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Table Settings: Practical Elegance
When attending a dinner event, guests love to see the familiar arrangement of plates, silverware, and napkins. Take a closer look at what’s on your table with Groupon’s guide to correct place settings.
Amid the various dress codes and brands of etiquette required by different occasions, it’s easy to feel intimidated by a formal dinner. Yet no matter how elegantly a table may be dressed, every place setting follows a few simple, common rules designed to make every fine-dining experience feel like supper at home.
Silverware follows a work-your-way-in philosophy. That is, the utensils farthest from the plate correspond to the first items on the menu, and so forth. For example, if a meal begins with soup and salad, the utensils farthest to the left and right of the main plate should be the salad fork and soup spoon, respectively. Either way, the knife is always placed to the right of the plate—sharp side facing in—with spoons to the right of that. Forks, on the other hand, always line up on the left—except for the cocktail fork, which always lives farthest to the right, making it easy to spear small delicacies such as olives from your neighbor’s martini. Dessert utensils, meanwhile, are placed above the plate or simply brought out with the dessert course.
The rest of the tableware follows set rules as well. Bread plates sit above the forks, and glasses belong on the right side, with the water placed above the knife and wine to the right of that. Napkins lie under the forks on the left, with the fold facing in, or sit neatly folded atop the main plate—or spread across your lap when it’s time to eat.
Despite all these rules, there’s no need for table settings to feel stuffy. Martha Stewart notes that mixing and matching flatware styles is a charming way to liven up a table, though she notes pieces should have similar proportions and lines.