At an informal meal, the table setting is not cluttered and all the flatware is laid on the table at one time. At the host's option the dessert utensils may be brought to the table on the dessert plate.
The following is a standard table setting for a three-course meal. Note the basic "outside-in" rule. The piece of flatware that will be used last is placed directly next to the whatever plate you are using.
- Both forks are placed on the left of the plate. The fork furthest from the plate is for salad. The fork next to the plate is for the dinner. (Please Note: At more formal meals where the salad is served after the main course, the order of placement is reversed.)
- Fork tines may be placed downward, continental style, or upward, American style. In the continental placement of flatware, the fork is laid on the table in the way it is held, tines downward. In the American style although the fork is used tines downward to cut food, it is held tines upward to eat.
- Dinner Plate
- The dinner plate is placed on the table when the main course is served and is not on the table when the guests sit down.
- Large plates, such as the dinner plate and luncheon plate, are laid about one (1) inch in from the edge of the table.
- Salad Plate
- Dinner Knife
- The dinner knife is placed on the right side, and directly next to and one (1) inch away from, the plate. The blade should face the plate. If the main course requires a steak knife, it may be substituted for the dinner knife.
- The soup spoon is on the far right of the outside knife.
- Butter Plate with Butter Knife
- A small bread plate is placed above the forks, above and to the left of the service plate.
- The butter spreader is laid on the bread-and-butter plate.
- Usually one wine glass is used along with a water goblet. If the table setting is uncrowded, there is room to arrange stemware in any way you like, such as in a straight line parallel with the edge of the table or a diagonal line angled toward the table's edge.
- Water Goblet
- The water glass goblet is placed in a position closest to the hand, approximately 1 inch above the tip of the dinner knife.
- Wine Glass
- At least one wine glass should sit to the right and possibly above the water glass.
- Place the napkin in the place setting's center, or left of the last fork.
- Coffee Cups
- Place a cup and saucer to the right of the place setting. The coffee spoon goes to the right of the saucer.
- Place approximately One (1) inch beyond the outermost piece of flatware. The top edge of the saucer is aligned with the top rim of the plate or bowl.
- Cup handles are faced in the four o'clock position for easy access
- Dessert Spoon and Fork
- At an informal meal, when two utensils are provided for dessert, the utensils are laid on the table or presented on the dessert plate.
- The dessert spoon (or dessert knife) is laid on the table above the dinner plate in a horizontal position, handle facing right.
- The dessert fork is laid beneath the dessert spoon (or dessert knife), handle facing left.
- The dessert utensils may also be presented on the dessert plate in the same way as formal service.
- Salt and Pepper
- Since more people use salt than pepper (and most people are right-handed), the salt shaker is placed to the right of the pepper shaker, in a position closer to the right hand.
- The placement of the pepper shaker is to the left of the salt shaker, and for added definition it is angled slightly above the salt shaker.
- Small salt and pepper shakers, approximately 1 ½ inches in height, conserve space at a crowded table.
- They are placed above the cover or between two place settings.
- Because salt is finer than pepper, the lid of the salt shaker is punctured with smaller, more numerous holes than a pepper shaker.
- Pepper has a coarser grain than salt, and the lid of the shaker is made with larger but fewer holes than the salt shaker.
Once the table is set, the next consideration is informal dinner service.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
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