Table setting refers to the way to set a table with tablewaresuch as eating utensils and dishwarefor serving and eating. The arrangement for a single diner is called a place setting. Informal settings generally have fewer utensils and dishes but use a stereotyped layout based on more formal settings.
The arrangement varies across various cultures.
The table usually has a centerpiece that performs a solely decorative function. If a formal dinner is being served that will fill the available places at the table, care should be taken to not make the centerpiece too large so that there will be sufficient room to place serving dishes, if the dinner is served family style, that is, that serving dishes are passed from diner to diner. In some cases it may be desirable for the host to move from place to place and serve, especially if children (who might have difficulty handling heavy or hot servings) are present.
Utensils are arranged in the order and the way a person will use them. Usually in Western culture, that means that the forks, bread plate, spreader, and napkin are to the left, while knives, spoons, drinkware, cups, and saucers are to the right.
Utensils on the outermost position are used first (for example, a salad fork and a soup spoon, then dinner fork and dinner knife). The blade of the knife must face toward the plate.
The glass is positioned about an inch from the fork. Cup and saucer are placed on the right side of the spoon about four inches from the edge of the table.
Dessert fork and spoon can be set above the plate, fork pointing right, to match the other forks, spoon pointing left.
Handy mnemonics and rhymes provide methods for remembering a simple placesetting:
- "Fork, Moon, Knife, Spoon" (where "moon" is the dinner plate) specifies the left-to-right order.
- Hold your hands in front of you and make a circle with your thumb and forefinger of each hand, extending the rest of the fingers straight out. On your left you've made a lower case "b": That's the breadplate. On your right you've made a lowercase "d": That is the drink.