Dinner Party Tips: How to Lay a Table

I always have to stop and think when I lay a table for dinner because I eat left handed and so often my friends sit down to eat and have to swap all their cutlery over - at least they know what it's like for me when I go out to eat! Here are some tips for laying the table when friends and family come over to enjoy your fabulous cooking. 

Preparing Your Table

  • Put your cutlery into a container of very hot water, remove and polish with a clean tea towel. 
  •  Place the cutlery onto the table one thumbprint in from the edge and one finger distance from the plate.
  • The water glass sits above the knife and wine glass to the right and slightly below the water glass
  • Heat your dinner plates in the warmer drawer of your oven, in a sink of hot water or in the microwave (don't microwave plates with gold or silver trim!), take to the table wearing oven gloves - they'll be cooler but still warm by the time you put dinner on the table. 

Option 1. Laying a Table for Casual Dining

This set up is good for a simple antipasto platter or a basket of rolls with dips as a starter followed by a main course. I tend to leave the dessert plates or bowls in a stack in the kitchen with a set of dessert cutlery on a plate ready for a swap over after the meal. Better yet, swap a fiddly dessert for a plate of sweet treats like fudge cake, coffee slice or coconut ice and a pot of freshly brewed coffee. 
A smaller plate (use a tea plate) sits on top for the antipasto with a knife for buttering bread. Underneath is the dinner plate for the next course. Fold a napkin into a simple triangle and sit on the top plate or under a fork. 

Option 2. Laying a Table for a Semi-Formal Meal

This is best for a three course meal involving a plated starter, main course served with bread rolls and a dessert. You can go for an elaborate napkin fold on the main plate or simply fold the napkin into a triangle. 

From left to right: Bread and butter plate and knife, salad fork, main fork, dinner plate, main knife, salad knife (or a soup spoon if your starter is soup). Above the dinner plate is the dessert cutlery. In a silver service restaurant the server will adjust the cutlery after dinner moving the dessert spoon aound to the right side of the plate and the cake fork to the left. If you're a wine buff or planning to serve several wines with the meal have a red wine glass next to the water glass and a white wine glass to the right

After dinner your dessert set up will look like this:

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