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Author Topic: hosting etiquette, table setting  (Read 5307 times)

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hosting etiquette, table setting
« on: April 22, 2009, 02:17:25 PM »
I was reading the cookbook forum, and I ran into this question from 2 years ago, about putting something about table settings in the cookbook. A search I did didnít come up with any results about this subject, so I decided to write this article about setting the table.
From the original post:
This might not be etiquette advice in the traditional sense, but I'd like sections on:

-How to properly set a table

-Which glass to use with a specific drink (ie, wine glass vs. champagne, etc.)

-Maybe a few sample meals set up (perhaps along the lines of a theme).  If you want to have everyone over to watch the Big Game, which foods would work best for a crowd, that sort of thing.

-If one is having a cocktail party, how many servings one should have available for the guests.  I can never keep this straight, and I always have way too much food on hand.  Although, I think it's better to have leftovers for a week instead of sparse servings....

-A timeline of things to do to prepare for an event.  Which foods can be prepared the night before, that sort of thing.

-A guideline regarding a well-stocked bar - what sort of alcohol should someone keep on hand.

The part below is based on 3 years part time and 1 year full time working for caterers at, mostly, high-end dinner parties. I would like to point out that this setting can be adapted to your dinner, or to your kitchenware.

If you are setting a table you start with the main plate. If you donít have a plate on the table, make sure you leave enough room between the cutleries to place the biggest plate you intend to use.

Next you place the fork for the main dish on the left side and the knife for the main dish on the right side (with the edge facing to the left). Place the cutlery and the plate about a fingerss width from the edge of the table.

Next come the cutlery for starters. These are often, but not necessarily, smaller then the main cutleries. Here the fork is again placed on the left and the knife placed on the right side. If you are having soup, then the spoon is placed on the right side.

Cutlery for more courses can be added, keeping in mind a few rules:
1.   Forks on the left, knifes and spoons on the right.
2.   On the right side looking from the plate outward you start with the knifes and then the spoons
3.   There are a maximum of 3 pieces of cutlery to the left and 4 to the right. If more is needed it has to be set during the meal.
4.   Cutlery is being used from the outside to the inside. This means that cutlery for the first course are on the outside, then the next, and the last cutlery next to the plate are for the main course.

After this cutlery you can place a side plate for bread on the left side of the last fork. On this plate you put a bread/butter knife, on the right side, with the edge again facing to the left.

Next come the cutlery for dessert. These are placed over the plate with the fork under the knife or spoon. Where the fork is placed with the handle to the left and the knife and/or spoon with the handle to the right. (Think of serving staff being able to place them correctly by putting one finger on the end of the handle, and pulling the fork to the left and the spoon or knife to the right.)
Here there is a maximum of 1 set of cutleries. If more is needed it has to be set on the table later.

Now all you have to do is place the glasses. The white wine glass is placed a bit lower and to the right of the red wine glass (and thus over the knife and/or spoon of the first course(s). The water glass is placed to the left of the wine glasses. The rule here is to set the glasses in the order in which they are going to be used, from right to left, with the water glass to the left of all other glasses.
Last comes the napkin, this can be folded any way you like, and is then placed either on the plate, the place where the plates will be or on the left side. One of my personal favorites is putting it in the red wine glass.

In the center of the table, you can put condiments, water, wine, candles, flowers or other decorations. Just make sure that these decorations donít become so big that it is no longer possible for people on opposite sides of the table to see each other or have a conversation. If you decide to use only candles for lighting, make sure you have enough candles for people to see their dinner and each other.

Off course, this is the general way to set the table this can always be adapted to your own situation.
for example, if you only serve one wine, or if you donít have the extra glasses, one wine glass is sufficient
The cutlery is adapted to what you serve and to what you have.
For example, if you serve ice cream for dessert, you only need a spoon. It is also not necessary to buy a bread/butter knife for every place setting, if you don't already have them. One butter knife with the butter is sufficient.

So much for table setting. If people are interested I could write something about some of the other subjects mentioned in the original question.

When I get home Iíll make a table setting and take some pictures for clarification to post here tomorrow.

Wherever you go..... There you are.


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Re: hosting etiquette, table setting
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2009, 04:03:17 AM »
Here are some pictures, please note that I only have one size cutlery, and I haven't seen my butter knife since thanksgiving  ::) Also I don't have linnen napkins, so paper is used here.

And one picture from straight above, to show the layout better (napkin on the left here)

And one picture to show the napkin in the red wine glass (as I mentioned in the first post, one of my favourites)
Wherever you go..... There you are.


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    • The Delian's Commonwealth
Re: hosting etiquette, table setting
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2009, 11:51:14 AM »
Very well done.  I do have a few comments, though:

Although you did it, you didn't mention this: You do not place the napkin under the fork(s).  That would mean that the guest would have to move all of the forks at the very beginning of the meal.

Amy Vanderbilt disagrees with you on the placement of the knife on the butter plate; she shows it as horizontal across the top of the plate, with the blade pointing to the left.

In a pure aesthetic disagreement with you, I would place the flatware with the bottoms aligned with the bottom of the dinner plate -- about 1" from the table edge.

I have a photo around here somewhere of a table setting that I did -- it won a ribbon at the county fair.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.