How to Set a Table

Impress your friends at your next dinner party by learning the Domestic CEO’s 4 simple steps to a sophisticated table setting.

Amanda Thomas
4-minute read
Episode #39

How to Set a Table

When I was about 9-years-old, my parents sent me to a children’s cooking class. It was one of my first experiences working in a kitchen and learning to be a “grown-up.” Over 20 years later, there are two things I remember learning in that class: That radishes taste like dirt and how to properly set a table. Since you probably already know that radishes taste like dirt, today I’m going to help you learn how to properly set a table.

First, it’s important to remember that how many pieces you put at each place setting is determined by what you are serving for the meal. In today’s episode, I’m going to give you the 4 steps to create a fairly complex table setting, but when arranging your own table at your next dinner party, only put out the silverware, dishes, and glassware that you need for that particular meal. Putting extra pieces, while may make your table look fancy, will only create clutter and confuse your dinner guests.

Step #1: Set Your Base

For most dinner parties, the base of the table setting is going to be your dinner plate. Now, before setting the plates down, I like to make sure that each person is going to have enough space at the table. Plan for each guest to occupy about 2 feet of space, left to right. This will give everyone enough room for their elbows during the meal. If you have placemats, put them down now. There should be a few inches in between each placemat, which is another indicator that your guests will have enough room to eat your delicious meal comfortably.

Put the dinner plates about 1 ½” to 2” away from the edge of your table. If your plates are square, line up the edges of the plate with the edges of the table. If your plate is round, just make sure the plate edges aren’t sticking out over the table edge. 

If your meal is going to include multiple courses, you can stack the dishes on top of the base plate. The salad plate would go on top of the dinner plate, with the soup bowl on top of the salad plate. That way, when everyone is finished with soup, the bowls can be easily cleared and your guests can fill their salad plates. After they finish their salads, simply remove the salad plates and your guests are ready for the main course. The only plate that you wouldn’t stack like this would be your bread plate. That little guy goes to the upper left of your dinner plate. You can remember this by making a “thumbs up” sign with your left hand. It makes a lowercase “b” to remind you that your bread plate goes on the left.