soup bowl; place the soup bowl accordingly such that it is in the very middle. As to the placement of napkins, put them on the left with the fork on top. The knife will be on the direct right of the charger while the spoon is on the very left.

Several key setup rules should be followed:

  • You will use three glasses per seat, and both are placed on the upper right-hand side of the charger. 
  • The red wine glass is placed on the far up, while the white wine glass goes on south of the red wine glass. 
  • To the left of the red wine and white wine glass is the water glass.
  • The bread plate will be placed in the upper left corner with the butter knife on top. 
  • Directly above the charger is the dessert spoon. 
  • Above the dessert spoon is the salt shaker, place card , and the pepper shaker. They are placed chronologically, from left to right above the dessert spoon.

That’s it! It’s not that difficult when you lay it out in a step-by-step manner, now is it?

Latest posts by Dee (see all)