Informal Place Settings | Gracious Living


Informal place setting

It is the delightful but rare occasion when Meredith Sweetpea gets to experience the formal place setting. Most often, we enjoy dining with an informal place setting, so let’s explore how to properly set the table for everyday eating, whether at home or at a restaurant.

The proper informal place setting

  • Place the plate in the center of the place setting, it is the “hub” of our setting.
  • Place the fork to the left of the plate, along with the salad fork if one is to be used. The first fork to be used should be to the outside of the setting, so generally the dinner fork is placed next to the plate.
  • Place the knife to the right of the plate, with the blade facing in toward the plate.
  • If spoons are to be used, place them to the right of the knife with the teaspoon next to the knife, and the soup spoon on the outside.

    Informal place setting

  • Each guest should have a napkin, whether paper or cloth, and it can be placed in one of three places: set on the plate, placed underneath the fork(s), or to the left of the fork(s). (This illustration shows a napkin under the soup bowl. The napkin should be removed before the soup is served!)

Extras at the informal place setting

  • The drinking glass should be set above the knife to the right of the plate.
  • If a bread plate is used, it should be placed to the upper left of the place setting, above the forks, along with a butter knife. The butter knife should be placed across the edge of the plate with the blade facing down and the handle to the right.
  • A salad plate is generally placed to the left of the forks. It is proper to serve the salad along with the meal directly on the dinner plate, but not when the entree contains gravy or anything runny. Then it is better to serve the salad on a separate plate.
  • If using a dessert spoon and fork, they can be placed either horizontally above the dinner plate (with the spoon on top and its handle to the right, and the fork below it with the handle to the left), or placed beside the plate. Because it will be the last fork used, it should be placed on the left and next to the plate (remember, we use our utensils from the outside in). The spoon is placed to the right of the plate, to the right of the dinner knife and to the left of the soup spoon (between the two).
  • At a restaurant the coffee might be served along with the meal. In that case it would be in place above and to the right of the knife and spoons. At home, coffee is generally served following the meal. In that case, the cup and saucer is brought to the table and placed in the same location.

Proper use of dinner utensils

  • At an informal meal, the dinner knife may be used for all courses, but a dirty knife should never be placed on the table, placemat or tablecloth.
  • The knife and fork should never be rested against the plate with the handle on the table and the blade  or tines on the plate as to resemble a set of oars. The knife should always be placed across the top of the plate when not in use.
  • Meredith Sweetpea will talk about the proper use of the napkin in our next post, because we see a lot of questions about that topic alone.

Please keep in mind that this is the American place setting. In other countries and cultures, it may be set quite differently!

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